Review: Ergotech Group VersaStand for iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)
Best known for its computer monitor mounts, Ergotech caught our attention with VersaStand ($99) for the last three generations of full-sized iPads. We were excited to find that VersaStand truly lives up to its name, actually offering versatility that can't be found in most iPad stands. Moreover, Ergotech has justified an abnormally high price point by including not just a stand, but also a full-fledged iPad case with more actual protection than most of the standalone cases we've covered. But we were also surprised to discover that VersaStand includes a direct clone of Apple's iPad Smart Cover, a component that will most likely wind up yanked from the package at some point. Putting aside that potentially controversial part, this is still a good stand, though with a couple of other issues users might want to consider before making a purchase.
VersaStand includes three total pieces. The first and most substantial is a silver aluminum desk stand weighing “slightly over one pound,” with black rubber on the bottom and a large black hard plastic circle at the top. Collapsed to a height of roughly 2” tall, 3” wide, and 9” deep, the stand consists of two blade-like feet connected to a circular pedestal and a three-jointed arm; it expands into a triangular shape 11” wide and 9.5” tall while preserving the 9” depth.
As compared with common $30 stands we’ve reviewed, this stand’s single biggest advantage is its ability to elevate your iPad a little over 3.5” off of a flat surface; the three arm joints also bend to support a wide variety of viewing and typing angles that are generally quite sturdy, while the aforementioned black circle lets you rotate the iPad through 360 degrees of freedom. While you can achieve some of the angles and rotation with rival stands, VersaStand’s aggregate flexibility is superior, particularly if adding height is important to you.
From a machining standpoint, VersaStand is pretty good, too. While there were tiny blemishes on the beveled edges of our review unit, they were so small that only up-close, deliberate inspection would reveal them. More importantly, while the metal doesn’t have the soft finish or organic edges of an Apple design, it feels substantial and looks very close to current iPads, with enough polish on the edges to keep the aluminum from feeling rough at any point. There’s nothing cheap or shoddy to complain about here.
The second piece of the package is a soft touch rubber-finished black shell that is nearly indistinguishable from numerous versions we’ve seen at $30 to $35 price points over the past couple of years. It covers a second, third, or fourth-generation iPad’s metal back from edge to edge, leaving gaps only for the buttons, ports, speaker, microphone, rear camera, and a Smart Cover-style lid. While Ergotech could have covered the buttons and the rear speaker with additional plastic, and fourth-gen iPad users will note that more area around the Lightning connector is exposed than need be the case, everyone else will find the level of protection to be completely adequate for most purposes—except for drops, where the lack of padding could be an issue.
A large silver aluminum ring is centered on the back of the case, ready to be connected to the secure, spring-loaded pressure mount on the included stand, and though the ring adds around 0.2” of thickness to the iPad, it looks pretty nice and feels rock solid. We’ve seen better and worse mounting alternatives in similar products; this one has fanciness on its side, and thickness as the only factor weighing against it.
Last but not least is the detachable, magnetically assisted iPad lid. At first glance, this piece could pass for an authentic Apple accessory, but upon closer inspection it’s clear that it’s a direct knockoff—virtually identical in every way to Apple’s $39 polyurethane iPad Smart Cover. The only difference is the omission of Apple branding; it’s most likely an OEM part produced by a Chinese cloning shop. Our review unit’s lid was black and had a silver metal and magnetic spine that looked pretty close to great—a very good match for both the included shell and the iPad inside.
Ergotech’s lid works almost identically to Apple’s. Left flat, it attaches automatically to the iPad’s left side, covering the entire screen with a soft, microfiber fabric layer that can remove some fingerprints and smudges. Converted into a triangular form, it acts as a portable video or typing stand. Magnets hidden on its right edge enable it to snugly hold stand positions, attach safely to the iPad’s screen, and automatically unlock the tablet when it’s pulled open. As a $39 standalone accessory, the Smart Cover is a ripoff, but packed in with a case and a stand at a reasonable total price, it makes a lot more sense.
Collectively, the lid and the shell cover every bit of the iPad save for the parts mentioned above, making this a comprehensive protective solution for Apple’s full-sized tablets. Better yet, you get unrivaled flexibility: use the shell and lid together for a completely portable stand solution, pull the lid off and use the desktop stand for a more sophisticated mounting alternative, or use the shell alone with your iPad in your lap. While there are combinations of cases and stands we could recommend that achieve nearly the same functionality at a similar price point, VersaStand gives you everything you need in a single package.
Are there issues? Yes. Though it offers superior elevation, the stand is much bigger and somewhat heavier than the best portable options we’ve tested, which prevents it from being tossed into a small purse. Again, the rotation it accomplishes with the circular mount on the shell’s back makes the iPad thicker in the center than most we’ve tested—and we noticed that the sticker covering the inside of the mount was peeling off on arrival, exposing the metal and screws underneath, an issue that was resolved when the iPad went inside the shell. If you object to the cloning of the Smart Cover lid, you might want to pass for that reason. And finally, while the $100 asking price isn’t insane for a combination of a fully protective case and a stand, you could put together some of the best case and stand options we’ve reviewed for around the same price.
Overall, VersaStand for full-sized iPads is a good option, and worthy of our general recommendation. There’s absolutely no question that Ergotech has assembled an impressive package here—one that protects Apple’s tablet while offering reasonable options for travel, desktop, and lap use. Even though Apple probably wouldn’t tackle these goals in the same way, VersaStand does everything well enough to justify the $99 asking price, and we’ve seen the package online for $20 less than that. The only things that preclude a higher recommendation are the shell’s bulging central mount, and the inclusion of a Smart Cover clone that seems likely to draw attention from Apple’s legal department. Our guess is that Ergotech will come up with better solutions for a future sequel, and so long as it doesn’t expose more of the iPad’s face or back in the process, it will have our full support in doing so.