Apple currently sells more “laptop” than “desktop” Macs, but in reality, most Macs will be used substantially on flat surfaces — desks, tables, and sometimes nightstands. iPads are more lap-friendly, but also tend to get used upright, particularly for watching videos and access in the kitchen. Since I’ve spent a lot of time testing Apple device stands and mounts, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, so you can choose the solution that best suits your Mac, iPad, or both at the same time.
Below, I’ve hand-picked options for different types of users, starting with passive MacBook stands such as Twelve South’s BookArc for MacBook Pro ($50). Made from Mac-matching aluminum with gray rubber inserts, BookArc is designed to safely hold a MacBook Pro upright so that its ports and SD card reader are easily accessible. Twelve South also sells a smaller version of BookArc for the MacBook Air, a bigger BookArc for the Mac Pro, and an earthy version called BookArc modfor fans of wood. That’s a rarity, as most Mac and iPad stands are designed to match Apple’s products, as you’ll see inside…
The passive MacBook stand options continue with Rain Design’s mTower ($50), a futuristic cradle that manages to riff on Apple’s design themes without looking derivative. Made from a single piece of sandblasted aluminum, it can accommodate any MacBook model from the 11″ Air to the discontinued 17″ Pro thanks to rubber inserts hidden inside. It has the least conspicuous use of non-metal materials, if that matters to you.
My personal MacBook Pro sits inside a Cooler Master L-Stand ($39). Viewed from the long side, it looks like a metal L, with a boxy (rubber-lined) hole for the MacBook. Mirrored accents on the box give it a really nice touch of added style in person. While L-Stand is large enough to accommodate every MacBook from the 11″ Air to the 17″ Pro, it doesn’t have any special inserts for the thinner models, which will consequently lean inside the frame. I’d call this best-suited to Pro models, and not as great for Airs (or the upcoming 12″ MacBook).
Another set of options comes from Henge Docks, which makes the Vertical Docking Station for MacBook Pro with Retina display ($94) and a Metal Edition version. One really nice thing about these solutions is that they manage all of the cables that go into a MacBook’s left side — power, USB, audio, and Thunderbolt — so all you need to do is (carefully) insert your MacBook Pro inside for connection to your monitor, speakers, and other peripherals. Just be aware of two issues: Henge ships its docks with Mini DisplayPort cables rather than Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 connectors, and all of the connections can be difficult to make correctly unless you do a little fiddling with the plugs to make sure they’re being held in the right places.
Active MacBook Stands
Perhaps the most popular Mac stands are “active” stands for MacBooks — ones that are designed to make Apple’s laptops feel more like desktop machines. The #1 best-selling laptop stand at Amazon is Rain Design’s mStand ($45), a sturdy single-piece aluminum design with rubber padding to protect both the MacBook and the desk underneath. With a nearly 6″ lift off the table’s surface, mStand enables you to raise and angle the MacBook’s screen to your chosen height, which helps both with visibility and FaceTime calls — no longer will your chin be the focus of video chats. Cables can be managed with a hole in the stand’s back, too.
Gorgeously designed with spring-loaded, adjustable support, Twelve South’s HiRise for MacBook ($70) has the ability to raise any MacBook Air or Pro from two to six inches off a table. It’s made from steel with rubber pads for the MacBook and plastic on the bottom, enabling you to rotate the stand around. HiRise is the rare MacBook stand that can bring different MacBooks to the same height as Apple’s monitors, adjusting to the needs of different Mac sizes. Note that some users have complained that the MacBook can slip off its angled V-shaped holder when it’s not in use.
There are also a couple of interesting MacBook stands designed for portable use. BlueLounge’s Kickflip comes in 13″ ($18) and 15″ ($20) versions, each a hard plastic hinge that attaches to the bottom of the MacBook, folding open to securely prop the machine up for easier typing. I really liked the fact that Kickflip is so easy to fold down when it’s not being used.
