It’s a space-saving, Mac-matching above-keyboard tray with integrated USB ports. And it even includes a cup holder. Welcome to America, UBoard ($50).
Unlike Pyramid Distribution’s imported iClooly accessories, which started with the Japanese-developed iClooly Alumi Stand, the company brought UBoard over from South Korea, which is currently becoming more Apple-savvy now that the iPhone is finally locally available. Though it’s a simple enough idea, UBoard uses the sort of clean design that some Mac users—and Windows users—will appreciate.
In the box are pieces that let you and your screwdriver decide whether to place the three integrated USB ports on the left or right of the tempered glass shelf, as well as a single cup holder that matches the white or black glossy plastic legs. Once assembled, a process that takes two minutes if you have the screwdriver handy, the shelf stands three inches off the surface of a table—enough space to let fingers access one of Apple’s recent, ultra-slim keyboards underneath. Though the top screw covers aren’t completely flush with the rest of the plastic legs, this is only a small visual defect; UBoard otherwise is a nice match for the glossy plastic accessories—Apple docks, mice, and so on—that are commonly paired with Macs.
One USB cable runs to the back of the computer, and there’s no additional power for the three-port hub, which may be an issue for some users. More details can be found by clicking on the title of this article, or on the Read More link below.
Another, less important point: you might have noticed that we used the word “single” in reference to the cup holder, which is listed on the box as “2-Cup Holder.” In actuality, there’s only the one cup holder in the set, though there are two plus-shaped holes where it can be mounted—one on each side of the shelf. Only in the land of the cup holder-laden SUV might anyone feel like they’re missing something by not having a second cup holder on their desk shelf, but we’ll also note that although the part is functional, it’s not a great design. It lacks interior rubber for stability and does little more than elevate a 2.8”-diameter cup an inch or so off the table’s surface. Being placed in the back of the leg isn’t especially convenient, either, and the five slots in its side are there to hold business cards. Sorta odd.
One surprise was that the shelf didn’t seem to have rubberized feet for stability. Thankfully, we discovered that if you flex the odd black rubber square in the box, the square turns out to have been micro-cut into four circular feet that fit into grooves on UBoard’s bottom, making the shelf grippy. Instructions would have been helpful to figure this out. And for certain, UBoard’s appeal is going to vary from user to user based on the desk a person is using. It’s a great fit for a table that’s low and lacks for a keyboard and mouse shelf; perhaps less so for a table that’s higher and has such a shelf already, though even then, some people may find it to be appealing as “just another place to put stuff,” or as a surface to mount a computer up top, or place a notebook underneath a monitor. How much can the glass shelf handle? Pyramid says 33 pounds, noting that a 20-inch iMac weighs 18.4 pounds, and a 24-inch iMac is 25 pounds. The new 27” iMac shown here? 30.5 pounds, right on the edge of safety. For reference, the 24” LED Cinema Display is at 21 pounds, in the safety zones. Most current monitors, save for really large or really old ones, will do fine; check their weights before placing them on the glass.
Another item we wanted to briefly mention is one that might be of interest to some readers—a seriously iPod-like version of the Storage Appliance Corporation’s Clickfree Automatic Backup system, called the Clickfree C2 Portable Backup. We previously reviewed the Clickfree Transformer for iPod, an accessory that turns iPods into limited-capacity, one-click backup devices for computers, but this version is different: with very obvious design inspiration from Apple, it uses a glossy white dock that sits on your desk to hold a portable, glossy white or black hard drive with a blue power and drive activity indicator. It works with both Macs and PCs; Storage Appliance is currently selling 250GB ($120) and 500GB ($160) versions, respectively more than enough space to back up most laptop or desktop computers.
We’ve already discussed the Clickfree approach to backing up a computer—once the USB cable is connected, you’re given a simple installer to run, and virtually everything is automated from there on out—but what this version brings to the table is an interesting take on iPod-style portability. The dock has a USB connector inside, enabling you to drop the hard disk housing right on top for instant connectivity, but the drive also has a USB connector nestled in its back for times when you’re on the road and don’t have the dock handy. While the parts aren’t as sexy as Apple’s designs, they’re close enough in looks and curves to fit on the same desk without looking ridiculous.
The single biggest issue with the Transformer was how limited the connected iPods typically are in storage capacity. Apple effectively stopped the capacity race for its most capacious iPod classics by cutting the family down to a single model and capping its storage at whatever could fit on a super-thin 1.8” drive. Moreover, people who buy iPods—even classics—probably aren’t looking to fill them up with the complete contents of their computers. A standalone backup hard drive makes more sense, and at a premium of only $70 over the driveless Transformer, the 250GB C2 is a neat little option.