With the debut of Apple’s second-generation iPad just around the corner, we wanted to revisit a number of stands for the first-generation model to see which have come closest to getting a “right” formula for design, materials, and pricing. As is always the case, it’s unclear as to whether these stands will be compatible with the revised shape and size of new iPad models, so our ratings are based solely on their suitability for use with the original iPad.
We’ve been fans of Rain Design for years, though the company’s products have primarily been made for iMacs and MacBook laptops rather than iPods, iPhones, or iPads. So it was exciting to see the company create a new iPad stand called iRest ($50), borrowing visual and functional elements from its earlier iLap and iLevel laptop stands. Using three detachable foam pieces, iRest does double duty as a desktop iPad easel and as a padded lap stand, converting to either purpose based on whatever your immediate needs may be.
The core of iRest is a silver and black easel that looks unlike almost all of its rivals due to the most elevated iPad holder yet released: here, the iPad sits three inches above the surface of a table, atop the company’s silver metal raindrop logo. Rain Design doesn’t specify on its web site what the stand is made from, but the box identifies the metallic portions as aluminum—iPad-matching but slightly plasticky-feeling aluminum—and they feel surprisingly sturdy given their thinness and finish. A black hard rubber bottom has Dock Connector cable and speaker pass-throughs, while a handsome clear rear arm can be adjusted smoothly on your choice of angles. Gray rubber pads protect everything from the table to the iPad from scratch damage.
iRest is a little awkward as a desktop stand, though the degree to which you feel that way will depend on your frame of reference. Virtually every iPad stand we’ve tested presumes that users will want the iPad to be just high enough off a flat surface to let its Dock Connector port and speakers have room to breathe. Instead, iRest brings the iPad high into the air, closer to what you might expect from an Apple monitor. Neither approach is “correct;” either may work better for a particular user.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this and competitors’ levels of elevation, but which works for you will depend on whether you want your iPad to look more like a desktop computer screen or like a laptop. iRest is better for the former than the latter, though the rear leg can be brought so far back that the angle is closer to a keyboard-ready 30-degree orientation, albeit increasing the stand’s depth to an almost insane 10 inches. That’s even more space on a desk than Heckler Design’s @Rest, which is one of the biggest iPad stands around, though iRest folds flat to an 8” by 6.3” by 2” maximum size, which @Rest cannot. iRest is like a bigger but lighter and more flexible evolution of Griffin’s A-Frame.
iRest’s more unusual characteristics make a lot more sense when it’s converted into its second form as an iPad lap stand. For that, you attach a large foam tube to the bottom front surface, and screw two more foam and plastic tubes into the sides of the clear plastic rear leg. These soft parts let you comfortably place your iPad on your lap while both it and you recline to whatever degree you desire, providing a more laptop-like experience without having a keyboard and trackpad in your way. Again, the ten-inch maximum depth is non-trivial, but the foam tubes create a soft stability that’s more comfortable and less goofy than other iPad lap stands we’ve seen. Here, the three inches of added iPad height really improve the device’s usability regardless of the angle you choose for the recline.
Given all that it can do, there’s little question that iRest will have some devoted fans, though we’d call it a stronger pick for users with lap mounting needs than desktop ones; nightstand users may like the added height, too. While attaching or detaching the foam pieces takes less than a minute, iRest feels as if it was primarily designed to be a lap stand, only converting downwards with some compromises that may be less than thrilling if you’re low on table space. However, it looks better than many iPad desk stands, and works well enough in both upright and keyboard orientations to be viable for both purposes, assuming you like its height. Our view is that it’s a neat and thoughtful option that should be near the top of your list if you really need help propping the iPad up in your lap, and in the upper middle of the pack otherwise.
Company and Price
Company: Rain Design Inc.
Compatible: iPad (2010)