If you've ever used your iPad in the kitchen, you know that the magical and revolutionary device doesn't always match up to the greasy, sticky, steamy reality of the cooking zone. We've proposed a few low-tech solutions to this challenge before, but when we heard about the Original Kitchen iPad Rack (US$29.95), I was curious to see whether it would make the kitchen a more tablet-friendly environment.
Of course, the first challenge was getting the idea past our home's chief operations officer. "You're putting holes in my kitchen cabinets?" she asked, eyebrows raised. "I don't think that's a good idea." Once I explained that the mounting hardware goes completely underneath the cabinet and is out of sight, she relented -- with a good deal of remaining skepticism.
The rack is a very simple affair, especially when compared to some of the more elaborate multi-site attachment solutions we saw at Macworld: three screw-in clips, patent pending, that are attached to the flat bottom of the cabinet anywhere from the back wall to about two inches from the front. The clear plastic rack itself snaps into the clips, but it's very easy to remove and stash when not in use -- the clips themselves are invisible.
Installation took only a few minutes with a Phillips screwdriver (and it would have been faster if my power driver was charged up when I started). The rack comes with a marking template so you know where to place the clips, and once they're in, it's easy to snap the rack into place in the clips. The assembled rack is sturdy enough to hold an iPad in or out of a case, and while it has a bit of "bounce," it doesn't give the impression of fragility or an unstable setup. The iPad is placed on the rack and rests on the wide lip at the bottom; it's usable in both portrait and landscape orientations, and the rack holds it nicely at average eye level for tracking the steps in your recipe. Thinking ahead, it may turn out to be perfect for iPad 2 video chat with your cooking consultant/Aunt Bessie/dinner guests with food allergies.
While the iPad Rack leaves a good amount of space underneath it in my installation, my wife pointed out that our cabinets are installed a bit higher than the standard (59" high at the base, with 22" of clearance between the countertop and the cabinets). With the conventional 18" of clearance, the base of the iPad Rack would have been too close to the counter with the clips as far forward as I set them, but then I would have installed the rack further back to avoid cutting off access to the work surface. Of course, the rack is easily removable when not in use; it's just a matter of finding a good place to stash it.
I also had some concern about the "bounce" of the rack being enough to toss my iPad forward. Although it seems pretty solid, I went ahead and did a quick rubber band mod; I put a single band (salvaged from a bunch of asparagus) around the entire rack so that it could hold the top of the iPad in place. With that cheap and quick fix, any concern about drop loss was assuaged. There's still a risk of splatter, though, so you might still choose to go with a screen cover or a Ziploc bag depending on what's on the menu.
If your iPad is a primary kitchen tool, you could do a lot worse for $30 than the Kitchen iPad Rack. It's simple and sturdy enough to keep your iPad safe and visible while you work, but it won't look out of place hovering above your countertops. The manufacturer has a list of alternative products as well, in case you're thinking of a simpler cookbook stand as an option.
TUAW policy is to return or donate all hardware provided for review. For more details, see our policy page.