iLap; TravelRite; Dexia Rack; LapGenie; Ergo-Top; Ergo-Q; StandIt; NoteRiser; PowerBook Stand; Laptop-Desktop Stand; iBreeze

Introduction

Boy, did we ever get a good laughout of the combustible PowerBook 5300. Quite the scorchin’ deal, eh? (Never mind that only a few batteries in a testing lab actually caught fire.) These days, however, the joke isn’t quite as funny: laptops really are getting hot enough to singe the skin.


You can stay cool with the right laptop stand. And you’ll protect more than your skin: the 11 stands reviewed here all raise the height of your laptop to a more comfortable viewing or typing angle. As with most ergonomic products, one that’s ideal for you may not work well for someone else, so keep your needs in mind. I wouldn’t want to see you get burned.

Lap stands
My editor insisted that I work on this article from my couch, so I’m doing my best to accommodate him with the help of a few stands designed to keep a laptop off your lap. (They also function well on a desk.)

Rain Design’s simple iLap features an angled anodized aluminium base with a soft padded base riser and padded wrist rest. You can’t change degree of tilt, but the riser rotates slightly to match the angle of your legs (if you’re sitting) or to lie flat on a desktop.


WorkRite Ergonomics’ TravelRite (7.4; $146; www.wrea.com) tilts your iBook or PowerBook as much as 30 degrees, which may provide a more comfortable angle for typing. It also provides space for air to flow beneath the laptop. It includes a padded wrist rest that you can adjust to match the thickness of your laptop; however, the wrist rest makes the TravelRite feel bulkier than it should and encourages you to rest your wrists while typing. Also, the stand blocks the media drive of a 15-inch or 17-inch PowerBook G4.

Dexia Design’s Dexia Rack (8.0; $45; $15.70 shipping; www.dexiadesign.com) is a model of portability. Folded flat, the aluminium frame is 0.75 inches thin and weighs 1.5 pounds. But when it’s unfolded, the Rack lifts the laptop 7.6 inches – enough room to accommodate your legs when you’re sitting on a couch or in bed, or to raise the screen for working at a desk. The rubber feet on my 15-inch PowerBook G4 didn’t always find traction on the Rack’s metal surface, but this wasn’t much of an issue since the Rack is flat.

The LapGenie (7.2; $130; www.lapgenie.com) provides what should be a happy combination of the previous two stands: it has a surface high enough to put your legs under and an adjustable surface that can be set to any angle that will hold your computer (a benefit for people who aren’t able to work in a sitting position).

But the LapGenie is the Inspector Gadget of stands, with a bewildering six-step unfolding process. Folding it up was also annoying: on more than one occasion, the metal legs pinched my fingers. And when packed, it felt too bulky to be easily portable. However, once deployed, the stand is surprisingly sturdy, given its lightweight (1.7-pound) anodized aluminium body.

Desk stands
The previous stands are at home on your lap or your desk. The following stands are designed primarily for a desk or other flat, solid surface. They follow one of two design philosophies: they either hide your laptop’s keyboard (so you can use an external keyboard and mouse without obstruction) or leave it accessible, whether you connect external input devices or not.

Keyboard inaccessible
Humanscale believes that since you won’t be using your laptop’s keyboard, that space can be put to better use. Its L2 model (8.0; £119 excluding VAT; www.humanscale.co.uk), also called the Ergo-Top, has a plastic U-shaped piece, upon which you rest the laptop’s lower section.

This piece completely blocks the keyboard and trackpad and serves as a document holder that lets you keep your reference materials in front of you. The base of the U-shaped piece tilts at one of five preset angles and controls the height of the laptop’s screen.

A portable version of the same idea, Humanscale’s L1 (7.9; $300), or Ergo-Q, folds up neatly into a flat metal slab that’s half an inch high. Like the Ergo-Top, the Ergo-Q has an adjustable leg mechanism that lets you change the height of the screen.

I liked the construction and design of both stands, especially the portable model, but the depth of each stand, when added to the desk space an external keyboard occupies, put the screen a few inches too far from my eyes. Also, putting the lower section of my PowerBook into the U-shaped construction blocked the front-loading DVD-drive; iBook and 12-inch PowerBook G4 owners, whose media drives eject from the side, won’t have this problem.

The StandIt, from StandIt (7.5; AUD$70 including shipping; www.standit.com), also blocked my PowerBook’s media drive, but the utter simplicity of its design and its low price nearly compensates for that. You might think that the metal StandIt is just a recipe-book holder: a lip on the bottom prevents the laptop from sliding onto the table, and a stiff wire leg pivots out from the back to provide support.

Three separate legs of different sizes come with the StandIt to control its angle; you need to remove one before attaching another, which is awkward. Ultimately, though, the StandIt didn’t work for me because the aluminum PowerBook G4’s hinge doesn’t open up far enough to make the screen vertical. (To be fair, the stand worked fine with my older Titanium PowerBook G4.)

Keyboard accessible
If you want height without sacrificing the use of your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad, the following stands provide more-open designs. Though you’ll probably use these on a desk with an external keyboard and mouse, it’s nice to have the option of unhindered access to the laptop.

Similar in design to the L1, Contour Design’s NoteRiser (7.8; $130; www.contourdesign.com) begins as a slim square of aluminium and transforms, via a couple of bends and slots, into an angled stand that can raise your laptop. The NoteRiser has two metal tabs that prevent the laptop from sliding; these tabs also make a PowerBook G4’s media drive inaccessible.

For something sturdier, turn to the Kamas PowerBook Stand (8.6; $100; $10 shipping; www.macsonly.com/macimp/kamas2.html), which is composed of a heavy-duty steel base and a laptop platform that is adjustable to any angle. A bracket holds the computer securely in place and includes a slot that accommodates the PowerBook’s DVD drive (you specify your PowerBook or iBook model when you order, so you get the correct bracket). A small shelf in back is great for storing the computer’s power adapter, and a small extension on the platform allows you to thread cables out of the way.

My favourite stand for elevating my PowerBook is the inexpensive Laptop-Desktop Stand, from ErgoKomfort (8.9; $50; $38 shipping; www.ergokomfort.com). This simple two-piece acrylic shelf lifts the laptop to a comfortable level and offers a tilt of up to 15 degrees. The computer sits on top, with its ports and the media drive fully accessible, so you can easily grab your PowerBook and toss it into your bag at the end of the day.

Although each of the previous stands keep a hot laptop at bay, none of them actively deal with the heat issue. MacMice’s iBreeze (8.1; £31; AM Micro, 01392 426 473; www.macmice.com) takes on that challenge. A stand made from a single piece of acrylic, the iBreeze also includes two built-in, USB-powered fans designed to siphon the heat away from the laptop.

The fans are relatively quiet – they sounded a little softer than my PowerBook’s internal fan – and tend to lower the laptop’s temperature by between 5 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit; with the help of Jeremy Kezer’s ThermographX software (www.kezer.net/therm ographx.html), I saw an average of about 8 degrees. While the iBreeze is a bargain, its lack of angle adjustment limits its usefulness.

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