Since October 16, talk has been mostly about better this, faster that and more of the other. But whether we all got what we wanted this time round in our iPads Air 2 and Mini 3, aren’t they just gorgeous regardless? Of course I’m biased.
And as Apple continues to report quarter upon quarter of eye-watering revenues, accessories makers happily carry on riding her coattails unashamedly, producing all manners of add-ons – some to simply personalise your device, whilst others to enhance functionality in ways that continue to be imagined. Personally, slapping on makeup on my already beautiful device is superfluous; I’m a big fan of the latter however, and the AirTurn Manos Mount falls into that category.
I’d been using a low-tech music stand to hold my high-tech iPad set-up on stage – not the slickest nor the safest, but it did the job. AirTurn claims to be able to turn your smartphone/tablet into the ‘ultimate music stand’ with the Manos; it certainly looks the part, especially since it attaches directly to any microphone stand (top or side). Other salient features extracted from AirTurn’s website include:
– dimensions of 13x7x3 inches, and weighing 15 oz; able to hold smartphones and tablets from 5” to 13.3”
– rugged heavy-duty design with proprietary rubber coating on mount fingers for maximum grip on the widest range of surface materials and textures
– modelled after the human hand, with cantilever ‘thumbs’ in back and spring-loaded ‘fingers’ in front that ensure a secure, elegant grip
– delivers smooth 360° rotation with portrait and landscape locking positions, while a self-locking hinge easily adjusts your tablet or smartphone to any viewing angle
Out of the box, it looks a tad bulky and complicated. But a few pain-free minutes later, helped along by the useful 5-point Quick Start Guide, I’m well up to speed.
The unit is made up of several very solid black (polycarbonate, I think) plastic parts: a mount hinge, a swivel base, 2 spring-loaded mount arms and 2 spring-loaded finger clamps. Additionally, the mount arms have moulded cantilever ‘thumbs’, and 2 pivot feet attached via steel pins. The arms have 2 grip-friendly side knobs, and a couple of useful storage locks. I’ve managed to make it sound complicated, haven’t I? I promise you, it isn’t at all.
Once fastened in, the iPad is held in place between the rubberised finger clamps and pivot feet – assuming you get the mount arms angled correctly, and side knobs well tightened, and of course attached properly to your mic stand, your iPad isn’t going anywhere quick. Yes it may take a little while to set up and take down, but remember that this was designed to be used in place of a music stand. Ever been to a rowdy gig where there’s barely a stage, and drunken folk forget that gravity exists? Maximum grip, maximum security; maximum protection I say.
What’s more, although the design of this mount is less sleek than, say AirTurn’s Padlok for iPad, it further allows the use of a protective case within the clamps, affording even more protection. I’ve used it with my Gumdrop Drop Tech Case – a pretty bulky beast – and it still fits without having to resort to pivot feet adaptors AirTurn has included in the box.
Once all clamped in, the hinge and swivel base make it a smooth operation to get the best viewing angle from most standing or sitting positions. Note however that although the swivel base has portrait and landscape locking positions, there is just about enough friction to allow a full 360° viewing angle in most planes.
Hmm, oh no
Where there isn’t enough friction is the mount hinge – called the self-locking hinge. This is the very important part that attaches the mount to the stand, and allows almost a full 360° see-saw swing of the mount arms. Somehow, AirTurn felt that the hinge was tight enough to be called ‘self-locking’ – in fact, the swivel base is tighter by at least a factor of 5. Okay, I don’t have an objective nor precise way to measure the difference of the frictions, but you get my drift. It is so unreliable, that my iPad either does a slow spontaneous down-drift during the course of a gig, or worse, swings down sharply when I attempt to fix the viewing angle. Blame it on gravity again, you say?
What’s worse is that the hinge is held by screws on each side; when attempting to tighten them, one has to find a way to hold 2 screwdrivers on either side, and simultaneously twist in opposite directions. Try doing that in mid-air. Then try doing it when the screw are of such poor quality that the drives of the screw head (phillips and combo respectively) gets stripped after a first attempt. It’s not the sharpest of photos, but squint hard and you’ll see what I mean:
Surely there could be a better solution? There may not be enough clearance for more knobs, but I can think of a few other solutions right off the cuff: wing nuts, nut and bolt, Allen head, HARDER SCREWS! I feel so strongly about this, and so disappointed, that in fact I’ve had to retire my mount after only 2 gigs. Shame.
And the bit about the mount locking flat for easy transport? Well, if I’ve tried my best juggling act and managed to tighten the hinge at the most optimal angle, I wouldn’t want to flatten the thing for ease of transport, would I?
Especially for musicians, it performs the function of a mount very well whilst still allowing the use of a case, resulting in one of the best function-protection combination. What seems to be a minor oversight however, has managed to let itself down. Fix the hinge and all will be forgotten!
Here’s a UK and US store link for AirTurn Manos Tablet Mount; it’s priced at about £35/$49 and is a universal accessory that fits iPads 1-4, iPad Air (and presumably Air 2), iPad Mini (and presumably Mini 3), and iPhone. I won’t mention other unmentionables.
One more thing: This accessory was gifted to the author by AirTurn for the purpose of a review.