Most of the iPad stands we test are small and effectively portable: lightweight, made from plastic or metal, and relatively inexpensive. Some iPad stands, however, have been ridiculously overpriced; it’s hard to justify $80-$130 price tags when virtually identical functionality can be had for $20-$30 elsewhere. Flote’s Orbit ($130) is the rare iPad stand that’s actually worthy of a premium price. While it’s not quite as gorgeous in person as it looks in company-provided photos, Orbit combines an elegant design with functionality and heft that can’t be found in basic stands. Assuming you’re not concerned about theft of your iPad or the stand, have the extra cash to spend, and need the key thing — height — it offers as an advantage over basic models, it’s definitely worth considering.
Orbit arrives in three pieces: a solid steel base that feels like it weighs nearly 20 pounds, a thick metal arm with a Philips head screw at one end and a concave magnet at the other, and a spring-loaded cradle with a ball on the back and rubber pads on its four fingers. Assembly is as simple as unscrewing the screw with a self-supplied screwdriver, sticking the bottom of the arm into the base, reattaching the screw and a washer plate under the base, and attaching the cradle to the arm. The latter step takes under a second thanks to the arm’s powerful magnet, creating a ball joint assembly that also gives you a great sense of confidence in the stand’s sturdiness.
Once assembled, Orbit lets you turn the arm through 360 degrees of freedom, with or without pivoting the cradle on your choice of angle or device orientation. You cannot adjust the height of the arm or the tablet, apart from changing the tablet from portrait to landscape mode, but Orbit’s roughly 10” height is just right for elevating a tablet to a sitting user’s head level from the surface of a desk. You can optionally tilt the iPad upwards as needed for standing users. Theoretically, Orbit could be used as a digital check-in station at a hair salon or restaurant regardless of whether the user is seated or standing.
Orbit has only small aesthetic issues — ones that most people wouldn’t complain about. In official photographs, the steel looks like a perfect match for Apple’s sandblasted aluminum devices, and Flote’s finish gets very close: high-quality and relatively well-applied sparkling silver paint is close enough that only the pickiest customers will care about the difference. We weren’t thrilled by the giant metallic Flote sticker that came pre-installed on the base and took a few attempts to remove, and the rubber caps on the cradle’s fingers are more functional than beautiful. Cumulatively, we’d call these issues minor.
With a minimum width of 6.5”, the cradle is capable of gripping any iPad firmly. This even includes the iPad mini if Apple’s smallest tablet is placed between the fingers in landscape mode — no functional problem as the cradle can then be rotated to your preferred orientation. Using two metal springs and three more Philips head screws to provide a tense grip, the fingers can expand to an 8.75” maximum width, more than enough space to grasp even an encased original iPad in portrait mode. Like cradles we’ve seen in other large stands, this one isn’t beautiful, but it serves its purpose, and becomes largely invisible once an iPad’s placed inside.
If Orbit is obviously missing anything given Flote’s marketing as a stand for “office, countertops, retail and more,” that thing would be a security system to protect the iPad in environments with theft potential. The stand has five large pads to prevent tabletop scratching, but no place to attach a Kensington locking system or comparably secure solution. Given the price point, build quality, and numerous viable non-retail applications Orbit can have, we wouldn’t penalize Flote for a omitting security system, but retail establishments concerned about theft will find that Orbit is not ideally suited to their use.
It’s not easy for an iPad stand to offer enough real value to justify a premium price, but Flote’s Orbit accomplishes that feat — it definitely feels and almost entirely looks worthy of the $130 MSRP. You’d be hard-pressed to find another tabletop iPad stand as substantial as Orbit for this price point, and the execution here is far more elegant than in Float’s earlier and pricier Desktop Stand for iPad. That said, the market for $130 stands is clearly not as large as it is for $30 ones, and the single largest differentiator Orbit offers is 10” of elevation off a countertop surface. If that’s what you’re looking for, and you’re willing to pay a premium for the design, give Orbit serious consideration. It merits our strong general recommendation and B+ rating.
Company and Price
Compatible: All iPads