Review: Padded Spaces Prop ‘n Go Lap Stand for iPad
Since the launch of the iPad in 2010, we've seen one leisure activity affected more than any other: watching TV. In recent years, this has become an even more passive experience than before, as tablets and smartphones have served as extra layers of stimulus while consuming videos. Targus and Padded Spaces have both set out to capitalize on that fact with the launches of Lap Lounge for iPad 2 ($50) and Prop 'n Go All-in-One ($40-$60), respectively. These accessories are designed as a way to make extended use of iPads on laps even more convenient: they're iPad stands attached to lap-friendly pillows. While the merits of the entire concept can be argued, the execution of these accessories is important to consider for those who might be interested in using them. [Editor's Note: This article was updated on August 29, 2011 with a picture and description of Lap Lounge's support for portrait orientation mounting.]
The top half of Lap Lounge is a white plastic base with a roughly 3/4” deep recession. At the bottom of that base is a series of hinges that hold the iPad 2-specific shell in place; the shell is not removable. While the iPad 2 shell is somewhat similar to standalone rear casings we have seen, it’s clear that Targus designed this piece to fit in the base and remain there, using clips and a large hinge on the tablet’s left side for stability and repositioning. There are individual openings for the headphone port, microphone, Sleep/Wake button, Dock Connector port, and speaker. The last of those is most interesting, as there is a wave guide to direct the sound towards you as opposed to into the plastic back.
We like the hinge system that Targus used to attach the shell: it extends from just over 90° all the way down to flat, and stays securely in place at whatever angle you like in between. Because of this design, typing is very comfortable, and you can prop the iPad 2 up for video viewing. While it initially appeared that the accessory worked exclusively in the landscape orientation, you can actually insert a portrait orientation iPad 2 and have it stand upright in the frame. However, you need to be careful with screen protectors, because the clips that hold the iPad 2 in place can get under them in either orientation, causing bubbling and peeling.
The pillow portion of the case actually works pretty well. It feels very similar to a traditional bean-bag chair; that is, it’s filled with small, round pieces of foam, which wind up feeling quite comfortable. We were impressed by how well the shape adjusted to our legs, and how little Lap Lounge moved around once in place. There are a few other interesting features of Targus’s pillow, some positive, and some not. For instance, it’s only available in beige, a color we rarely see on iPod, iPhone, or iPad accessories. The right side has a small nylon strap that’s made to be used as a stylus holder. And along the top, a zippered pocket hides a nylon strap that can be used to carry the whole thing around like a purse—not that we’d imagine many people will actually do this. In any case, the pocket is actually deep enough that you can carry around accessories in it, but not large enough for the iPad 2.
Prop ‘n Go takes a very different approach to holding a tablet in place. Rather than including an integrated iPad 2 holder, it uses a series of 14 ridges in the plastic base to keep either an iPad or iPad 2 standing up at a variety of angles between 9° and 75°. A bi-fold plastic stand provides sturdy backing, and textured rubber strips along either side combined with a lip at the bottom keep the device in place. This provides a few benefits: your tablet doesn’t need to be removed from its case before using the stand, and other devices beyond just a single iPad model can be used as well. Unfortunately, Padded Spaces has run into problems a few times now with the non-slip strips. The original ones shipped with the Prop ‘n Go peeled off, and so did the first round of replacements. According to the company’s blog, it has found a much more suitable replacement and will be shipping them out to customers in the near future. This is a major downer for an otherwise decent product.
The soft pillow that the company uses is also different from that of Lap Lounge. Instead of a bean bag, it is full of pieces of thick foam, surrounded in your choice of two materials: one is a perforated fabric that is most akin to gym shorts, and the other is a soft, velvety microfiber, the latter a better choice for dry legs and the former perhaps better suited to moist ones. While both fabrics are malleable, the foam filling doesn’t adjust to the contours of your lap like Targus’s does, and the perforated fabric is also somewhat slippery. The $60 model of Prop ‘n Go features a zippered compartment large enough to hold the iPad or iPad 2 with or without a case, and an integrated ripstop backpack that folds out from that compartment—kind of crazy, kind of neat, but we can’t really imagine why you would need to carry it around. Padded Spaces notably sells less expensive $40 and $50 versions that sacrifice some of these features; the mid-level model loses the built-in backpack, and the least expensive is missing the iPad storage compartment and zippered accessory pocket.
What we consider to be the critical difference between these solutions is the premise on which they operate: Lap Lounge assumes that you’re going to want to drop a bare iPad 2 into its stand, while Prop ‘n Go gives you the flexibility to use a wide array of devices—inside or outside of cases. We think that Padded Spaces has the much smarter approach for accessories such as these, but we preferred Targus’s execution on the specifics, such as materials, build quality, and aesthetics.
Could you replicate Lap Lounge or Prop ‘n Go’s functionality with the pillows you already have on your couch? Sure. But if you need to use your iPad or iPad 2 while sitting down and really don’t want to hand-hold it or bend your legs to accommodate it, these accessories get the job done. There are features of each that we particularly like: the fact that Lap Lounge contours to the lap so well is a big plus, while we prefer the case- and device-accommodating design of the Prop ‘n Go, as well as its broader array of prices. Because they both necessitate sacrifices, it’s hard to pick one over the other, except to note that Prop ‘n Go’s peeling pads knocked it down from what would otherwise have been broader recommendability. Based on what we received and tested, Lap Lounge is a superior product, but with some tweaks, Prop ‘n Go will be useful and reliable for a wider variety of people.