Review: Thought Out Ped3-U Universal Stand
For years, Thought Out has made a business of producing metal iPod and iPhone stands with no electronic components, and its latest offering is one step simpler: a metal iPod and iPhone stand with no moving parts. Meet Ped3-U ($23), which does one thing and one thing only: it holds a full-sized iPod or iPhone on a 55-degree viewing angle, enabling you to connect self-supplied cables if you want for charging, synchronization, audio, or video. Thought Out calls it the Universal Stand for "any device," though its cradle is actually too large for vertical iPod nanos.
We’re going to use this review to do a little something different with Ped3-U than with its predecessors, in hopes of communicating clearly both to readers and to Thought Out what’s gone right and wrong with the Ped product line over time. First, as a positive starting point, we’ll note that Ped3-U is a bona fide good idea: believe it or not, simplifying the now well-established iPod and iPhone holder design down to a comparatively inexpensive, single-position version is actually extremely appealing. And though Thought Out has gone through various thicknesses and shapes for its prior Ped stands, this one strikes us as pretty close to “right”—it feels firm without being overly heavy or light, offers a nice hole for cable management, and uses just enough padding in the right places. Your iPod or iPhone can be placed in the cradle with or without a case, as well.
What about its limitations? Well, since you can’t rotate Ped3-U’s iPod or iPhone cradle, just turn the device itself—simple. Want a good viewing angle? Believe it or not, Thought Out’s chosen 55 degree position seems to work pretty well for both horizontal and widescreen use of the iPhone and iPods. Moreover, for $23, it’s hard to argue that Ped3-U costs too much relative to other stands out there; the steel works well with the rubber pads to protect your device and the surface beneath the stand. In concept and in the basics of execution, this is a very solid product, and for that, Thought Out deserves real credit.
But it is equally impossible to ignore the parts of Ped3-U that have continued to be issues since the early days of Thought Out stands—problems that really should have been addressed a long time ago, and still need work here. First is Ped3-U’s paint job, which due to yet another less than ideal process has an odd black sparkly texture that doesn’t really match anything Apple makes; it feels a little weird, looks a little weird, and… well, it sparkles in the light. Combined with the glossy black texture of the rubber cradle pads, the clear bottom pads, and the somewhat “off” graphic design of the Ped3 rubber sticker in the center of the cradle, everything here would benefit from that 10-15% final design polish and consistency that the best iPod and iPhone accessories routinely receive. We have yet to see a Thought Out stand that looks like it was precision-finished to the same level of near-perfection as the Apple product it was designed to hold; despite its simplicity, Ped3-U follows that pattern.
We normally don’t care too much about packaging or marketing when reviewing a product—and don’t take them into account in ratings—but we felt obliged to point them out here. Unlike most of the web pages and boxes we see during the review process, Thought Out’s have a certain low-end look: the package is a plain black box with stickers on two sides; both it and the web site include pictures of Ped3-U holding a box of playing cards, and a big, cheesy-looking reference to “Heavy Rock Solid USA Steel,” which looks and sounds straight out of an American car commercial from the 1980’s. As with the finishing touches on the stand itself, these elements detract from the charming Apple-esque user experience that many iPod and iPhone users expect, and unnecessarily left us less impressed than we might otherwise have been.
In summary, Ped3-U does exactly what you’d hope it would do—provide a sturdy, device-agnostic steel stand for a comparatively aggressive price—but on the other hand, certain low-class touches prevent its aesthetics from living up to its functionality, and undermine its value. If you’re able to look past its lack of polish, you’ll find Ped3-U to be a useful and strong option for mounting full-sized iPods or iPhones; our strong desire would be to see Thought Out evolve its designs—from product to packaging to web site—to an equally “universal” level of appeal.