The Twelve South HiRise Pro and BackPack Review
I gave up on the MacBook Pro. I know the latest MacBook Pro just debuted with a brand new scissor mechanism keyboard which promises to rectify the wrongs of the last few years. I know the MacBook Pro is probably an overall better machine for me. I know Apple hasn’t majorly updated the iMac in a long time.
But I was tired of the MacBook Pro. I was tired of not being able to take it with me for fear of ruining the keyboard. I was tired of all the adapters and dongles. I was tired of the inability to upgrade anything inside.
So I traded up and bought an iMac. The iMac is an awesome value right now, providing more power per dollar spent than any of Apple’s products, iOS or macOS. It’s the same old iMac we’ve all grown to love, and it’s the least exciting Apple device I’ve bought in many years. Even still, it works really well and I haven’t looked back.
The switch to a desktop computer ushered in a new era of desk accessories, of course. No switch to an iMac would be complete without a whole range of new accessories — specifically accessories from Twelve South. For a few years, I’ve been unable to test any of Twelve South’s desktop/iMac-specific accessories.
Finally, the time has come.
There are a few drawbacks to the current iMac design. One, the chin housing the iMac’s Apple logo are unbelievably large for this day and age. Two, the bezels around the screen are ginormous. And three, the whole display sits so low to the desk that you almost have to have some sort of booster to bring the display up to an ergonomic level. It’s the most immersive display available for most people today, yet sitting in front of it for a few hours a day is sure to lead to some back pain.
There are a few options for display stands these days. You could take a look at Grovemade’s entire desk collection (like we did over on Tools & Toys) as well as Grovemade’s new desk collection. You could build your own stand, like this one from Jeff at Ugmonk. Or you could try Twelve South’s HiRise Pro Stand.
Since I’m not very good at building anything with my hands, and since Grovemade’s stand would probably be too big for my desk, the HiRise Pro made a lot of sense.
The Twelve South HiRise Pro Stand for iMac
Forgive me for getting an aesthetic complaint out of the way: I wasn’t particularly fond of Twelve South’s HiRise Pro Stand’s design, at least as it was portrayed in marketing images. There’s something cleanly utilitarian about the iMac’s L-shaped stand, and the way in which the HiRise Pro hides that stand in favor of a relatively large block of aluminum wasn’t my cup of tea.
Even now, after using the HiRise Pro for the better part of a couple months, I’m not exactly sold on the stand’s overall design premise. I think my desk looks less “sleek” with the HiRise Pro in place.
But “sleek” is a complete misnomer when it comes to a desk — the point of a desk is to help you be as productive as possible and keep you comfortable as long as you need. And to this end, the HiRise Pro is the ultimate accessory.
The HiRise Pro ships in a box and comes in a build-it-yourself format. Inside the box are five different pieces of heavy duty metal, each with their own slots and grooves to fit into the next piece. After following the directions and putting everything together (no screwdrivers or glue are required, thank goodness), you can slide your iMac’s or external display’s stand into the HiRise Pro to finish the job.
The HiRise Pro lifts your iMac to one of four different heights. I currently have mine nestled in the second slot from the top, which might even be a bit too high for me. If I’ve read correctly, the best ergonomic posture for a display is to have the top of the display level with your eyes. My eyes line up within an inch of the top of the display. I certainly couldn’t use the top slot, but I could maybe stand to go one slot lower. Either way, this is a big improvement over the height of an iMac’s display on its own.
The top of the HiRise Pro — the shelf that sits right underneath the iMac’s chin — has a piece of padded leather for resting any of your devices or other doodads. It also happens to be the only piece of the HiRise Pro with any branding.
Pull away the front grill and you’ll find the shelf on which your iMac sits as well as a compartment for storing anything you wish. I’ve stored my most used utensils inside here, along with a notebook for taking notes.
I found it somewhat relieving knowing that there weren’t specific storage compartments for pens and notebooks and iPhones and more inside the HiRise Pro. It’s just one big compartment, designed for you to throw your extras inside willy nilly and clean up your desk in a jiff. I really like this aspect.
The opening in which you slide your iMac’s stand is quite large and allows for a whole host of cable management as well. The back plate has a groove cut out at the bottom for feeding your cables through, and everything channels nicely into the back of the iMac. Best of all, the cables stay neatly tucked at the back of the HiRise Pro and don’t take up extra space inside where you’re storing your extra stuff.
