Review: Power Support iPod Mobile Stand
Pros: A top class iPod car holder that looks great, feels sturdy, and includes a more than competant silicone rubber case to protect the iPod against scratching.
Cons: High price, included Silicone Jacket isn’t the best we’ve used overall (with Dock Connector hole that is on the small side for many accessories).
The editors of iLounge have been following the development efforts of Japanese iPod accessory maker Power Support for almost two years. With products that were previously available only to Japanese consumers, Power Support’s designs - attributed to Ryoichi Mase - have always seemed to transcend mere functionality, instead combining great features with unique design.
And some but not all of their products are commensurately expensive, a fact that is explained in this way by a representative of Power Support: “we are hoping that the high quality of the products will be appreciated by the discriminating Apple consumer. We realize our products may not be for the masses.”
Having tested seven of the company’s new products, which are available now for the first time to customers in the United States, we partially agree. There is no disputing that the products are high quality, and that they will be appreciated by discriminating buyers. But we also think that most of Power Support’s products - with one or two notable exceptions - are quite ready for the masses. The only issue in our minds is whether the masses will hear about them, or whether Power Support will remain the well-kept secret of serious iPod fanatics.
iPod Mobile Stand
The first Power Support products that caught our attention are the exceptions: they’re two styles of all-metal iPod mounting stands, one reviewed herein and one to come shortly. Simultaneously upscale in appearance and premium-priced, these stands will be the ultimate test of the company’s ‘special products for special customers’ philosophy.
Power Support’s IS-16A (3G iPod 30GB/40GB) Mobile Stand for in-car installation made a strongly positive first impression. (The company also offers the IS-15A for 10GB/15GB/20GB 3G iPods, and the slightly less expensive MS-11A and -14A models for iPod minis.) Made from five primary aluminum and steel parts, the Stands are strong and stylish devices that mount an iPod in your cup holder while you drive. One gray metal bracket holds the iPod; two interlocking black metal pieces and a silver metal pivot pin enable the iPod to be adjusted upwards or downwards from 30 to 70 degrees for easier viewing, and a silver metal cup fits into your cup holder. Three screws in the iPod bracket can be removed so that the bracket can be moved up or down to your liking.
As of today, the Mobile Stand’s only major competitor is Belkin’s TuneDok, a plastic and suction cup iPod holder which has fallen in price from $29.99 to under $19.99 in most stores. We reviewed and generally liked the TuneDok (with some reservations) at its old price last year, noting that it couldn’t hold encased iPods, sat low in our test car’s cup holder, and previously didn’t look, feel, or function like it was worth that original asking price. On the bright side, the TuneDok offered more pivoting ability (including the ability to make your iPod lay flat) than the Mobile Stand, and had a simple screw mechanism for height adjustment, which the Mobile Stand lacks. The Mobile Stand, however, starts out at a better height and is less likely to require such adjustment.
The two devices aren’t comparable visually: the all-metal Mobile Stand clearly wins, looking more like a piece of a Terminator robot than the happy-go-lucky, Fisher Price-style plastic design of the TuneDok. Power Support’s design is more solid, and its dark metals integrate much better with common gray and black car interiors than the TuneDok’s white and light gray plastic cup design. We were concerned that Power Support’s steel bracket design would scratch the iPod’s casing, but impressively, Power Support includes one of the company’s Silicone Jacket cases with every Mobile Stand, and has sized the Mobile Stand’s iPod bracket large enough to accept the fully encased iPod.
Not surprisingly, the Mobile Stand fit perfectly into our test vehicle’s regular cup holder, which is sized like the ones in most people’s cars, but as with Belkin’s plastic TuneDok, it sat loose in our center console’s larger multipurpose cup holder. A noticeable difference, however, was that the Mobile Stand’s depth and heavier weight combined with the iPod to provide a bit of added stability in the multipurpose holder, making Power Support’s product a somewhat better option for cars with this “feature.” Neither product was ideal in this regard, however; a free piece of bottom-mounting 3M tape would have be nice.
iPod Silicone Jacket Set
Power Support’s Silicone Jacket set for third-generation iPods consists of three parts: a rubber Silicone Jacket case sized for either the 10/15/20GB iPods (IJ-51 version) or the 30/40GB iPods (IJ-61 version), plus a clear plastic screen protector called Crystal Film, and a white sticker Scroll Wheel protector called Wheel Film. (Reviews of the two types of film are available from this link.)
