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Twelve South BookArc review


If you mainly use your notebook in clamshell mode, this is for you.

Review Date: 9 Oct 2009

Price when reviewed: £40


Reviewed By: Ben Frain

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

Laptop stands are nothing new.

Companies such as Griffin and Belkin already manufacture stands to provide a more comfortable platform for using a laptop at a desk. However, these solutions tend to place the laptop front and centre to aid typing, which is exactly the opposite of what the Twelve South BookArc does.

Many MacBook/MacBook Pro users connect their laptop to an external monitor in 'clamshell' mode. This way, although the laptop is on, the screen stays off and the video signal is sent to an external monitor. This is particularly handy with monitors that feature a USB hub, such as Apple's LED Cinema Display, as a full-sized keyboard and mouse can be left connected to the screen for convenience. The only fly in the ointment of this setup is that while the laptop is closed in clamshell mode, it sits idly occupying desk space, which is an aggravation that a standard laptop stand does little to alleviate. The BookArc aims to solve the final piece of the clamshell puzzle and create desk space nirvana.

Unlike other laptop stands, the BookArc is only for use in clamshell mode, its key feature being that it stacks a MacBook vertically, greatly reducing the laptop's desktop footprint. Three silicone inserts are included to provide a snug fit within the channel of the BookArc for recent MacBook (black, white and aluminium), MacBook Air and MacBook Pro (13in, 15in and 17in) models.

As it's manufactured from steel, the BookArc feels very substantial. It also features non-marking silicone feet to prevent it from unduly scraping a desk. The grey-coloured silicone inserts are easy enough to swap out and are numbered on the underside to aid selection, with the manual detailing the correct number insert for each MacBook variant. While the insert system works well enough, we found them just a little slack. Even with a MacBook Pro covered with a Zagg InvisibleShield, there was a tiny bit more play than we would like.

Besides the obvious space benefits, Twelve South is keen to extol the performance virtues of using a MacBook in clamshell mode - namely, faster graphics. The argument is that with only the single external display to drive in clamshell mode, graphics performance is boosted. We tested this by running Xbench on a 13in MacBook Pro attached to a Apple 24in LED Cinema display. With the laptop open, running its own screen as well as the Apple Cinema Display, it achieved a score of 177.19 in the Quartz test and 78.52 in the OpenGL test. In clamshell mode, the result was 178.84 for the Quartz test and 78.27 for the OpenGL. As such, users are unlikely to see dramatic improvements, but the benefits of clamshell mode are likely to be accentuated on MacBooks with lower graphics specifications.

With more than a nod to the current iMac and Cinema Display design, it's hard to think of a more elegant stand than the BookArc. Although £40 may seem a little steep, with the ability to add different inserts, it's fair to say that the BookArc may outlast your current MacBook and prove just as useful when a new model takes its place. If you predominantly use your MacBook in clamshell mode, there's currently no better looking or designed stand than Twelve South's BookArc.

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