It’s no secret that we GeekDads love our iPads. Recently Don Martelli gave us Five Reasons Why the iPad Was Made to Keep Parents Sane and Matt Morgan also gave us another Five Reasons Why New Parents Should Buy a Tablet Now. I got mine when version 2 came out and have been very happy with it so far – although I still haven’t really managed to to find a legitimate “work” reason for its existence yet!
One thing’s for sure though, ever since I got the iPad it has become the de facto entertainment toy for long journeys – and would be for short ones too, if my daughter had her way. I’ve lost track of the amount if times I’ve had to listen to Alvin and the bloomin’ Chipmunks; she’s even watched it twice in a row on the way back from a holiday. I’ve now filled the iPad with some of her other favorite films, apps and books and got her a decent pair of headphones to save my sanity a bit, so I was quite excited when we were contacted by Vogel’s offering a review unit of their Ringo Universal Mounting Kit.
This particular kit comprises of a case for the iPad 2 itself which then clips securely into the three included mounting options – a car headrest bracket, a wall mount kit and a picture frame stand. Also included was a stick-on screen protector film, which was a nice extra but I can’t help thinking an anti glare one would be better. There are also case variants for the Galaxy Tab and 1st generation iPads (no TouchPad though ;o), as well other mounting options including a flexible arm and an adhesive wall mount, all available separately.
The case itself is made from sturdy black plastic and snaps on and off easily, which is handy as it almost doubles the thickness of the iPad due to the space for the mounting mechanism on the back. Having said that though it’s still about the same thickness of the first iPad. It has a hole for the camera, spaces for all ports and buttons, and a cutaway section and channel for speaker – which also doubles as a ‘passive’ amplifier, directing the sound out towards you better.
The iPad 2 model also leaves space for Apple’s smart cover which is a nice touch, but with the case on the smart cover cannot work as a vertical stand due to the extra thickness. This, and the extra bulk, makes it unlikely that you’d keep your iPad in the case all the time, much better to just snap on the case when you need to use one of the mounts.
The included table stand is a very simple piece of plastic that just snaps into the case and can rotate for portrait or landscape display. It’s essentially the same as an ‘old school’ photo frame so would work great if you use your iPad as a digital photo frame, although it does seem to hold the iPad at more of a vertical angle than Apple’s smart cover. Personally, I still haven’t found a single instance where I prefer to have my iPad in portrait mode – I even returned the dock I brought with it back to Apple. It just doesn’t feel right to me. However, if you don’t have a smart cover, it makes viewing movies and slideshows nice and easy indoors.
The wall mount is a nice solid cylinder of machined aluminium with plastic clips and I imagine it would be fairly unobtrusive fixed to a wall. A screw and raw plug are included in the kit so it would be a doodle to fix up, but like the table stand, I can’t think of a reason that I would use the iPad like this. Vogel’s gives examples of using it in the kitchen to display recipes or as a clock in the living room or bedroom. They even provide a free app called ‘WallTimes‘ which serves as a world clock, alarm clock or displays multiple timers for cooking, but to me these kind of uses go against the portability of the iPad. When I use mine, I’m constantly moving from one room to another with it, checking email or Twitter or picking tracks on iTunes via Apple’s Remote app. I guess this last scenario could work, but for me it would really require a second iPad (or other device as they all use the same fixing), permanently used to control the music. Well, I suppose the iPad 3 is coming soon…
The car headrest mount, however, is where the system really comes into its own and makes it worthy of your dollars. After an initial bit of confusion caused by not reading the instructions – I thought it was odd that the mount would require you to undo two Torx screws in order to fix it around the headrest – I discovered the large sliding button that separates the two halves of the mount. Place one either side of the headrest and snap them back together and that’s it on. Now just line up the mount clips with the circle on the back of the case and click the iPad on. The case is a little tricky to remove from the mount, requiring you to reach around the back and press the two buttons with your index fingers, but it kinda makes you hold the iPad to do that so there’s no chance of dropping it.
There’s the perfect amount of friction in the clip to hold the iPad in portrait or landscape mode, and to still be able to rotate it easily between the two. The mount can adjust the angle of the iPad through about 45 degrees to cater for varying heights of viewers and it places the iPad at just about the perfect position to interact with the screen and select your favorite movie (please, no, not Alvin again!). The “passive amplification” system worked well enough that even on a motorway (or freeway) drive, the squeaks and squeals of those darn chipmunks were just about audible to all in the car. Having the iPad’s ports accessible also meant that I could plug my Griffin Road Trip in to keep it charged and even route the audio through the car stereo. Really must remember to pack those headphones next time though.
I think my only criticism of the headrest mount would be that it can’t rotate sideways at all, to let a second backseat passenger see the screen too. Maybe someone will start selling a ‘slave’ screen that acts as an AirPlay receiver so you don’t have to spring for a second iPad!
Overall I’m very pleased with the Ringo: it’s super simple to use, works perfectly and I’m sure it will save my iPad from sliding to the floor on those long trips, but if I was going to buy one I think I’d opt for the Car Mount only version and save a few bucks.
Disclaimer: GeekDad was provided with a review unit of the Ringo Universal Mounting System, find out more about it via the Vogel’s website.
[Updated to clarify small part about the table stand and that the holders work with all cases. Also added a comment from Vogel’s regarding the safety issues raised by readers.]