It’s fair to say that the iPad isn’t exactly short of keyboard docks. Logitech, Kensington, iLuv, Zagg and even fellow tablet maker Archos have all come out with compelling products in the last three years, from integrated keyboards with adjustable kickstands to one Bluetooth keyboard which can even be rotated 360 degrees to be used a stand.
However, in a bid to move away from more conventional designs, start-up Nimblstand recently released its first keyboard dock, an innovative and extremely light design that promises great stability and some useful other features for improving your personal productivity.
Built for stability, not style
The keyboard dock is simply called ‘Nimblstand’ and works with Apple Bluetooth keyboards and “99.9% of tablets”, according to the firm. It can also work with phablets, smartphones and even with Smart Cover-equipped iPads.
I recently reviewed the keyboard dock — which doesn't include a keyboard — and one of the first things I noticed on opening the packaging was just how unconventional it looks. The Nimblstand is extremely light and comprises a dock and a connected extension piece that bears some similarity – I kid you not — to a plastic bag holder. There is a green embossed Nimblstand logo on the cradle dock.
The peculiarity of the Nimblstand extends beyond the look of the device and to how you set the device up.
If you look closely from the side of the accessory you will see a small stylus dock within the housing and you should also notice a specific slot for sliding your Apple Bluetooth keyboard in. You should too find a stylus inkwell holder where the keyboard meets the cradle, a small hole on the right for viewing your keyboard's power light and a dip at the center of the dock for pressing the iPad's home button.
Promoted as “tablet without compromise”, Nimblstand is built for lightness, stability and for generally using the tablet in different places, irrespective of whether that's the office or public transport.
In fact, when it comes to the latter, the included extension wedge is very useful. It may look odd, but it adds stability when using the keyboard dock on your lap. When using the extension piece, the iPad felt less likely to wobble or topple over (the latter is a common problem when the weight ratio is significantly different between the tablet and the keyboard).
If you don’t need the expansion slot, you can slide it in the slide underneath your keyboard.
(Image: The extension wedge may look strange, but it is very useful when trying to type up notes on your lap.)
That stability also extends to how the keyboard and dock are integrated. By sliding your keyboard through the custom slot, it is anchored down to the keyboard dock. Therefore, the typing experience feels solid, secure and as one piece rather than two conjoined.
The company puts this down to the product’s “thin network of extruded ABS plastic cross-beams” which “deliver an ideal strength-to-weight ratio”.
Perhaps because of this I found that the iPad was stable in the dock (my iPad 2 often falls out of my Logitech case) and that there is never any worry of the tablet being heavier than the keyboard and toppling over. That may sound odd to say but — believe me – it’s a serious issue on some of the Windows 8 tablets I’ve tested.
I also like the inkwell slot, which is handy for temporarily storing your stylus. The stylus housing within the dock is pretty easy to get to and you can simply slide the stylus back in when you’re done with it.
Is Nimblstand too pricey?
The Nimblstand doesn’t score quite so highly on build quality, price or ease of install.
Starting with the latter—which is perhaps the most surprising and yet the most important feature for travelling users – it can take time to master inserting and removing the extension wedge. Inserting the keyboard is quicker, but can still be fiddly.
If you were being particularly picky, fashion-conscious users could also point to the build quality – black plastic – which isn't particular fantastic to look at. Then again, it does allow for some stress when out on the road and is extremely light and compact, which is useful if you're short on luggage space.
Some consumers may balk at the $49.95 price, especially when there are other tablet stands available for much less. The Origami and PadPivot, to name two, are available for around $30 each. (There's also a $69.95 version of the Nimblstand which comes with the Wacom stylus).
That said, the Nimblstand's stability and light weight are a decided plus that business people and other professionals may not regret paying a little extra for.