AluBase full review
We’ve been trying out the Just Mobile AluBase, it’s a stand for your MacBook, which may not sound that remarkable, but there are a number of applications for such a device. Perhaps you use a separate monitor with your work laptop and want to save a bit of space on your desk; the AluBase will allow you to tidy away your MacBook beside your monitor. Or, like us, you may be using an older MacBook alongside a TV monitor for watching iPlayer and other online TV content, and fancy tidying it away.
Like the AluRack, which we reviewed recently, the AluBase is made from aluminum, although the inside is plastic coated, protecting your MacBook from scratches. There is an additional plastic insert available for use with a MacBook Air, this is secured with two screws.
What more is there to say? For us the biggest challenge was setting up our MacBook to stay awake while folded away in the AluBase. It strikes us that this would be useful information to be included in the packaging since not every Mac user will be confident with setting this up and it’s not something that your Mac will do by default. Basically if you shut the lid your MacBook will go to sleep. How can you overcome this?
The first step is to plug in an external mouse, and if you will need it, a keyboard. You’ll also need to plug the Mac into the external display - which in our case was a Samsung smart TV. You also need to make sure your MacBook is plugged into the mains
There are a number of different ways you can ensure that the Mac doesn’t go to sleep as soon as the lid is shut. Some more complex than others, and some involving using third party applications.
The easiest solution is to put your Mac into what is described by Apple as “Closed Clamshell” mode. This mode will not work if your MacBook isn’t plugged in.
With the lid open start up your Mac. As soon as the screen appears on your external monitor you can close the lid, initially the external display will turn blue, however, all-being-well, it will then show your desktop. If you are using an older version of OS X (pre Lion) you may need to click the mouse button to wake it up.
Of course this sort of set up means you probably won’t want to switch off your Mac, because you’d have to go through the hassle of taking it out of the stand every time you wanted to start it up again. This exacerbates another concern we had - that our MacBook may overheat while in the stand. Our heat concerns lead us to follow some advice we found online and put the MacBook into the AluBase upside down. This means that the air vents are at the top, ensuring that the fans can do their best at dissipating any heat that builds up inside your Mac. It means that the Apple logo is upside down, but that was a sacrifice we were happy to make.
Did the MacBook get hot? In our basic tests it didn’t really get any warmer than usual. We played a few hours worth of iPlayer without issue. However, some issues did pop up while trying out to watch content on the Sky website; it ramped up the processor to such a state that we could almost hear it over the sound of what we were attempting to watch. The Mac got hot, but it would have even if it hadn’t been in the AluBase. The point here is that your Mac will get hot whatever you do with it, but when in the AluBase you may want to keep tabs on just how hot it gets and perhaps limit the use of really processor intensive work. We wouldn’t want to recommend using your Mac in this mode if it might damage the heat sensitive components inside. Another thing to note at this point, you may want to unplug it once in a while to wind down the battery and charge it up again, leaving a MacBook plugged in 24/7 is never a good idea if you want to preserve the capacity of your battery.
Getting back to the AluBase itself, its a simple Apple-esque design that compliments your MacBook, and while it’s footprint is small, you can be confident that your MacBook won’t tip over. If you are looking for a solution that will allow you to close your MacBook and tidy it away while using an external monitor it’s a great solution. It’s just a shame that it costs £39.95 which many will consider a high price for what is essentially a piece of metal, although similar products, like the Twelve South Book Arc Stand are priced in the same bracket. It’s also £10 less than the Just Mobile AluRack. Of course Just Mobile will argue that the AluBase has been designed by experts and uses high quality materials.