Once upon a time there was a strict divide between the console and the PC. The console was usually to be found in a bedroom if you were fortunate enough to borrow the family portable, otherwise it was in the living room and you were always having to stop your game because your Dad wanted to watch the news. Computers belonged in offices, studies or what have you and were limited to family accounts, homework (or rather a sneaky game of Commander Keen) and the like.
Now computers are a part of every day life, with most of us owning at least one. Their media capabilities are comprehensive and nothing can provide the same gaming brilliance of a high-end PC with keyboard and mouse controls. Consoles haven't died out, indeed if anything they have become more ubiquitous with all of us owning at least one of the current generation.
The trouble is that if you want a comfortable gaming session you usually have to play on a console. Great though PC gaming is, there is little that can compare to a good title on a huge screen played from the comfort of the sofa. PCs are still very much relegated to desks and uncomfortable office chairs.
Enter the Nerdytech Couchmaster. Designed to enable all the comfort and big screen benefits of console gaming on the couch, with the ease of use and wealth of titles that a PC can provide.
There are four variants of the Couchmaster, the Basic, Premium, Premium in microfibre and Nerdtron. They're all roughly the same thing and the main difference is colour or material. Although the Basic model doesn't come with the USB doohickeys that you'll need. It's available in the red/black we have here today, or you can swap the red out for green, blue, yellow, pink, orange or all black.
The packaging is fairly simple. In fact it's a bit too simple for our liking. Whilst it all made the trip from Germany to the UK without a problem and in perfect condition, we would prefer that there was another box inside the postage one for security and protection purposes. You have to be extremely cautious opening it as a knife through the packing tape would very easily cut the product itself.
This isn't something that will require four able adults and a socket set. What you see here is what there is. No tools required.
What's in the box?
Fresh from the wrapping we have two arm rests, in that vinyl material that pretends to be leather. Here labelled as "Sky". There is plenty of padding and even the most heavy-elbowed gamer wont find themselves fatigued. The outside of one of the armrests has a pocket which is big enough to hold your snacks/mouse/beverage.
Of course the biggest problem with using your PC from the sofa is connectivity, and Nerdytech provide a four-port USB 3.0 and a long extension cable, so you can plug in no matter how far your PC is away.
Colour-coded wrist rests are provided. We have three so that you can mix and match, or utilise all three, depending upon your requirements. The Couchmaster comes supplied with some double-sided Velcro to affix them in place.
There is a further storage pocket at the rear. Handy for putting the excess cable in. You could even fit an external drive in it if the mood took you.
Beneath the rather heavy top section are two panels affixed with Velcro. Simply affix the USB hub and you can run your mouse, keyboard and all through the holes in the far end of the Couchmaster. With a channel running the whole width of the Couchmaster and a section on either side it's as suitable for southpaws as right-handed.
Testing and Conclusion
There are a few things that are immediately apparent when using the Couchmaster. Firstly you need to make sure that your keyboard has a small cable. Our first test option has a USB cable with audio jacks, and the bulk was too much to fit through the holes in the top. Secondly the pocket isn't the largest in the world. Our bottle of Cidre barely fit, and we certainly wouldn't trust it being open in this pocket.
Thirdly you probably want to eliminate the wrist rest on the mouse side. There is very little room. Enough for a high DPI gaming mouse, but it does feel very confined. Thankfully because the sides are adjustable you could squeeze a gamer-sized pair of thighs in. If you're OCD and demand the top lines up with the arm rests then thinner is better. Our model is slender and just squeezed in.
Finally the quality control on the USB hub isn't the best. The one supplied with our review sample only worked if you held the cable at a specific angle. It felt cheap, and is. So there are issues with the Couchmaster. We're not convinced at at that it's worth the €150 price tag, especially for what is just some foam, wood, Velcro and vinyl.
However, in terms of what it can do, it does it well. If you want to play on your big TV, or from the comfort of your sofa, then there isn't anything quite like it on the market. You could even use it in bed, if you're bed-ridden or full of the flu or whatever.
It's one of those products that does exactly what it says on the tin. If you've ever wanted to frag from your sofa, this is the product for you. If you haven't, it isn't spectacular enough to convince you otherwise. We'd like to see the cable holes enlarged slightly for those keyboards with fat leads. We'd like the top section to be an inch or two larger to provide some more breathing room with the mouse. The pocket definitely needs to be wider and deeper, and we can see no reason why there isn't one on either side.
As a first effort it's okay. With a few design tweaks and a price drop we'd heartily recommend it to even the most desk-obsessed gamer. As it currently stands it's a little too expensive, with a few too many niggles, to give our wholehearted recommendation to, but it's a niche product for a niche audience. We do have to say that we had a couple of issues with our review sample and that Nerdytech were extremely swift in sorting them out and shipping replacement parts, so it's reassuring to know that the support is exemplary, especially with any relatively new company.
If the target audience includes you it's worth checking out, and nothing else on the market does exactly what this does. For that reason we'll award it our OC3D Silver Award. We'd still like to see the price trimmed back a bit though.
Thanks to Nerdytech for supplying the Couchmaster Premium for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D forums.