iPad Pro stand review: the Elevation Lab DraftTable stand

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So the kind folks at Elevation Lab contacted me out of the Internet blue and asked me to review one of their products, their DraftTable stand. At first I was very excited because I’ve used a couple stands for the iPad Pro and none of them worked well. At all. They all seemed to be gimmicky things that fold away neatly, but sucked as a stand- all just afterthoughts to a great machine. But then I thought a little more and didn’t feel comfortable reviewing something I was going to receive for free. So I emailed them back and said I’d do it after using it for a few months, and then only on the understanding that I’d be brutally honest. They said “yup, give-‘er!” (I might be paraphrasing there…). Plus, I ended up having to pay 20 bucks in customs fees since it flew in from TrumpLand, so technically I did end up buying it and that means I’m won’t be pulling any punches. So here are my thoughts, and my son’s friend Mater volunteered to help out with the photos:

 

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

 

This thing is solid. S-O-L-I-D-E. I capitalized that word to emphasize its weight, and added an extra letter just to really drive home the reality that this thing is heavy. Now my wife’s kitchen scale had no batteries in it so I can’t give you a real value to its weight, but it’s definitely at least as much as the iPad itself, and I’m pretty sure it weighs more. This thing is a doorstop- for a castle. But when you start drawing on it, you quickly appreciate that weight and rigidity because no matter where you draw on screen, it doesn’t budge. And that is beautiful. All of the other stands I’ve used are those folding ones, and somehow end up falling over when you’re drawing or never hold the screen at the right angle. Plus they can never hold it in portrait mode, which you need to do a good portion of the time when you’re drawing a portrait- duh! This stand holds the iPad Pro so you can concentrate on drawing, and not worry about whether or not your thousand dollar piece of kit is going to fall over if you press too hard while you draw. It seems like such an obvious trait for a drawing tablet stand, doesn’t it? But none of the other makers, include Apple itself by the way, have realized that.  The iPad Pro is such new tech, as are all tablets, that no one has figured out the ergonomics just yet.  On that note, I don’t get why people use the iPad Pro with the Apple keyboard (or any other keyboard)- it defeats the purpose of touch technology.  I’ve gotten used to typing on this thing, and don’t want anything in my way as I interface with it.  (Yeah, I know I sound like a robot. Interface is the only word I can think of right now.)

The stand has three separate legs that fold independently to let you choose which angle works best for what you’re doing. I personally like to draw when the paper/screen is low because I rest my hand on the screen, so I only use the stand laying down (which props it up ever so slightly), or its lowest setting. The highest angle is really only good for 1) watching movies or 2) when you’re cooking and want to rip off someone’s recipe to impress your wife. The legs themselves are a little stiff and sort of ‘snap’ loudly back into place when you’re folding them back flat, but they work super well and solidly when you’re drawing. I wish there was only one leg to be honest instead of having to choose which leg you want to fold out, but nothing’s perfect. (Actually, I give Wacom a big nod here for designing a great stand for their original Cintiqs. Those paddle height adjusters are just sexy.)  I did have an issue after a couple of weeks of use, when one of the legs wouldn’t fold properly, and started making a horrible noise.  Luckily for the guys at Elevation Lab, I’m very comfortable taking apart anything from a computer to a refrigerator, so I started disassembling it and re-bent the misshapen metal piece that acts as the spring for the folding leg.  I’ve never seen a hinge mechanism like it before, but it was fixable, so that is actually a benefit in my book.  Nothing lasts forever, but if you can fix things, it’ll last a lot longer.  With those other folding crap stands, once something gives, it goes in the garbage.  So once you consider you’ll go through 2 or 3 of those crap-tastic stands in no time like I did, this stand starts looking really, really good.  Here are the four positions you get, the first one is laying flat when all the legs are folded in:

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

 

The stand comes with 2 accessories that I think are honestly pointless. The first is a floppy wrist support thingy that you’re supposed to place right in front of the screen when you draw.   It cocks your wrist at an angle that’s all wrong ergonomically, and take it from me: when you start screwing with wrist angles for long, you’re dancing with the tendinitis devil.  When I draw, I like resting my hand on the screen, and since Procreate on the iPad Pro has wicked palm rejection, I don’t get why they think you’re supposed to hover with your hand while you draw.  Seems all wrong to me.  Get rid of that floppy, phallic black thing, Elevation Lab. See how cocked my wrist is in the first photo?  Throwing that damned thing way and drawing onscreen feels way, way more natural.
Illustrator Jonathan Wright ArtIllustrator Jonathan Wright Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second accessory is a pencil holder, similar to the Wacom line.  It’s nice, but just like the Wacom holder, I don’t use it. The iPad Pro is a different animal than Cintiqs and I find myself walking around with it, taking it to bed, drawing on the couch, just generally being mobile with it.  The last thing I want to do is drag around another thing I’m only going to lose.   I think my 5 dollar solution to the pencil holder dilemma is far more elegant (well, not really mine; I stole the idea from someone smarter than me on the Internets). It’s a Microsoft surface pro stick-on pen holder. Probably the best thing about the Surface Pro.  I just glued it on, and now the Pencil is with me wherever I go, and stows away neatly when I want it to.  Elegant and going strong after a year.  The only hack I did was wrap some Scotch tape around the Pencil to make its circumference a bit bigger so that it doesn’t slip out.  Voila.
Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art
All in all, this thing is a great stand.  It takes the iPad Pro from being just a mobile drawing tablet (albeit a pretty darned perfect one) into a mobile drawing workstation.  I do wish though that the folks at Elevation Lab would ditch the two accessories that come with the stand and put that cash towards making the stand lighter, and a little more robust to being moved around so much (the little rubber feet are already peeling off).  I actually carry it around with me wherever I go now, in spite of its weight, just because it does its job so well.  And since the top of the pivoting legs is a natural hand hold, it’s easy to just grab and go.  When I put it in my bag, I just flip the iPad Pro around so that the screen is nestled against the felty surface and it’s protected.  Nice.  I’m not getting rid of this stand anytime soon, and I’m glad my days of propping my iPad Pro on questionable supports (books, anyone?) are over.  Nice job, guys at Elevation Lab.  I’m actually surprised at how attached I am to this heavy thing.  It just begs the question of why the hell Apple hasn’t thought of making something like this as a part of the iPad Pro itself.  Now that would be uber shexy!  Isn’t everyone who’s buying the iPad Pro using it to draw on?  Then why the hell is a stand an add-on afterthought?  Anyway, until that happens, both Mater and I are very happy with the slimmed-down Draft Table, and my Surface Pro Pencil holder hack.   See how happy he looks?

 

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

 

While I have you here, I thought I would just mention a great little solution I came up with for finding a spot to put the Pencil cap while you’re recharging it: just put it on top of the iPad Pro’s built-in speakers! They’re magnets after all, so they’ll hold your Pencil top sturdily until you put it back and you never have to worry about losing it again. You’re welcome.
Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art
Oh, and here’s the image I was drawing when I wasn’t doing some contract work at the office. Just a happy cat with his doggy bag.  I might finish it someday when I’m done building my house.  Just don’t ask me when that is, okay?

Illustrator Jonathan Wright Art

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