Pros: An attractive adjustable stand for encased or unencased full-sized iPods and iPod minis, with all the parts you need to easily resize the iPod holder.
Cons: Lacks audio or video-out functionality of Apple’s own Docks, which are marginally less expensive, and therefore is best-suited to use alongside a computer rather than a stereo unless you add additional accessories or compromise sound quality.
To call Thought Out’s new iPed 2 ($39.99) a dramatically improved rethinking of the company’s earlier iPed stand (iLounge rating: B-) would be an understatement. In fact, improvements to almost every part of the sequel accomplish almost everything serious users would want from an iPod stand – except for audio- or video-out functionality.
Each of the iPed stands is designed around the same concept: provide an attractive way to hold your iPod on a desk or other fllat surface, matching the mount shape of Apple’s recently released Cinema Displays and iMac G5 personal computers. The original iPed accomplished this feat with a single piece of metal that looked pretty good but not quite right in our testing, in part thanks to its roughly textured gray body. You could place iPed on a table and fit your full-sized, unencased iPod inside, but that was pretty much it: a rubberized hole on the back let you slip a cable through, iMac and Cinema Display-style, for computer FireWire or USB synchronization. But you couldn’t use an iPod in a typical case, adjust the mount in any way, or use iPed with iPod minis, amongst other limitations.
iPed 2 fixes virtually all of these issues. It’s no longer made from a single piece of metal: rather, there’s one large piece of steel that forms the stand, a machine-cut screw that runs horizontally through its center, two iPod-grasping “wings” of padded steel that fit on the left and right sides of the screw, two round metal nuts (with locks) to hold the wings in place, and a collection of plastic spacers to adjust the wings for different-sized iPods and iPod minis. Two black rubber caps cover the spacers, nuts and locks, while a metal pin works as a wrench to loosen the nuts whenever you want to make an adjustment.
The new iPed ships ready to hold a third-, fourth-, or photo-generation iPod encased in an iSkin or similarly thick case, but is easily adjusted with the spacers to hold an iPod mini or unencased iPod instead. (It’s not suitable for the iPod shuffle – there’s another iPed stand called iPed shuffle coming for that purpose.) Using the included wrench and spacers to change the iPed 2’s size is mechanically very easy – better than we expected because of the cut central screw which doesn’t permit unintentional misorientation of the left and right wings – but practically a little more difficult in that the stand doesn’t include resizing instructions.
Rather, you need to visit the company’s web site, but it’s not as easy to use as it could have been. There’s a large but unexplicit assembly diagram that breaks down the iPed 2’s included components with only a few examples of spacers on different iPods, as well as a movie that shows you how to reconfigure the stand for your unencased iPod mini – but no other configuration. You’ll have to experiment with the spacers yourself to find the right parts – say, the thin 125 spacers – to use with an iSkin-encased iPod mini, and the purpose of the included washer remains obscure. A simple table, packed in with every iPed 2, would be helpful.
Once the stand has been properly assembled, your full-sized iPod or iPod mini looks great inside, and stands still in the position you prefer. The iPed 2 we received used glossy white paint that looked excellent – a major step up from the original iPed we saw in gray – and could be positioned on the iPod viewing angle you preferred. As with Apple’s own computer mounts, it’s easy to run your cable through the hole in its back, preventing tangles and clutter. And ultimately, we felt that it was both attractive and functional enough to be used on our own desks as an iPod mount – something we hadn’t felt about the previous iPed – doing a better job of matching Apple’s visual style.
Better yet, iPed 2’s open iPod cradle has more than enough room in its back and bottom to accommodate oddities of iPod cases and accessories such as belt clip nubs and other protruding plastic. Thought Out specifically touts iPed 2 as compatible with SendStation’s PocketDock, thereby giving users the ability to add on a line-out port for audio output (for $29.95 more) if they so desire.
While that’s a nice feature of an attractive stand, it highlights the one thing iPed 2’s missing for its $39.99 price. You do get a well-built, entirely adjustable stand that holds most iPods and looks very good in the process. But you don’t get the functional audio or video output of any of Apple’s $39.00 Docks, and have to buy the audio add-on separately for $29.95 from SendStation if you want it. In the case of video, you can’t buy it yourself as a PocketDock add on – at least, yet.
That makes iPed 2 an Apple Dock alternative – and frankly, one that’s superior in all the ways in which it directly competes – but it’s not a complete replacement for the official part. While it’s true that you can still use the iPod’s headphone jack for audio or use a PocketDock, both options have costs – either in audio quality or added price – over Apple’s already overpriced Dock. Similarly, you can use the iPod photo’s headphone jack for composite video output, but there’s no way to get S-Video output out of it without Apple’s iPod photo Dock.
Consequently, our iPed 2 has taken the place of Apple’s Dock on one of our computer desks, but regrettably won’t be a part of a stereo system. Users who already own PocketDocks, those who don’t mind the extra expense of buying them, or those who don’t want or need them will find iPed 2 to be an superb visual addition to their iPod arsenals. And we can always keep our fingers crossed for an even more functional iPed 3 – given Thought Out’s increasingly impressive design trajectory, we’re seriously looking forward to seeing what it has in store.
Company and Price
Company: Thought Out
Model: iPed 2 Adjustable Stand
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo