Review: FLOS / Philippe Starck D’E-light
Want to mount an iPad on your desk? That's easy: all-plastic stands are available for $20, with metal options running from $30-$40, while combination stands and cases can be had for a little more. But some people want more sophisticated solutions and are willing to pay for them, so some enterprising third-party developers have come up with stands that look nicer and cost more -- sometimes a lot more. Today, we're reviewing two such options: FLOS's docking lamp D'E-light ($396), and Twelve South's HoverBar, each of which suspends an iPad 2 well above the surface of a desk or table. D'E-light also works with the original iPad, all iPhones, and most iPods.
Before we discuss each of these options in detail, it’s worth pointing out that they’re both decidedly niche solutions. D’E-light’s nearly $400 price is at least $300 higher than the most expensive Apple device-compatible lamps we’ve previously seen, attributable to its internationally famous designer Phillippe Starck. We’re fans of Starck’s designs, and really love the way that D’E-light looks, but there’s no getting around the fact that FLOS is charging a modern art premium for this model; consequently, you’d really have to be a Starck fan to even consider it. By comparison, HoverBar isn’t outrageously expensive, but it’s currently very iPad model-specific, and designed primarily to be attached to an Apple iMac or monitor. Like D’E-light, you can use it elsewhere on a table or a desk, though you’ll have to clamp it to the edge. Most iPad stands out there have no such limitations.
There are several major reasons that people will love D’E-light, and a couple of things that could have been done better. On the plus side, D’E-light’s design is really going to wow some people: viewed straight on, this chrome-finished, aluminum-cored lamp looks like a study in hip boxiness, with top, middle, and bottom portions that are on 90-degree angles, but for a gentle recline on the lamp portion. D’E-light looks like a wide, T-shaped lamp that’s been cut in half, and could as easily sit in an Apple Store as in a design museum. There’s a glowing red touch control on the right side, capable of turning the lamp on, gently dimming it with tap or hold gestures, then turning it off. If you want to place your Apple device on top of it, you can; otherwise, it just looks and works like a regular desktop lamp—except that it’s unusually sleek.
Standing around 12.5” tall, the lamp bar starts at roughly the 8.25” mark, extending 8.5” wide and holding a 2700K flat panel light inside. A 5.3”-wide by 4.6”-deep platform keeps the lamp stable on a table, using a felt lining to prevent scratches; a black cable for power sticks out of the left side. International wall blades are included, along with a black wall adapter that provides up to 2.1-Amp power for a top-left mounted dock. The dock thereby supports full-speed charging of iPads, iPhones, and iPods alike, and does in fact properly charge these devices—we had no problem quickly bringing even Apple’s tablets up to full capacity. Moreover, by elevating current models a foot off a desk, D’E-light positions them in a great place for viewing their screens, as well as for FaceTime calls; the large supporting plate just barely—only a hint—interferes with even the iPhone’s rear camera, not that most people would be using it a lot while docked on a desk.
On the other hand, D’E-light’s issues will limit its appeal. Start with the design of the Apple dock, which some people will note is at least a little off the ideal location, as iPhones and iPod touches hang a little off the left side, and iPads flow even further off, albeit with complete stability during and after docking. More significantly, the dock is made from unpadded metal without an elevated Dock Connector, an implementation that keeps the lamp from working with encased iPads, iPhones, or iPads. Merely elevating the Dock Connector would and should have fixed this issue; the lack of a rubber or other pad to keep Apple’s devices from tapping against the chrome may concern some people, as well. There’s also a certain waviness in the chrome plating that detracts from the otherwise attractive design; some users would likely prefer to see this in a Mac-matching matte aluminum finish, instead.
The only other issue is D’E-light’s brightness. At peak, the lamp puts out 299 lumens of light, which is fine for desk or bedside illumination at night, but relatively modest otherwise; you’d have to be working in a room with poor natural lighting for the bulb to make a big difference during the daytime. That said, we wouldn’t call D’E-light dim, and the light level does have some advantages: the lamp runs relatively cool, doesn’t blind you when you’re sitting right in front of it, and has a soft glow.
Overall, D’E-light takes a good stab at combining Apple device docking and lamp functionality, and its Phillippe Starck heritage will unquestionably win it some fans—us included. If you’re using your iPad, iPhone, or iPod without a case, you’ll have a higher chance of liking its current dock design, and if you’re expecting gentle illumination at your desk, you’ll be satisfied with its output. However, there’s little doubt that between the high price tag and the aforementioned limitations, D’E-light is a niche offering, and could benefit from a little tweaking. Our sincere hope is that FLOS and Starck come back with additional follow-ups to this product, because there’s a good idea here, and only modest extra work would be necessary to make D’E-light a truly delightful docking option.