It’s hard to believe I’ve been at TheMacFeed for over a year now. Anyways, my first review on this site was of the Logitech Alto Connect USB Stand, a discontinued product at the time. Logitech hasn’t done anything to get the things back to market, which is a shame. The idea was to take two concepts: a notebook stand and a USB hub. Combining them into one package was a logical ideal and helped to deal with everyone’s problem of desk clutter. However, even being sold in the Apple Retail Stores with a name like Logitech couldn’t keep the Alto Connect alive. Fortunately, there’s a new USB stand on the market thanks to SMK-Link of Camarillo, CA.
Out of the Box
It’s called the SMK-Link VP3610. I’ll compare it to the Logitech towards the end, but there is a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. The VP3610 is a single piece design that implements a combination of plastics throughout. In addition, to being a USB stand, it also features speakers. Included in the box is the stand itself, a power cable, a USB cable and an 1/8 inch audio cable. There’s no software required, even for the speakers which Mac OS X recognizes as USB Audio Device.
The contrast of tinted black plastic and the hard matte plastic is interesting. It’s significantly lower than the Logitech, more in line with the height of the Rain Design iLap. The front features two bumpers(?) to keep the notebook in place. The speakers rest on the sides of the stand pointing outwards. Towards the back, the center is hollow, I presume for aesthetics as well as cooling purposes. The corner on the right side features an on/off switch, while the opposite corner houses the volume control. The back has three USB out ports, the A/C input, 1/8th inch audio in and out and the USB cable.
I’m still a firm believer that the best way to keep your notebook cooled is to just be smart about things. Don’t render video with your notebook sitting on a fuzzy blanket. Keep the back vents open and don’t leave your computer roasting on the beach. There are so many variables that go into why my MacBook Pro gets hot, so it’s rather difficult to tell how much of a job products like the SMK-Link are doing, but I can say with certainty it’s not making it any warmer. There are quite a few theories regarding what is the proper way to keep your notebook cooled with the use of external options, I have had zero luck with fans and find that the best way is just to keep the notebook elevated on the back. In that regards, SMK-Link’s Notebook USB Audio Station its job. With the stand my MacBook Pro’s fans, which occasionally go on, never went on.
My largest gripe with the Logitech Alto Connect was that it essentially rendered your computer’s keyboard useless given how high-up it placed the notebook. Furthermore, the angle made it so that it was utterly uncomfortable. SMK-Link provides a comfortable typing expereince, as well as a slightly elevated monitor height making the overall expereince much more comfortable.
As you’ve likely noticed by now, the tilt here is accomplished by propping your machine up on a pair of 8-watt speakers, giving you an elevated view as well as an improved level of audio quality (we’re assuming, anyway). – Engadget
Assumptions are bad. The speakers are awful. The combination of close to zero bass combined with an overall disappointing clarity make these essentially unusable. While they are noticeably louder than my 17″ MacBook Pro’s speakers, they aren’t going to blow any 2.1 system in volume and quality won’t be a competition. It’s unclear to me if having the audio in/out is actually something useful. The audio quality through there is pretty bad, leading me to just use the standard audio out when not using an external amp.
Versus the Alto Connect
- Cooling – Draw
- Typing – SMK
- Style – Logitech
- Speakers – Draw?
- Usability – SMK
- USB Ports – Logitech (SMK has three, Logitech has three on back, one in front)
…In the end, it really is a toss-up. If you are going to use a keyboard and mouse and are looking for the height and ports, the Logitech. If you want to still be able to type, SMK. Tiebreaking becomes a further problem. I paid $60 for the Logitech Alto Connect from the Apple Store. It’s no longer being sold there as it’s been discontinued. It can be found for around half the price, but the availability has to be a concern.
For me, when it comes to the SMK-Link versus the Alto Connect, it’s easy… the SMK-Link wins pretty easily, as I find the Logitech impossible to use sans external keyboard. It’s odd, my main alternative is a combination of Blue Lounge’s Coolfeet and a USB hub. While that alternative is no where near as stylish, it’s rather functional. I gave the Alto Connect 4 1/2 stars in the first review I did at TheMacFeed and despite preferring the SMK-Link, the audio quality prevents me from doing the same. You can purchase the SMK-Link VP3610 from your local Apple Retail Store for $60 or from Provantage for $44.