If its seven ounces of weight are an acceptable addition to your travel bag, the Compass is an outstanding stand. It can hold your iPad in landscape, portrait, or typing orientation; it’s rock-solid; it folds up small enough to fit in the pen organizer of many bags; and it looks great.
There are quite a few stands out there designed to let you prop up your iPad for better screen viewing or easier typing, but few of those stands are great for travel—most sacrifice stability, versatility, or build quality in the name of saving space and weight. Twelve South’s $40 Compass Mobile Stand for iPad is the exception. This easel-style stand is stable, versatile, and rock-solid.
The Compass consists of several pieces of heavy-guage, powder-coated steel: two front legs and one rear leg that come together at a double-hinged section at the top of the stand. (These are sturdy, metal hinges, not flimsy ones.) Each of the legs sports a smaller, fold-out support arm integrated into the leg itself—more on these arms in a bit.
Unlike some of the other steel stands we’ve tested, the Compass doesn’t have sharp or rough edges that risk scratching your iPad. Even so, every surface that comes in contact with the device is covered in silicone. And, again unlike with many other stands, these silicone areas are an integral part of the Compass, not stuck on with adhesive, so they shouldn’t come off over time.
When folded up for travel, the Compass is about 7 inches long, 1 inch wide at its widest point, and less than half an inch thick, making it easy to tuck into any bag. It even fits inside some larger iPad sleeves with your iPad, though you’ll want to be sure you tuck the Compass into the included fabric pouch to keep the stand from scratching your iPad.
To use the Compass, you first spread the stand’s two front legs, which swing smoothly apart on a large hinge. To prop up your iPad for viewing the screen or using an external keyboard, you then pull the third leg back—it swings smoothly on its own hinge—and then flip down the “cradle” arm on each of the two front legs, forming an easel.
In this configuration, the Compass holds your iPad—in either portrait or landscape orientation, and even in a case—at a fixed, 60-degree angle. The iPad is suspended about an inch off the desk or table, leaving enough room to connect Apple’s USB dock-connector cable when the iPad is in portrait orientation. (In landscape orientation, the dock-connector port is off to the side and similarly unobstructed.)
Despite its compact size, the Compass is surprisingly stable in this configuration. With an iPad in landscape mode, even firm taps on the screen result in only a slight shake. In portrait mode, you do need to be careful not to jab too hard near the top of the screen, but for the kind of occasional tapping of onscreen menus and controls you’re likely to perform with a propped-up iPad, the Compass performs admirably. In fact, it’s more stable than a number of desktop (non-travel) stands we’ve tested.
If instead of propping up your iPad, you want to position it at a slight incline (to make it easier to see the screen while using the onscreen keyboard), the setup procedure is slightly different. After you’ve swung the two front legs apart, you leave the back leg in place, but extend the back leg’s support arm. This one-inch arm elevates the rear of the Compass just enough to position the iPad, in either portrait or landscape orientation, at a 15-degree incline for touchscreen typing. (Although the Compass doesn’t let you adjust either its viewing or typing angle, I found the provided angles to be essentially ideal for their respective purposes.)
As with the easel configuration, this typing mode is quite steady—when typing on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard with reasonable force, the iPad doesn’t move at all. If you tend to jab the screen hard, on the other hand, typing in landscape orientation—or poking the upper-left or -right corner of the screen—can cause a bit of bouncing that can lead to the iPad gradually sliding down the stand (unless you extend the arms on the front legs, which protrude just far enough beyond the front of the iPad to poke your palms uncomfortably). But over many typing sessions, I rarely found this to be an issue.
Alas, all this stability and versatility comes at a price: At just under seven ounces, the Compass feels as hefty as it looks.
If those seven ounces of weight are an acceptable addition to your travel bag, however, the Compass is an outstanding stand. It can hold your iPad in landscape, portrait, or typing orientation; it’s rock-solid; it folds up small enough to fit in the pen organizer of many bags; and it looks great.