Luxembourg-based Newconcepts has a pair of products for mobile tech users: the iMoov Astuto portable lap desk and stand, and the iMoov Teclado ultrathin Bluetooth keyboard ($140 for both). The two products work in concert, providing a somewhat compact way to avoid hunching over a laptop, phone or tablet on your lap. The company is currently wrapping up a successful round of fundraising on Kickstarter, and the iMoov Astuto and Teclado should be available for retail purchase soon.
The Astuto works as a portable stand, lap desk and desktop stand for an array of portable devices ranging from smartphones to laptops. The stand is made of polycarbonate plastic, with a honeycomb ribbed structure for added strength. The company claims that the stand can support up to 11 pounds.
The stand is hinged in three spots: There are locking hinges on each side for the legs of the stand, and a hinge in the center of the platform. The legs of the stand lock into pace with a push-button locking hinge, while the center hinge has two sliding locks that keep it stable and prevent any unwanted folding when you move the stand during use.
When folded up, the stand measures a compact 10.5 x 7.6 x 1.1 inches and weighs 1.7 pounds. That's about the dimensions of an iPad, though it's considerably thicker. When opened and set up, the stand measures 15 x 10.3 x 7.2 inches, with an angled top that puts your laptop or other device at a comfortable (but nonadjustable) slant. The bottom of the stand has two lap straps, which sit across your legs when you're using the Astuto as a lap desk.
The device platform is covered with textured rubber to provide traction for your devices, and two angled slots run lengthwise across the stand that can be used to hold tablets and smartphones upright. The topmost of these channels includes a pair of adjustable sliders that can accommodate mobile devices at nearly any desired angle. On the underside of the stand, built into the mechanism that adjusts the smartphone sliders, are two storage slots for USB dongles. They have no USB functionality, but they do offer a place to stow adapters that are otherwise easy to lose.
Accompanying the stand is a slim Bluetooth keyboard, called the iMoov Teclado. The keyboard comes in the same off-white color as the stand and has specially shaped feet that fit into corresponding magnetic sockets on the Astuto stand to hold the keyboard in place for easy transport or use.
The keyboard measures 10.2 x 6.8 x 0.26 inches, which doesn't add much width to the folded-up stand, but the 0.56-pound keyboard will push the combined weight of the stand and keyboard to 2.3 pounds. That's nearly as heavy as some of the ultraportable laptops we've reviewed, and heavier than most smartphones and tablets.
The keyboard includes three memory presets, letting you pair it with your laptop, phone and tablet, and switch among the three with the press of a button. The wireless keyboard can be charged via micro-USB cable, and iMoov claims that the battery offers up to 120 hours of continuous use or 90 days of standby time.
One slightly unusual aspect of the keyboard is the layout, which is designed for European markets and thus has symbols for the British pound and the euro in addition to the usual options found on keyboards sold in the U.S. market. Additionally, the keyboard has several extra built-in functions, with keys for pairing Bluetooth devices, switching operating systems and turning the integrated touchpad on and off.
Setup and Use
Using the Astuto stand is fairly straightforward. To set it up, you a simply unfold it and position it on your lap or a flat surface. It does take some time to figure out, because the combination of locking hinges requires you to unlock and lock hinges to open and set up the stand.
I watched several people attempt to open the stand, and without a bit of explanation and demonstration, nearly all risked breaking the stand by trying to open locked hinges. Although it is unintuitive, you can set up the whole thing in a few seconds after a bit of practice. Folding it back up, however, is always a bit of a pain, since the lap straps bunch and fold in many ways, most of which prevent the stand from folding up properly.
The Teclado keyboard is also complicated, even compared to other portable Bluetooth keyboards, because it gives you the option to pair it with multiple devices and operating systems. The result is a few additional steps in the pairing process. First, you select the OS. Then, you choose which of the three memory presets you wish to pair the device. Then, you pair the keyboard using a pairing code. Compared with the simpler processes for setting up other Bluetooth devices I've used, such as the Journo Keyboard, these added steps were a bit irritating.
The keyboard is fairly comfortable to use, as its compact size and 2 millimeters of key travel let you type with relative ease, without feeling cramped. The ultrathin design does have some unwanted bounce as you type, but it's not worse than what I've seen on similarly slim keyboards, like the keyboard cover on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet.
Using the Astuto stand and Teclado keyboard was an interesting exercise, because it not only revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the product but also highlighted a contradiction: If portability is your main concern, why would you pack along a bulky, cumbersome stand? Laptops and smartphones are extremely portable by design, and while I can appreciate the complaints of a sore back from hunching over a device on your lap -- years of covering trade shows like CES and Computex have given me ample experience -- I don't know that I would value the added comfort of the lap desk over the lighter load of not bringing it along.
The one area where I can see this product being particularly useful, however, is for train commuters or frequent flyers. When an hourlong commute is part of your daily routine or you fly cross-country regularly it may be worthwhile to reclaim some of that time while also protecting your posture.
The Astuto and Teclado are also available with an accessory carrying case called BagIT, a compact briefcase-style bag made of polyester fabric. iMoov offers the bag in two sizes: a 10-inch model ($43) for carrying a tablet and a 14-inch bag ($49) for carrying a laptop.
The 10-inch bag that came with our review unit is just large enough to hold the folded-up Astuto stand and Teclado keyboard, with enough remaining room for an iPad or similarly sized tablet. The overall construction of the bag, which is made with a stout polyester cloth exterior and a softer interior lining, seems sturdy.
The bag has two carrying handles and four D-ring attachment points for an included shoulder strap. On the back of the bag is a luggage band for slipping over the handle of a rolling carry-on bag. The bag has two external zippered pockets and a leatherette patch across the front that bears the iMoov logo. Our bag came in basic black, but the iMoov website shows the bag in half a dozen other colors, so there may be some color choices available when the product is finally available for sale.
The Astuto stand has a suggested retail price of $93, while the Teclado keyboard has a suggested retail price of $47. The two are designed to be used together, so the combined MSRP of the products is $140. The prices of the optional carrying cases vary by size: The 10-inch BagIT sells for $43, and the 14-inch BagIT costs $49.
The iMoov Astuto stand and Teclado keyboard address a fairly specific scenario: using your laptop or mobile device on the go. That's a pretty common need, but the iMoov system is a bit too bulky and cumbersome to be convenient for most users who are on the go.
Still, the combination of folding lap desk and Bluetooth keyboard is a useful option for travelers, mobile workers and some commuters. It provides a stable, comfortable surface for working with mobile devices and laptops, and it works on laps and tables equally well. The accompanying keyboard is slim, and the design that lets you pack the two together is fairly clever.