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ATPM 16.07
July 2010




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Accessory Review

by Chris Lawson,



Function: Vertical stand for laptops to be used with external display.

Developer: Twelve South

Price: $50

Requirements: MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air.

Trial: None

Mac users have been able to use laptops as a desktop replacement ever since the Duo Dock shipped, and they’ve actually been practical substitutes for a desktop Mac since the “Wall Street” PowerBook G3 series of the late 1990s. Apple hasn’t made a laptop docking station since the Duo Dock II, though.

Monitors, meanwhile, have gotten ever larger, and even the real estate on a 17″ MacBook Pro screen pales in comparison to that of a 24″ monitor. As a result, many people now use their laptops to drive an external screen, either in place of or alongside the internal display, when they’re desk-bound.

That leads to clutter, though. Where, after all, is a good place to put your MacBook if it’s driving a large display, especially on a small desk? Under the monitor isn’t an ideal solution, because it forces the monitor higher, and that’s hard on your neck. Laying a laptop flat on the desk takes up a lot of space and leaves it vulnerable to damage. Twelve South’s solution is the BookArc, an aluminum stand that holds a Mac laptop vertically to minimize lost desk space.


The BookArc holds any recent Mac laptop vertically on the desk to minimize wasted space.

The BookArc is an extremely simple idea—take a sheet of reasonably thick aluminum, put rubber feet on it, cut a slot out of the middle, and bend it into an arc. It’s elegant and attractive, matching any of Apple’s pro-level laptops all the way back to the TiBook. The BookArc doesn’t look out of place with a white or black MacBook on it, either.

Not all of Apple’s laptops are the same thickness, so the BookArc ships with three interchangeable rubber inserts for the center slot. The medium-sized insert fits most MacBooks and MacBook Pros, the large one fits older MacBooks, and the smallest is intended for the MacBook Air. My 15″ MacBook Pro fits somewhat loosely in the medium-sized insert but is too large for the smallest insert, one of the few drawbacks I noticed in several weeks of use. It never feels unstable, like it could fall over, but it just doesn’t fit as snugly as it seems it should.


This closeup shows the poor fit between a 15″ MacBook Pro and the BookArc. It’s not a big deal, but it does allow the laptop to flop around a bit.

Running any laptop in “closed clamshell” mode (as Apple calls it) makes the laptop run hotter than it otherwise would, which is why Apple only re-enabled this ability relatively recently, as heat dissipation in laptops has improved. (No iBook can do it, for example.) Putting the laptop in a vertical position, as the BookArc does, exposes the maximum surface area for cooling, which is certainly better than simply setting it on the desk. However, there’s still a noticeable temperature rise (as measured by Marcel Bresink’s excellent Temperature Monitor utility) when using my MacBook Pro in closed clamshell mode compared to open on a more traditional stand like the Griffin Elevator.


Even with a fairly roomy desk, the BookArc helps to clear up a chunk of space next to my mouse.

Of course, by running your laptop with the lid closed, you’re also giving up whatever screen real estate you have on the internal display. That tradeoff may or may not be worth it, depending on the type of work you’re doing. Twelve South claims an additional speed increase (versus two-display operations) in graphics-heavy programs like Photoshop and Aperture, since the graphics card is only driving one display, but for everyday tasks in my workflow, there’s no noticeable difference. I prefer using both displays simultaneously, although simply having the extra space of my external monitor (1920×1080) is a dramatic improvement over the 15″ MacBook Pro screen (1440×900).

The simplistic design of the BookArc means it’s never going to compete with full-on docking solutions, of which there are a handful for Mac laptops. You still have to plug and unplug all your peripherals manually, which can become a chore after a while. But it does a fine job of getting the laptop out of the way on a desk and looks great doing it.

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