If you’ve ever found yourself with a sore back after a day of hunching over a notebook, then a solution like the Logitech Alto may be in order. The Alto is a notebook stand/riser which elevates your notebook’s screen to a better eye level and includes a full size keyboard (with numeric keypad). It’s easy to set up and folds into a nice compact package if you need to carry it along with you.
Logitech Alto with Dell XPS m1210 (view large image)
Along with the possibility of better ergonomics from a better viewing height, you can also get a break from using the more compact keyboard on your notebook. Logitech also cites a study that 49 percent of US notebook users consider the heat of the machine to be a drawback to use a notebook computer. The Alto lets you get away from the heat.
After sliding the Alto out of its box, I was very impressed with its looks. It comes in all black and, when closed, you see the Logitech logo and Alto model name on a “brushed” finish black panel. The stand is held closed by magnetic latches. When it’s closed, it measures 9.3 x 16.8 x 1.4 inches.
Folded Alto (view large image)
Alto below my Dell XPS m1210 (view large image)
The next step was to unfold it and get started. The “hinge” is made of rubber that adds a degree of non-skid to the whole setup. The rubber hinge area also has the ledges that keep your notebook from sliding off the stand. The rubber is a nice touch since it provides a soft cradle for your computer and doesn’t let it slide around.
Unfolded and still flat (view large image)
Once open, there is a sliding latch to release the plastic panel that gets propped up to hold your notebook. The kickstand for the panel latches into place with a reassuring click. When you’re ready to fold up the Alto, you use the same sliding latch to release the kickstand and fold the riser down flat.
Once the stand is all clicked into place, you can gently ease your notebook onto the stand. The stand is designed to support notebooks that weight up to 9 pounds. The next step is to plug in the USB cable, that was revealed when you lifted the riser, into your notebook. My computer, currently running Vista Ultimate installed the right drivers automatically, and I was up and running. Another nice feature that you’ll see next to where the USB cable comes from is a rubber strip that can be used for cable management. You can press power cords or cords for other USB devices down into the cut-outs to keep things all nice and neat.
USB cable and cable management system (view large image)
To the right of the riser is a little status panel that has indicators for the state of the Num Lock and Caps Lock. There is also a switch that locks the keyboard of the Alto.
Status panel with indicator lights (view large image)
In the same vicinity, on the back right edge of the Alto, are three USB ports that are capable of USB 2.0 Hi-Speed. When the USB ports are in use, there are indicators that light up with the USB symbol. The ports allow you a printer or webcam plugged in all the time so you don’t always have to plug each cord into your computer. If one of your USB devices needs more power than the hub can provide, you can get an optional power cord that plugs into the back edge of the Alto.
USB ports and optional power adapter jack (view large image)
The keyboard is full size and has a numeric keypad, media controls, volume controls and some hot keys for frequently used items. The keys are pretty quiet, with smooth travel. I typically prefer a slim profile keyboard (like a notebook keyboard), but the slightly taller keys on the Alto were just fine. The layout of the keys was just fine. When I was reading the documentation about the Alto, Logitech mentioned that it has a “soft” palm rest, so I was thinking that it would be rubbery or soft like a gel pad. However, it’s not really that soft. It’s sort of rubberized, to provide sort of a non-slip surface, but I wouldn’t call it soft. Either way, it wasn’t a problem overall.
Keyboard layout (view large image)
The Alto accomplished its main features very well. It was easy to setup, elevated my notebook to a much more comfortable height and made it easy to get a full keyboard. I really enjoy having it for times when I’m working at a somewhat temporary location for long periods of time. I typically use an external display and keyboard, but they’re not as portable. The Alto is what I would call semi-portable. It folds up nicely into a nice form factor, but it may be too wide to fit in some bags. I also wouldn’t take it with me while traveling unless I was going to be working in that location for a week or more.
Another thing to note is that you should definitely have an external mouse while using the Alto. It would be kind of a pain to access your touchpad or pointing stick by having to reach over the top of the keyboard. The USB ports built-in to the Alto make it easy to attach a corded mouse or wireless mouse receiver into the Alto base and just leave it there when you need it.
The rubber “hinge” area is a dust magnet – kind of like the bottom of a mouse pad. You can’t really just brush off the dust – you’d have to use some liquid to give it a good cleaning. Also, the palm rest will easily show your greasy palm prints and the glossy part of the Also will attract some fingerprints as well.
My Dell XPS m1210 fit onto the Alto without a problem – it didn’t even cover the stand completely. The nine pound capacity of the Alto also means that it can handle most (if not all) 17” notebooks. I’m quite confident that a notebook of that size will still be secure on the stand. However, the 17” notebook will probably obscure the view of the indicator lights on the base of the Alto.
Another problem that I ran into was that I couldn’t plug in my external speakers. The XPS m1210 has its audio jacks on the front panel. My straight plug for my external speakers would not fit into the jack without sacrificing the stability of the notebook on the stand – it got in the way of the notebook resting securely on the rubber bumpers. I did try a cord with an elbow (90 degree) connector and it did fit into the front panel of the computer just fine. Granted, this issue doesn’t affect everyone, but if you plug things in regularly to front-mounted jacks on your computer, then this issue may rule out the Alto as a solution for you.
One possible side benefit that maybe even the Logitech PR people haven’t even thought of is that the stand may aid notebook cooling. The intake of my Dell is on the bottom of the machine, so it’s normally pulling air through the very small gap that the notebook’s feet create between the desk and computer. The stand of the Alto is shaped such that there is a larger gap, leading to better circulation.
Save yourself some chiropractor’s fees down the road by improving the ergonomics of your workspace with something like the Logitech Alto. It does a very good job of its main features – providing a “standard” sized desktop keyboard, and providing a better viewing height for your screen. The Alto also has some nice secondary features that are much appreciated, like the built-in, 3 port USB hub and cable management system. It’s also compact enough to fold up and clear off your desk if you need the space. There are, however, a couple things to be aware of. First, if you need to plug in anything into the front of your notebook, the Alto may not work for you. Also, keep a microfiber cloth handy to take care of greasy palm prints and fingerprints if you don’t like that sort of thing. Overall though, I highly recommend the Alto – the $80-$100 investment will be worth it if you really want to avoid becoming the hunchback of the office.
- Easy setup
- Black, sleek, and compact
- Rubber parts keep your notebook from sliding
- Jacks on front of notebook may be unusable
- Rubber collects dust and is hard to clean