Aviator Laptop Stand
Price: $25 ($20 street)
Frequent travelers, especially those traveling for business, are almost certain to carry laptop computers with them these days. In fact, Keynamics claims that a staggering 92 percent of business travelers carry laptops on airline flights, and with recently approved plans to offer inflight broadband Internet service, there’s even more incentive to get the laptop out and use it during the flight.
There’s just one problem: airline seats and tray tables, especially in economy class, are awfully cramped and inhospitable to the laptop computer.
Enter the Keynamics Aviator Laptop Stand, the second product from the company that brought the laptop world the brilliant but awkwardly named Laptop Stand on Wheels.
The Aviator is a three-piece plastic and rubber affair that fits together in two configurations: flat for packing and locked upright as a stand for computing. Its ability to collapse into a flat package makes for easy transport: just slide it into a side pocket in your computer case and you’re all set.
As a stand, the Aviator works fairly well. In fact, it might be the most versatile stand I’ve used, a jack of many trades and master of one in particular: nothing beats it for use on an airliner’s tray table. Perhaps the closest overall competitor is the CoolPad line from RoadTools, but the Aviator beats both the CoolPads hands down when it comes to computing in a cramped airplane seat.
The Aviator really gets the laptop at a comfortable, elbows-in typing angle, which is important if you get stuck in a middle seat in coach with well-fed seatmates on either side, as seems to be the case so often these days. Even if you’re in a window or aisle seat, or lucky enough to be in business or first class, the Aviator really improves the typing experience. The relative position of most airline tray tables really lends itself to the Aviator’s overhanging stance, and about the only way airborne computing could get more comfortable is if you had an actual desk to use.
According to Keynamics, the angle and offset positioning offer protection from a sudden reclining of the seat in front of you. I can’t attest to the severity of this perceived hazard, but the Aviator does seem to allow for less impact to the screen in such cases than might otherwise occur. Whether you’re using a stand or not, however, if the passenger in front of you reclines his seat, you’re pretty much done using your laptop unless your arms are disproportionately short, like a tyrannosaurus rex.
Keynamics also advertises the Aviator as a desk stand, a role in which it is competent, though not excellent. Like Keynamics’ dedicated desk stand, the Laptop Stand on Wheels, the Aviator hangs the laptop off the front edge of the desk at a very comfortable typing angle. It can also be used entirely on the desk, though some of its ergonomic benefit is lost if you choose to do so.
The only major drawback of the Aviator on a tray table—or on a desk—is its front retaining hooks, which prevent the laptop from experiencing a gravitational fatal attraction to the floor. Like those on the ill-designed Contour NoteRiser, they block the optical drive slot on many Mac laptops—the MacBook line, with its side-loading optical drive, is the major exception—but unlike the NoteRiser, the Aviator allows the laptop to be lifted easily to gain access. Most people don’t swap optical media in and out very often during a single flight, so this probably won’t bother you too much.
My final minor complaint is with the security of the assembly. The plastic seems robust and slides together easily, but it slides apart just as easily. This can cause the stand to fall apart if you pick it up from one side. This isn’t a big deal as long as you remember to use both hands when moving the Aviator and computer as a unit, but it would be nice if the stand could lock into its configuration or fit together more tightly.
There isn’t a lot of quality competition at the low end of the laptop-stand market, especially when it comes to portable or quasi-portable stands. The Aviator really, uh, “stands” out as an excellent value and a truly functional product with only minor flaws. It’s more portable than its competition and much more suited to inflight use. Keynamics has done it again.