Having spent time with five different laptop stands from made of material including metal and plastic and wood, ranging from a svelte model that folds up to a fraction of an inch to an oversized design with built-in stereo speakers, I’m pleased to report that the prospects are generally good and the options are varied – although a good laptop stand won’t necessarily come cheap…
What we’ve got here is a pair of thin metal stands in the form of RadTech’s OmniStand and Macally’s EZbookPad, a metal riser in the form of Griffin’s Elevator, a wooden grille-style stand in the form of Macally’s EcofanPro, and finally, the Macally TuneFan which, as its name suggests, has built-in speakers (we’ll get to that one last).
Because one has to start somewhere, I’ll begin with the thinnest and lightest. The OmniStand is almost a marvel of physics in that its triangular metal design folds flat to about a third of an inch overall, with the rubber leg curving out to about two-thirds of an inch on one end. The kick-leg manages to disappear inside entirely, and the whole thing stays closed tightly with a tiny patch of velcro-like material, with a cut-out at the top doubling as a carrying handle. Despite its tiny fold-up size, the OmniStand is surprisingly flexible, with a choice of three different moderate angles for your laptop along with a fourth, much more severe angle. I’m not sure why I’d want my laptop’s keyboard jacked up to sixty degrees, but the option is there. I found the middle of the three moderate angles to be the ideal angle for typing; I’m sure there’s an option in there to make everyone happy.
Although the OmniStand is only about ten inches wide and looks like it’s designed for smaller laptops, I had no trouble using it stably with my fifteen inch unibody MacBook Pro (I also did some secondary testing on these stands with an older twelve inch Mac laptop). The bottom line is that I like this stand, and might even consider traveling with it. The only catch? It’s $69 – although it’s on sale at the moment for $59.
Those of you who like the idea of a perforated brushed metal laptop stand but are looking to spend a little less might appreciate the $39 EZbookPad. It lacks the adjustable angles (one angle fits all here) and doesn’t fold up for travel; the leg juts up about an inch on the end and then bends back around another inch, but it also has a built-in handle. From a strictly stylish standpoint, I actually preferred the look of the EZbookPad just a little, as its more broadly rounded corners and smaller holes give it a slightly less utilitarian look. That having been said, the EZbookPad and OmniStand don’t look that much different, as they’re both perforated brushed metal stands. The real question here is whether you want to pay $20-30 extra for the additional flexibility and portability. The other big differentiator is that the EZbookPad comes with a fan that runs off of your laptop’s USB port.
That’s right: rather than simply relying on a series of holes or elevation to keep your laptop from running hot, it puts an actual fan under your laptop to keep it running cool. Laptops generally have their own fans built in, which kick on when the internal temperature rises above a certain point. In that light, an external fan may seem superfluous to someone like me who uses a laptop that rarely runs hot enough for even its own internal fans to kick on – but then I think back to my old first generation MacBook, which ran so hot that its fans nearly never stopped running and you could still literally scald yourself by touching the bottom, and it occurs to me that an external fan would have indeed come in handy back in those days. Whether you want to bother with an external fan will depend on how hot your laptop runs and how much of a problem you consider it to be.
While both of the above stands occupy a footprint on your desk, the Elevator takes a different tack entirely. Two metal risers, a little more than an inch wide each, are connected only by a clear hard plastic bar at the bottom. The idea here is that not only does it elevate and angle your laptop, it also frees up the desk space beneath. Use your imagination as to whether you might or might not be able to make effective use of the reclaimed desk space under your laptop (all I could think of to stick under there were some papers I didn’t want to get too far away from me), but I did find that it was aesthetically pleasing to see my laptop up off the desk as if it were floating, with my desk visible below. The minimal amount of contact that the two riser planks actually make with the bottom surface of your laptop may cause some of you to fret as to whether the whole thing might come sliding off the downward-angled planks, but I found this not to be the case, either while typing on my laptop or while leaving it sit on the stand overnight.
While the $39 Elevator does easily come apart into three pieces, it’s not something you could easily travel with, as the metal planks don’t fold up at all. Of the five stands I tried out, this one felt the most aesthetically matched to my aluminum Mac laptop.
But not all laptop stands are made of metal, as clearly evidenced by the bamboo-constructed EcofanPro, a surprisingly inexpensive $39 stand when you consider that it has three adjustable (though rather closely notched) angles and also comes with a fan that’s powered via your laptop’s USB port. Whether the fan if use to you or not, the EcofanPro is a nice value and while it’s unlikely to match the aesthetics of your laptop, it is the most likely of the five stands to fit in well with your coffee table.
Finally, we get to the $99 TuneFan, which aims to solve two problems: the slab of angled perforated black plastic has a built-in fan for the sake of keeping your laptop well positioned and well cooled, but also tackles the fact that even the highest quality laptops generally have built in speakers that are subpar. So a pair of side-firing tweeters are built into the bottom of the stand, and improbably, a tiny subwoofer is tucked in between them. The whole thing connects with USB, and also comes with a wall socket plug.
So how does it sound? Whole number multiples better than the speakers built into my MacBook Pro (which I expected), but only fractionally as good as a typical $99 set of generic 2.1 computer speakers (which I also expected). Still, I found myself gravitating toward the TuneFan, despite never once needing to turn on the built-in fan beyond testing it, due to the fact that I’ve always struggled with how to squeeze external speakers of any size onto my desk for personal use, when there are typically already so many other products occupying my desk for testing purposes. So if your desk is as cluttered as mine, you might place value on being able to keep decent-sounding three piece computer speakers tucked entirely under your laptop stand. Despite the built-in handle, don’t get any ideas about the TuneFan being overly portable. It’s not too heavy but it’s more than a little large.
To be clear, my testing was done entirely using Mac laptops ranging from fifteen to twelve inches. While PC laptops are generally thicker and heavier, I suspect you’ll be fine using anything in the twelve to fifteen inch range with any of these stands. Same thing goes for Apple’s seventeen inch laptop, since it’s on the svelte side, but I do wonder about some of those monster-sized seventeen inch PC laptops that weigh ten pounds and max out at two and a half inches thick – you’ll have to check with the manufacturers on that.
There are certainly more than five laptop stands on the market, but I hope this hands-on look at these five will help give you an idea of the options that are out there and the advantages and limitations of the various designs. And as more new laptop stands come to market from these and other vendors, we’ll do our best to bring you hands-on coverage of those as well.
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Beatweek Magazine issue #64: Lifehouse, Elliott Yamin, Daniel Merriweather, Riddim Ribbon, Elán, Laptop stands, iPod nano cases and more
On the tech side we get hands-on with some new iPod nano cases, a bunch of laptop stands, and five new iPhone apps including the highly anticipated Riddim Ribbon app based on the music of The Black Eyed Peas (and just for fun we’ve also included our interview with The Black Eyed Peas).
Thank you to those of you who’ve been with us going back to 2004. In between issues, keep an eye on beatweek.com for new interviews and reviews published daily. And yes, the rumors are true – Jason Derulo will be on our next cover.
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