Aluminum Desktop Stand
Laptop sales have risen dramatically over the past five years, making laptop stands an ever more popular accessory. The market has been flooded with a wide variety of designs, ranging from the mind-numbingly simple and inexpensive iRac to the intricate and pricey NoteRiser. One thing is certain: this increasingly competitive market has certainly evolved since the Road Tools CoolPad hit the shelves nearly a decade ago.
Contour’s NoteRiser, reviewed here some three years ago, was a fine stand for some purposes but overpriced and fatally flawed for virtually all Mac laptops in production at the time. LapWorks has taken that same basic idea and improved upon it dramatically with their Aluminum Desktop Stand.
Highest Incline, Side View
The Aluminum Desktop Stand is about the same surface area as a 15″ PowerBook or MacBook Pro but is about one-third as thick. It folds open through a fairly simple mechanism into any of six elevated positions, raising your laptop’s screen to a maximum height of nearly seven inches. It also borrows a popular feature of Road Tools’ CoolPad line, a swiveling base that allows for 360-degree rotation of a laptop on the stand. (While nice for use on a conference table or for showing off photos, swiveling is dubiously useful in a stand requiring the use of an external keyboard and mouse.)
LapWorks pushes the Aluminum Desktop Stand as a means of cooling your laptop. In fact, LapWorks is the only manufacturer I’ve seen that has actual scientific data to support this claim, in the form of a study conducted by engineering faculty from Cal Poly at Pomona. With the test laptop, a Dell, surface temperatures on the bottom of the laptop were reduced by about 10 degrees compared to the same laptop sitting on a desk and by 20 degrees compared to the laptop sitting on a cloth surface.
At maximum elevation, the Aluminum Desktop Stand claims a 23 percent heat reduction with the test laptop, and intermediate elevations offer proportionately less cooling capacity. Obviously, the degree of cooling will also depend in part on the design of the laptop, but it’s clear that the stand does offer an improvement over the feet built into the bottom of a 15″ Aluminum PowerBook G4.
Blocked Optical Drive
As with the NoteRiser, the Aluminum Desktop Stand has a fatal flaw in its higher elevations: the support “ears” almost completely block the use of the optical drive in all of Apple’s pro-level laptops. The problem is not as pronounced as it is with the NoteRiser due to a better design, but it’s still bad enough to keep me from using this stand—in spite of all its nice features—on an everyday basis. It’s also the only reason this stand gets demoted to an “Okay” rating.
The good news is that LapWorks has sensibly decided to charge $60 for the Aluminum Desktop Stand, less than half of the NoteRiser’s $130 suggested retail price. If you have a pro-level Apple laptop and use your optical drive more than once or twice a week, you’re going to find this stand more trouble than it’s worth unless you keep it at its lowest two or three settings. This largely negates the cooling and ergonomic benefits of the stand which, in turn, are presumably why you bought it in the first place. If you have a MacBook or iBook, or you don’t use your optical drive much, this is a pretty slick stand at a fairly good price.