Developer: The Plasticsmith
Ergonomics. It’s a word that gets bandied about very often, perhaps too often, in the world of laptop computers. Let’s face it—laptops are inherently inferior, from an ergonomic standpoint, to their desktop counterparts.
Laptops enforce a certain inflexibility on their users. You can’t place the screen at eye level without making the keyboard unusable; the keyboards generally have compromises in their key size, key travel, or both; built-in pointing devices range from the mildly irritating (Apple’s latest trackpads) to CIA Euro-torture Specials (eraser-nub pointing devices, thankfully no longer the only pointing device on the vast majority of laptops).
The latter two issues can be easily addressed by using external keyboards and mice while at a desk. This leaves the problem of elevating the screen sufficiently, which is where stands such as the Contour NoteRiser, Griffin iCurve, RoadTools Podium CoolPad (to an extent), and The Plasticsmith’s own Lapvantage Dome come in. (The awkwardly named Laptop Stand on Wheels from Keynamics addresses the problem in its own unique—but comfortable—way.)
Since the “lamp” design of the Lapvantage Dome is beginning to look somewhat dated, The Plasticsmith redesigned and renamed it to the Lapvantage Loft to better match Apple’s aluminum PowerBook line. (A black version is also available, and the Dome is still offered.)
Gone is the domed base, with a simple metal disc in its place. The Loft retains the Deluxe Dome’s ability to swivel 360 degrees, a nice feature if you use your laptop for watching movies or need to show the screen to someone else. The flatness of the base, unlike the iCurve and previous Dome, allows for a keyboard to be tucked farther under the laptop, allowing the Loft to be used on smaller desks than before.
The Loft has the same large acrylic plate that the Dome did, although it lacks the height adjustment of the former Deluxe Dome model. Perhaps to make up for the lack of height adjustment, The Plasticsmith now offers various edge colors (blue, clear, and white) for the acrylic plate. Strangely, only a metallic-colored base is available; an option for white would better match the white-edged acrylic and Apple’s iBook line.
Unlike its competition, the Loft does not incline the laptop at all. This may or may not be an advantage, depending on your specific needs, but it certainly dispenses with the perceived issue of a $2,000 piece of hardware sliding off its perch and receiving a fatal introduction to the floor.
For ventilation purposes, two self-adhesive rubber feet are provided, with the intention that the user will stick them on the acrylic, underneath the back corners of the laptop. Unless you’re using a laptop with inadequate feet to begin with, you can ignore this step. The 1.5 GHz PowerBook G4 15″ used for this review behaved no differently without the feet in place.
Why, then, does the Loft only warrant a “Good” rating? Quite simply, its price is too high. We reviewed the Deluxe Dome here three years ago, and since then, The Plasticsmith has removed the height adjustment while keeping the price at $80. Griffin’s iCurve comes in at less than half that price, and lacks only the swivel feature.
If the manufacturer would knock off $30, there would be a serious decision to make, but at current prices, it’s a no-brainer. The Loft looks nice, and works fine, but it just doesn’t offer sufficient advantage over the competition to justify its premium price.