Hardware review: Logitech Alto Connect Notebook Stand

I bought two Logitech Alto Connect Notebook Stands (with 4-Port USB Hub). One’s a keeper and the other is going back. I love its design and functionality, but there are a couple of things that you need to know if you intend to buy it.

This innovative stand is shaped like an X and wrapped in glossy, black plastic. Does the shape remind you of anything? How about OS X? Or the X-Men? Or the old saying, “X marks the spot”? Not that Logitech is copying anybody, but that shape looks cool, is very different from any other laptop stand on the market, and supports a larger amount of weight, meaning it can work with heavier laptops.

The stand comes unassembled in the box, and you must put the two pieces together (they dovetail precisely). The assembly time is 1-2 minutes or so. It may take you a try or two until you figure out the right way to join the two pieces together (there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get it right the first time).

An added benefit of this stand is the addition of a built-in USB hub. The hub is self-powered, meaning that you’ll need to plug in a small adapter (included in the box). One port is located on the left front leg of the stand (visible above), and the other three ports are in the back, as you can see below.

As I said, I love this stand, and I think the design is wonderful. I have a lot of respect for Logitech. I’ve used wireless keyboards made by them, Kensington and Microsoft, and Logitech has consistently stood head and shoulders above its competitors when it came to battery life and ease of connectivity. I have a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse set right now, have been using it for almost two years, and have nothing but good things to say about it. Last, but not least, I like Logitech because they use ColdFusion on their website, and CF is my favorite programming language. 🙂

I bought the first one of these stands for my father’s MacBook, and it works just great with it. The X-shape allows for greater cooling than the flat stands, and it blocks none of the laptop’s ports. My father uses it happily. I noticed an issue with the built-in USB hub though, as soon as I started using it.

I have a Western Digital Passport drive, which I carry pretty much everywhere. That drive has worked with any computer where I’ve used it. I love it. It’s powered directly by the USB port, and that’s where the issue lies when it comes to the Logitech Stand. Right after I plugged it in on my father’s stand, I got a message on-screen (on the laptop) telling me that the USB port where I’d connected the USB hub had experienced a power surge and was shut off. I had to unplug the port from the laptop, and re-connect it without the drive.

Let me clarify. The USB hub built into the stand is self-powered. It has its own power supply. It should be able to power just about any USB device. Why then did it draw power from the laptop when I plugged in the drive? Obviously the design of the hub is defective in some way if every time you plug in port-powered devices like the WD Passport drive, it causes a power surge in the USB circuitry. The only way I could get the drive to connect to the laptop was to plug it directly into the laptop, which I did, and it had no problems there.

The only time when I’ve had issues with port-powered devices was when I plugged them into USB hubs that had no power supplies of their own. On those occasions, the devices would draw power from the hub, which would then draw too much power from the laptop’s USB port, would cause a small surge, and shut off the port. But when you have a self-powered USB hub, this simply shouldn’t happen.

Just so you’re not confused, let me state outright that USB flash drives, which have no moving parts and thus draw much less current, can be used just fine with the built-in USB hub in this stand. And USB drives which have power supplies of their own (the regular 3.5″ drive enclosures of products like Drobo or LaCie) will work just fine with the hub, too.

Second, although the stand will work with pretty much any laptop on the market, it will not work with the MacBook Pro line. That’s because it blocks the CD/DVD slot on those laptops. I didn’t realize this until I bought the second stand to use with my 15″ MacBook Pro, which I’d just bought as well. I brought the stand home, sat my laptop on it, and this is what I saw.

Oops… While I appreciate the need for a built-in USB hub (even a half-working one) on a laptop that has only 2 USB ports, I’m going to return this second stand. I’m not going to take my laptop off the stand every time I need to burn a CD or play a DVD. Incidentally, on the Logitech website, this stand is recommended for Windows, not Apple computers, but I bought both stands at the Apple Store, so I doubt Logitech intended it only for the PC market.

Otherwise, like I said, I really like this stand’s innovative design. It’s beautiful, functional and sturdy. It even has a built-in wire routing slot, which is a nice touch.

And let’s face it, it complements very nicely the design of just about any laptop.

If you don’t have a MacBook Pro, and you don’t mind the USB surge issue with the built-in USB hub, then give this stand a try, you might like it quite a bit. Have a look at the other photos in the gallery below to get a better idea of its looks.

One more thing… The good thing about the way it raises the laptop is that the height of the front lip is low enough to let you type directly on the laptop without discomfort, but the height of the display is high enough for you to maintain proper posture. Of course, you can also use it with a separate keyboard and mouse if you’d like.

Buy the Logitech Alto

12 Comments

  1. Hey Raoul,

    Kind of unfortunate about the design incompatibility with the Macbook Pro. However, if you one of the newer models which have the optical drive on the side, it’d work fine.

    I’ve got the same model MacBook Pro as you, and I’ve had the Alto Connect in mind for a while. I didn’t know about the incompatibility until I read this review… a bit disappointing. I’d be interested in knowing if you’ve found another solution.

    Cheers for the review.

    Like

  2. I just experienced this. and its a bummer i have a windows laptop so its not limited to macbooks.
    Adding insult to injury the stand is useless if not plugged in to both a usb port and power supply.(i thought i could use it to power my usb devices without turning on the laptop.

    Like

  3. In your 4th picture from the top, what is that black squiggly groove in the back end of the arm? Is it just decoration to mirror the usb ports on the other side? Or, is it part of the cord management in some way?

    Thanks!

    Like

  4. hi raoul,

    How were your dealings with logitech customer service? im having a problem similar to yours with my alto connect and am not sure what to do. It is constantly connecting and disconnecting. Did you use it with vista at all or just OSX?

    thanks!

    Like

    1. Javy, I didn’t contact Logitech support, I just returned the stand. I also only used it with OS X. In your case, depending on how long it’s been since you purchased it, it might be a good idea to contact them to see what they say. If you don’t get a helpful response from them, try returning it.

      Like

Comments are closed.