Review: Rain Design iSlider for iPad
The line between thoughtful design and over-engineering is fuzzy, and changes over time as more elegant solutions become available. So despite the release of a hundred or more iPad stands since Apple debuted its first tablet computer in 2010, some have stood out as particularly unique, including Belkin's great portable stand FlipBlade Adjust, and Rain Design's lap and desk stand iRest. This month, Rain released a brand new option called iSlider ($50), which brings the company's distinctive aesthetics to the portable stand category.
Featuring a chrome raindrop logo and a gently tapered shape, iSlider looks and feels like a hollow aluminum box designed to resemble a first-generation iPhone. Just like Apple’s now-classic design, a rounded black plastic compartment is found at the bottom of an otherwise substantially metal frame, here consisting of separate front and rear silver aluminum pieces that have been joined together with visible seams. Clear and black rubber pads on iSlider’s back indicate that this side is meant to rest on a flat surface, with the chrome raindrop facing upwards.
At that point, you can use two fingers to pull on the black compartment, exposing a combination of black metal, plastic, and rubber components that hide inside iSlider until they’re needed. Two metal bars extend a metal and plastic iPad-holding frame outwards by four inches, using rubber as padding at all points that might make contact with Apple’s tablet. The iPad holder has a hole in the bottom for connection of a charging cable, and completely open sides that can accommodate any size of iPad or mini released to date. Additional rubber inserts are included should you need to increase the padding to accommodate an iPad with a Smart Case or Smart Cover. We noted that the Smart Cover pad was also useful to reduce the shakiness you might experience when typing forcefully on the bottom of a bare iPad or mini.
Thanks to plastic ridges behind the iPad holder, you can push the holder backwards towards the metal bars, tilting it to your choice of 18 angles that range from a gentle video-ready recline to an all but horizontal typing-ready position. iSlider’s greatest strength is arguably in this versatility: while we’ve seen numerous stands that support four, eight, or even ten angles, Rain Design’s ridges provide enough discrete steps to rival the best stands we’ve seen integrated into iPad cases. From our perspective, the added interior levels of adjustability are more theoretically than practically valuable, but iSlider does have a deeper maximum typing recline than its aforementioned rival FlipBlade Adjust, while FlipBlade Adjust’s steepest video viewing angle is a little higher than iSlider’s. iSlider has many more midpoints, but they’re functionally otherwise quite similar.
Another way that iSlider might trump FlipBlade Adjust for some extremely space-conscious users is in size. Belkin did a great job of achieving compactness, relying almost entirely on the firmness of its metal and single hinge to achieve sturdiness. Without compromising stability in any way, iSlider shaves over an inch off of its thickness and smaller fractions off of its thickness and height, measuring roughly 5.4” tall, 3” wide, and 0.85” deep at its thickest point. Rain Design also includes a soft leatherette carrying case that only adds a little additional thickness on all sides, while protecting the aluminum against scratches and scuffs. Neither of these stands is going to be a problem to toss in most bags, but iSlider is just a little smaller.
The critical question iPad users should ask when considering iSlider is whether its higher $50 price is fully justified by its added functionality relative to the $30 FlipBlade Adjust. From our perspective, the answer’s not clear cut. Rain Design has come up with one of the most compact and versatile iPad stands we’ve tested, included a protective solution, and offered everything at a price that’s a bit higher than it should be—enough to detract a little from its rating, but not wholly objectionable. While most users will find that FlipBlade Adjust delivers 80% of the same experience at 60% of the price, iPad owners looking for greater adjustability or a slightly smaller option should give Rain Design’s iSlider very serious consideration. This is the best product we’ve seen from the long-time Apple accessory maker, and one of the best portable stands yet released for the iPad.