Finally, the front facing plate attaches to the front of the HiRise Pro with magnets. You can choose whichever style you like — gunmetal gray or walnut veneer — to give your desk an extra dash of pop. I’ve tended towards the walnut veneer myself, but the gunmetal gray probably fits my desk a little better.
My one complaint about the gunmetal gray color is its shade — this gunmetal gray would better match the space gray of the iMac Pro. Considering the HiRise Pro’s price, it might be specifically designed for the iMac Pro’s coloring. But even Twelve South’s marketing images showcase the regular iMac nestled inside the HiRise Pro.
Either way, the gunmetal gray front grill looks great, and the walnut veneer looks even better.
In short, the HiRise Pro does a great job of cleaning up your desk, cleaning up your wires, boosting the height of your iMac, and looking pretty good at the same time. It’s a bit more boxy than what I’d like when I measure it strictly in terms of aesthetics and design, but the HiRise Pro’s other three strengths greatly outweigh this.
The Twelve South BackPack for iMac
Not that the BackPack should be bundled with the HiRise Pro, but it almost feels like the two accessories were designed to be used together. They don’t match in terms of exact design or aesthetics, nor do they even match in color, but they make up for it by complementing each other nicely and cleaning up everything hiding behind your iMac.
The Twelve South BackPack is a simple accessory that attaches to the iMac’s stand and provides a small shelf for storing extra stuff on your desk, be it a small portable hard drive, a small desktop hard drive, or some keys. If the back of your iMac was facing the middle of the room, I think the BackPack would be a great accessory for resting a nice succulent plant from time to time.
There’s a little bit more going on with the installation of the BackPack than I expected. It was naive of me to think, but iMacs have differently shaped L-stands dependent on their generation, and the tapering design of the L-stand requires a few size adapters to nestle the BackPack exactly where you want it. There are different adapters for different iMac models, and there are other adapters if you want the BackPack to sit higher or lower on the stand. Simply read the instructions and follow the directions to get everything in the right spot.
Once mounted on your iMac, the BackPack comes with four vertical tentpoles for holding vertical elements in place. I’ve put my LaCie D2 Thunderbolt hard drive on the BackPack and screwed the vertical tentpole holders in place to secure the hard drive. Screwing the tentpoles into place takes a little patience, but the design is fairly customizable to whatever your needs may be. As a whole, I don’t see how Twelve South could design this any differently.
Now, the question I had of the BackPack going in was whether it would be able to comfortably hold the LaCie D2 hard drive. The hard drive weighs in right around three pounds, and the BackPack is rated to hold a maximum of 3.5 pounds. Out of the box, I didn’t expect any issues.
But upon initial setup, I found my BackPack sagging a little due to the weight of the hard drive. The back edge of the BackPack begins to taper off parallel with my desk, signifying a near over-capacity load. With the added tentpoles in place, and the fact that I have yet to remove the LaCie drive from the BackPack, I haven’t had any problems. But beware, anything more than that 3.5 pound capacity is very likely too much for the little BackPack.
Like every Twelve South product I’ve tested, there’s no skimping when it comes to quality in either the HiRise Pro or the BackPack. That quality is especially noticeable in the price of the HiRise Pro — you’re looking at $170 USD for the HiRise Pro and $45 for the BackPack. I have always said that Twelve South’s prices are justified thanks to the quality and utility of their accessories, and both the HiRise Pro and the BackPack fit in this category.
I’d like to see Twelve South bundle these accessories together in some sort of bigger “iMac Desk Accessories bundle” — the HiRise Pro and BackPack fit together so nicely, it almost feels like they were made for each other.
Up top, I have my LaCie D2 standing safely on the BackPack, with the power and Thunderbolt cables running through the back of the HiRise Pro and down to the floor or into the iMac. Down below are all my most-used desk utensils, and if I don’t have Twelve South’s HiRise Wireless Charging stand on my desk, my iPhone rests on the HiRise Pro’s padded leather valet quite nicely.
These two accessories have really cleaned up my desk, opening up more space to house my massive keyboard and boosting the height of my display to a much more comfortable height. Honestly, I want to turn my desk around to the middle of the room just so I can put some greens on the BackPack. I think it would look just plain cool.
If you’re going to pick up the HiRise Pro, give the BackPack a serious look — they fit together wonderfully.
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