Review: Belkin FlipBlade Adjust
Though it's been relatively quiet on the electronic accessory front in recent months -- particularly so for Apple's iPads -- Belkin has mastered one type of tablet add-on: the stand. While competitors have targeted $50 price points for more than occasionally oversized or over-engineered alternatives, Belkin has scored direct hits with two inexpensive options that look great, feel great, and work well. The first was FlipBlade, a blue and silver iPad holder with a unique spring release mechanism, and now it has trumped that design with FlipBlade Adjust ($30), which offers even greater versatility at the same price.
Many of the iPad stands we’ve reviewed use metal sparingly if at all, but like FlipBlade, aluminum is a critical component in FlipBlade Adjust. Sculpted metal is used for both the frame and a new flip-out leg, with blue-gray plastic connectors and rubber pads in all the right places. Your bare iPad or iPad 2 is protected against scratches at every point where it might make contact with the scoop-shaped holder, which now has a hole in its bottom for a Dock Connector cable; another pad on the bottom of the leg keeps it from scuffing or getting scuffed on a table. Encased iPads and iPad 2s also work in Adjust, as do iPhones and iPod touches, even though Belkin doesn’t pitch it as designed for anything save tablets.
What’s fascinating here is that Belkin has strategically reduced the quantity and thickness of materials used in FlipBlade Adjust while maintaining stability and increasing functionality—a balance achieved by using wider, taller metal rather than thicker plastic. The spring-loaded opening mechanism was nice in the first model, but has disappeared here in favor of a set of two spring-based locking buttons on Adjust’s sides. Press them both together and this stand can be shifted from a closed position into one of four different “open” angles, or converted from open to closed.
Folded down, FlipBlade Adjust measures only barely over 4” wide at its button points, and 3.75” wide elsewhere; it’s a little under 5.75” tall and 1” thick at its tallest and thickest points, with only 1/8” at its thinnest. (The original FlipBlade was nearly 3” wide, 5” tall, and 1” thick at its thickest, or 0.25” at its thinnest.) As a modest trade-off, less of the metal is covered this time than before, which means that FlipBlade Adjust will be a little more susceptible to scratches and dings, assuming that you make no effort to keep it in a soft, padded portion of a bag.
The only really important thing that was missing from FlipBlade was multiple viewing angle support, and even then, that model’s price and build quality were enough to compensate for the omission. With FlipBlade Adjust, there’s no compromise: you get it all. At its deepest reclining angle, FlipBlade Adjust holds the iPad or iPad 2 almost as flat as a traditional keyboard, while the maximum upright position mimics the gentle recline of Apple’s own docks. Using the side buttons, you can ratchet the stand into two interim angles that compromise between typing and viewing, or viewing with a greater recline. All of the angles are firm; only the deepest typing recline provides a tiny, inoffensive bit of give when it’s pressed upon.
FlipBlade set new standards for its price point when it was released, and FlipBlade Adjust does the same. It’s not just one of the best and most portable iPad stands we’ve tested—it’s one of the very best Apple device stands, period, given its reasonable price point, modern design, and great adjustability. There are certainly fancier and more complex stands out there, but this is one that we’d put at the very top of any short list for iPad users. It’s worthy of our rare flat A rating and high recommendation.