Review: Just Mobile Encore High-Design Stand for iPad
While we wait for the ideal combination of an iPad case and stand -- something that we expect will materialize later this year after the release of the second-generation iPad -- we have continued to rely upon separate stand accessories for all of our tabletop iPad needs, and developers have continued to release new options in hopes of creating something truly great. Today, we're looking at five of the most noteworthy stands that have been released in recent weeks: Amzer's low-priced Foldo Stand ($17), Griffin's similarly affordable Tablet Stand ($30), Just Mobile's elegant portable Slide ($40) and desktop Encore ($60) stands, and the ultra-portable/novel Logiix Clipstand for iPad ($30). Each of the reviews is brief and separate, sharing only introductory comments.
One point that needs to be made up front is that the ideal iPad stand has three characteristics that few prior-generation options properly address. First, we find it hard to broadly recommend stands that will work only for unencased, first-generation iPads; ideally, a stand can accommodate both protected and unprotected devices, as well as offering the potential to adjust a little for the anticipated and slightly smaller second-generation iPad. Second, the stand’s aesthetic design and novelty are important considerations for many users. And third, the price needs to be reasonable. Some decent stands are included for free with or built directly into cases. Others sell for over $100. Neither approach has merited our high recommendation for various reasons, the latter mostly because such a price is excessive in the absence of included electronic hardware or precious metals. Good stands start in the $20 range and can go up to $50 before the question of actual value for the dollar becomes tricky.
As is obvious from our past reviews of Just Mobile’s accessories for Apple’s devices, we’re really excited any time this company announces that it has something new to offer for an iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Mac. While the specifics of the products typically vary from complete wows to pretty good ideas, this company’s continued creativity, use of high-quality materials, and desire to stylishly accessorize Apple’s products makes it a real standout in the industry today. A Just Mobile accessory may approach a familiar engineering task from a substantially different angle than anyone else, and both the Encore and Slide pull that feat off again while providing a respectable degree of future-proofing.
While the circular desktop stand Encore received our 2011 Best of Show Finalist Award and the smaller portable stand Slide received a full Best of Show Award, the only reason for Encore’s lower billing was its $60 price. Just Mobile and creative partner Tools have designed a beautiful aluminum ring with black rubber inner lining and bottom surfaces, adding a matte plastic hinged arm to its back side. The idea and execution are beautiful and elegant, growing on us with every use: place your iPad in the center of the ring with the rubber lining providing front support, and adjust the rear arm to bring the iPad from 90 degrees upright to an angle that just manages to work for typing—around 40 degrees, no further—or anything inbetween. There’s enough room in either portrait or landscape orientation to connect a Dock Connector cable, and Encore works as well with cases as without them.
By comparison, Slide looks a lot simpler and is certainly smaller. The extremely unique shape is a flat aluminum plate with a rubberized, iPad-gripping curve at one end, and a tube built into the other—no easy feat to machine perfectly, but Just Mobile has managed it. Inside the metal tube is a black rubber cylinder with a metal core, deliberately designed to have just the right hand feel, weight, and functionality. You pop the cylinder out of the tube, place your iPad in Slide’s lower rubberized curve, pick your preferred angle, and put the cylinder behind the iPad. The tube’s weight and a ridge on the stand guarantee that the iPad will stay sturdy when it’s used upright or placed on an Encore-like recline of roughly 40 degrees for typing. It’s so interesting from a usage standpoint that it’s hard to believe that it works, but it does, with or without iPad cases. Slide’s only drawback is that you’ll need to place the cylinder in your chosen location every time you bring your iPad back to the stand; it has no fixed-position memory and really is, as Just Mobile suggests, designed to be for portable use rather than regular day-to-day desktop use.
Slide feels like a little bit of a reach at $40, but Just Mobile packages it with a soft drawstring carrying bag, and the design is undeniably portable, useful, versatile, and near the lower end of the price range for really well-designed iPad stands. Encore by comparison feels like a big reach at $60 given the number of quality metal stands that have been offered at or below the same price point, though there’s no denying how attractive it is or how elegantly it works. The fact that its rear arm remains in the last position used makes it a better pick than Slide for users with desktop mounting needs, but its larger footprint may reduce its portability for some users. If you have no objections to spending a little extra cash for great design, either of these stands should be high on your list.