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Macworld gems: The Roost MacBook stand, iMacompanion USB port

updated 01:23 am EDT, Thu April 17, 2014

Charming, surprising, intriguing finds now available or coming to market soon

Continuing our look at some of the more interesting devices and services we ran across at Macworld in San Francisco last month, MacNN and Electronista staffers will periodically write about items and vendors that caught our eye at the show that we thought our readers would like to know about. Today's focus is on two successfully-funded Kickstarter campaigns: The Roost stand for notebooks, and the iMacompanion USB port from Wiplabs.

The Roost in green
The Roost in green

James Olander, the founder and designer of The Roost, invented the lightweight and collapsible stand following his own diagnosis of various medical problems stemming from spending too much time hunched over his notebook. His physical therapists and doctors encouraged the former engineer and product manager to stop typing in his usual position, and to elevate his computer to avoid slouching, which can cause bone deformities and nerve damage. Inspired, he created a foldable yet sturdy stand, principally aimed at MacBook Air and Pro users (but compatible with select non-Apple laptops), that lifted the display up about a foot yet held the device securely.

Although the unit uses exceptionally thin "legs," the entire unit is made of industral-grade carbon fiber and cross-supported to hold up to 132 pounds -- "over-engineered" as Olander calls it. It essentially uses the same principle as a folding chair to lift the screen of a MacBook (or other MacBook-style notebook computer -- and there are a lot of those these days) some 10.75 inches off the desk or table, keeping the keyboard at a sloping but usable angle and using Delrin plastic (the same material used in guitar picks) for the stops and fasteners, which hold the laptop securely even at an angle.

The Roost folded for travel
The Roost folded for travel

As impressive as The Roost is when its holding a MacBook Pro, it may be more amazing still when folded up for travel. The stand folds down to one inch by 1.5 inches by 13 inches like a tiny music stand in a microfiber pouch that doubles as a screen cleaner. A craftily-engineered ergonomic stand, The Roost is made in the US (out of Olander's HQ in Denver Colorado) and raised more than 20 times its original $9,300 Kickstarter goal. The company's store is now up and running, with the stand selling for $75 in all black or $80 in a variety of colors.

Wiplabs produce ingenious front-side USB port for iMac

With 10 days still to go, Wiplabs has also been overly successful in their Kickstarter project, and expect to begin shipping the pre-orders for their iMacompanion front-facing USB port in July. The idea is a simple one: a small anodized-aluminum, full-powered USB 2.0 port that connects to the back of the iMac through a hidden flat cable, leaving the user with a matching USB port on the front of the iMac for things like hooking in thumb drives, cameras, voice recorders, drawing tablets or other devices where the user doesn't need a full-blown (and usually ugly) USB hub, but doesn't want to turn the iMac around every time they want to connect the occasional peripheral.

The project is close to meeting its first stretch goal and doubling its $10,000 initial quest. At $20,000 pledged, the USB port will use micro-suction rather than (non-damaging) sticky tape to secure the port to the stand. At $30,000, the company will produce a black version of the port as well as one that perfectly matches the iMac stand, and at $50,000 the company will engineer a flat USB 3.0 cable so the port can manage the full speed of a USB 3.0 connection.

Having seen this in person, we can say that the company have done a superb job of matching the look of the device to the iMac (or Cinema Display), going back several models, so its a great accessory for a wide range of iMac or Apple Cinema Display users. It's currently available for pre-order at the Kickstarter price of $29 (expected retail will be $39) and we'd consider it a must-have for those who could use a front-facing iMac USB port.

The company also makes an equally stylish stand for iOS devices, available in forms for 30-pin only, Lighting only and a combination format. We've had the combination iDockAll for both our 30-pin iPad and Lightning iPhone, and its turned out to be a great "unibody" aluminum stand for both display and charging.

by MacNN Staff



  1. macjockey

    Junior Member

    Joined: 06-23-04

    There is no way I would trust my laptop in that contraption.

  1. pottymouth

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 11-19-03

    Why? It looks plenty sturdy. But what's the point? I'm having trouble understanding the problem it's intended to solve. It seems meant to work on a desk/table, but if I was sitting at a desk I wouldn't be using a laptop.

    The USB port thing, on the other hand, is ingenious!

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    macjockey: that's exactly what I thought too until I saw it in person. As mentioned in the article, it's rated to 132 pounds, and it is amazingly rigid and strong for something so light and thin.

    pottymouth: the idea is to raise the display of the computer off the desk and up to your eye level, so you don't lean down to look at it. Better posture prevents long-term issues. If you sat at a desk where your forearms were level with the desk, you eyes are about a foot higher up. Being able to look at the display straight on is better than looking down. Same reason the iMac display is raised.

    As for not using a notebook at a desk, you might be surprised to find out how many people have switched to a setup like mine: I have a MBP attached to a second display, and just unhook it from that when I want to take the MBP somewhere. This gives me the best of both desk and mobile solutions in one computer. Looking at notebook vs desktop sales these days, its pretty obvious a lot of people are making their notebook their sole "computer."

  1. mgpalma

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 09-27-00

    Calling the USB thing 'ingenious' is a stretch. So you are willing to spend $39 to locate a single USB port 6" from where it is already? Hmmmm.

    Now that stand I will be ordering this week, it will fit a need perfectly.

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