Twelve South sells a lot of other MacBook stands, and I’ve had mixed feelings about them — some are much, much better than others. The company’s alternative to Kickflip is called Baselift ($40), a plastic and microfiber pad that attaches to the bottoms of Macs to elevate them as needed. Reviews have been mixed overall, but most positive when used with the 11″ MacBook Air, which doesn’t have a version of Kickflip to call its own.
iMac + Thunderbolt Display Stands
While iMacs and Thunderbolt Displays don’t need stands, there’s legitimate value in reclaiming some of the space underneath them to use as a storage compartment. I personally use and really love Just Mobile’s Drawer ($85), which sits comfortably under 21″ and 27″ iMacs or Thunderbolt Displays, combining a very solid aluminum frame with a black slide-out drawer. The drawer’s front has a large central hole to make opening easy, and the back has two small holes in its upper corners if you want to place cables inside to store peripherals. This is seriously one of my very favorite Mac accessories, and one that gets more use (to declutter my desk, holding batteries for my Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad) than I ever would have guessed.
As an alternative to Drawer, Twelve South’s HiRise for Mac ($80) is smaller and takes a different approach. It’s designed to let you change the height of your iMac or Apple monitor by supporting the monitor’s stand on your choice of inner grooves, leaving the rest of the metal compartment open for storing items. The box has enough room inside for a Mac mini or some hard drives, including a perforated frame for proper ventilation.
iPad + Mac Stands
If you want a stand that will mount an iPad or iPad mini directly next to your Mac, you have options. Aukey sells the Desk Stand Holder ($36), which combines a gooseneck clamp for your iMac or Apple display with a hard plastic clip that holds your bare iPad, iPad Air, or iPad mini in place. You have to pick the version with the iPad holder that matches your model. Twelve South sells a more deluxe set called HoverBar 3 ($100) that includes clips for iPads, Airs, and minis, plus a desktop kickstand for the detached iPad.
As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, I’m a huge fan of ZeroChroma’s combination iPad stands and cases, which combine everyday protection with the ability to prop the tablet up for easy viewing whenever needed. ZeroChroma’s stands can rotate 360 degrees and support your choice of angles, including everything from video to typing positions. The option I personally use on my iPad Air and iPad Air 2 is Folio-Slide (iPad Air 2 version $70, iPad Air version $40), but you can compromise edge protection and save cash with the basic model Vario-SC (iPad mini version $35, iPad Air version $30). This is seriously my most-used iPad accessory, and the only one I’d feel completely lost without.
If you want your iPad to be as slender as possible and don’t mind carrying a stand separately for times when it’s needed, there are lots of generic “tablet stands” out there to choose from. My personal favorite is Belkin’s FlipBlade Adjust ($33), a really well-made and nicely adjustable aluminum stand with rubber lining in all the right places. But Anker makes a less expensive (and very popular) alternative called the Multi-Angle Portable Stand ($10) which is Amazon’s #1 best-selling tablet stand due largely to its pricing.
Stands that also charge iPads are relatively uncommon, in part because so many people want their iPads to be upright in landscape orientation — a position that forces charging to take place from the left or right edge. But if you want to use your iPad in portrait orientation while charging, Twelve South’s HiRise ($35, above left) and HiRise Deluxe ($60, above right) both provide nice ways to do that: HiRise is a minimalist iPad Air/iPad mini stand that depends upon a self-supplied Lightning cable for charging, while HiRise Deluxe includes the cable and a more easily adjustable back support. Both can also work with iPhones.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for an iPad desktop stand that’s designed to be left on your desk but capable of being adjusted in pretty much any way you prefer, The Joy Factory continues to offer an incredible collection of carbon fiber-assisted stands — some with medical and professional applications. Two of its MagConnect models combine an 8″ adjustable arm with the ability to magnetically grab an included iPad frame: the Desk Stand ($75, left) has a plastic base, while the Tripod and Microphone Stand ($78) can attach to 1/4″ or 5.8″ screw mounts. If you need even more adjustability, the Clamp Mount ($135, right) has two 8″ arms and a clamp to grab your desk or table.