Of all the Power Support products we tested, the company’s Silicone Jacket case is the least radical departure from competing offerings, and in fact would be easy to confuse with Lajo’s original eXo case - if he made a flat back version. The Silicone Jacket adds a couple of millimeters of rubber to all sides of a third-generation iPod, save for eight total holes: the screen and Scroll Wheel are left exposed, as are the four buttons, the Dock Connector port, and an interesting slit at the top of the iPod.
This top slit enables an iPod to conveniently (but not dangerously) slip in and out of the case, plus provides full access to the headphone port and Hold switch. And because it’s a slit rather than a completely open top surface, you can pull it back to attach top-mounting iPod accessories, or leave it as closed as possible, revealing only a small part of the iPod’s top. We think that further development of this feature (to include even more top coverage when closed) would work even better in a 4G iPod case design.
The Dock Connector hole is on the verge of too small. Save for Apple and Belkin cables, third-party Dock Connecting accessories are hard to connect when the iPod’s inside the Silicone Jacket, because like many other companies’ rubber cases, Power Support’s hole for Dock Connection fits Apple’s cables, and just fits Belkin’s Auto Kit cable, but not much else. If you don’t use this hole, or have a car charger with a very small Dock Connector plug, this won’t bother you, but it’s another small issue we’d hope Power Support addresses in the inevitable 4G version of this case.
Some users may be put off by the case’s lack of a belt clip or ventilating holes on its back side, but as we’ve mentioned in other reviews, we’re neither belt clip users nor especially concerned about ventilation under normal circumstances. Needless to say, people who clip their iPods or frequently use the iPod’s hard drive might find other cases more to their liking.
On the bright side, Power Support made a wise choice to include one Crystal Film and one Wheel Film protector in each Silicone Jacket box. As described in our separate review, they provide more protection for the screen and Scroll Wheel than is the case with many (but not all) competing products, and make the Silicone Jacket’s higher price a little easier to swallow.
Overall, the Silicone Jacket set offers enough protection to most of the iPod’s surfaces to qualify as an above-average case offering. While it’s not our favorite rubber case offering, it’s one of the better overall packages we’ve seen, and will be particularly useful for those who want to use top-mounting iPod accessories. It fits well with the Mobile Stand, and makes for a very nice integrated iPod in-car and carry-around solution.
Value and Conclusions
Surely the Mobile Stand will test an iPod owner’s devotion to aesthetics and depth of pocketbook: at $82.00*, it is unquestionably a premium alternative to the cheaper plastic Belkin TuneDok, and one could claim that it differs only modestly in functionality. However, we see the product in a different light: in each of its touches save one, it improves upon the TuneDok’s functionality: it holds the iPod better, leaves enough room so that it can be used with rubber case accessories, actually includes such an accessory, and better anchors the iPod down. All it lacks is the height and wider pivot adjustment functionality of the TuneDok, but for our purposes, that wasn’t an issue.
(* - For reference, the iPod mini version of the Mobile Stand sells for $76.00, and includes the user’s choice of round-edged or square-edged cases.)
And the Mobile Stand package looks a lot cooler than current alternatives, too. Whereas the TuneDok’s all plastic and suction cup design pushed the edge of price acceptability at $29.99, the more expensive Mobile Stand comes close to earning its higher asking price, not just because of its better construction and appearance, but because it includes a fully functional protective silicone case complete with some Scroll Wheel and screen protection.
The only question we would imagine an iPod owner would have is whether the Mobile Stand is worth the premium over its closest competitor. And our answer is simple: for those who need its additional features, the answer is yes. It’s the coolest in-car iPod stand we’ve tested to date, and like the iPod itself, extra style makes the price premium easier to justify. We won’t say that the $28 packed-in Silicone Jacket case is our favorite - though it does a more than competent job - and we wish that a cheaper version of the stand minus the case was available, particularly given that Power Support isn’t selling 4G iPod cases. For now, the Mobile Stand will - as predicted by Power Support - likely become a premium offering for high-end users. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing after all.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge. A consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time, Jeremy’s recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.