Review: Twelve South BookArc
Laptop computers have become a rather mainstream product compared to just 10 or 20 years ago. Previously, if you had a laptop, you would be sacrificing some major capabilities or power for portability. A few years back, this started to shift and most laptops could be considered true desktop replacements. What happens when you want to use your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro at a desk with an external display? Twelve South’s $50 BookArc is a stand designed specifically for that purpose.
A few years back, we reviewed Griffin’s iCurve and were rather pleased. It raised your Mac in the air for a better work angle (external keyboard and mouse are required) and makes the internal LCD the same height as whatever external display you might be using. The relatively new Mac accessory maker Twelve South has taken a different approach. Rather than using both displays, The BookArc stands your Mac vertically in a closed position. Although some may worry about heat, Apple gives the okay, and the cooling systems on all the various MacBooks do not use the keyboard for ventilation, like on the iBooks.
Why would you want to run your computer without its built-in display? The idea of dual monitors is appealing to any power user, as you get more screen real-estate, and are using everything that your computer has to offer. The idea behind the BookArc is that with the internal display turned off and not in use, your computer can dedicate all of its graphics processing power to the external display. In our tests, this was not noticeable (this was tested with a year-old MacBook Pro), but users of MacBooks with integrated graphics will find this to be helpful. Another reason to use the BookArc is space-saving. If you have your computer open (or closed) and connected to an external display, the footprint is a lot large, rather than the “micro-tower” the BookArc creates.
Getting back to the design, the BookArc is something that is made by people that understand Apple products. It is made out of silver steel that matches Apple’s aluminum portables perfectly. It also is heavy enough that you do not need to worry about your computer falling over. Two other nice touches involve the use of silicone—four big rubber feet are on the bottom to prevent the whole thing from sliding around and the BookArc comes with three silicone inserts to allow for a snug fit, no matter what MacBook you are using.
We tested it with the aforementioned MacBook Pro for a few months and found no issues with heat. Losing the extra screen real-estate was a bit of a bummer early on, but with an already decent-sized LCD on the desk, it became a non-issue over time. For those with really large LCDs, it almost makes sense not to bother with the internal display. Besides that, the 10 inch-by-4 inch footprint the BookArc takes up is small enough to fit behind most LCDs, creating almost a do-it-yourself iMac. The only downside is that the IR receiver for the Apple remote is then moved to the top of the machine, so keep that in mind if you do things with Front Row or iTunes.
In summary, we found the BookArc to be a well-made, well-designed stand for one purpose and one purpose only: turning your MacBook into a desktop. Although at $50, it is quite a bit of cash to spend on something that simply holds your computer in place, the price is in line with many other higher-end stands, including $40 for Griffin’s iCurve, and various models from Belkin for $35. Therefore, if you want something that matches your Apple products, or have a MacBook that can benefit from repurposing the graphics processing, the BookArc may be something to check out.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
Twelve South’s BookArc is a great accessory for those who want to run their Macs in clamshell mode and want something that matches all their other Apple gear.
Pros: Matches aluminum MacBook models (unibody, Air, Pro, unibody Pro), simple design, sturdy, improves graphics performance on lower-end models
Cons: Expensive for those who just want a basic laptop stand, not for those who want dual display usage, moves IR receiver to the top of the machine