We all have stuff to do for our everyday grind, whether it be paperwork, emails, or a crucial presentation for your boss. There are times when we just have to double down, keep away from all distractions, and just put our focus on what we have to do to get things done. Distractions come in all forms and even messy wires or a cluttered workspace can do you in. Our good friends from A. Refinery (check out their awesome shop over at UP Town Center for your audio and lifestyle needs!) heard our plea to unclutter our workspace and provided us with a couple of useful essentials that we never knew we needed, but we’re glad we found out about. Check out our review of the iLevel laptop stand and the Beyerdynamic DTX 350M headset!
Laptop stands aren’t things we think we need. Unless you have a dedicated workstation, most likely you’re always on the go, checking your laptop whenever the need strikes and fulfilling the purpose of it as something you can use anywhere, anytime. If you sit down a lot, and in my case I tend to sit down for hours on end because my work demands that of me, good posture is a very important factor that I need to consider. Apart from a good chair, line of sight to my laptop is necessary as well so that I don’t strain my neck due to long hours of looking down at my laptop. Instead of looking for a table that is tall enough to meet my line of sight, a cheaper alternative would be to get a laptop stand. Enter the iLevel laptop stand by Rain Design.
One look at it and immediately you would think that it’s an Apple product. Well, it might as well have been but that doesn’t deny the fact that it looks pretty sleek and well designed, if not a tad bit bulky compared to other laptop stands. The finish goes well with any of the Macbook models, or any other laptop for that matter, but is specifically aimed at the 13″ laptop variants. 15″ laptops would still fit and the iLevel is sturdy enough to carry the weight and wide enough to keep the laptop secure but 17″ laptops are out of the question, which we tested with an Asus ROG G752. Well placed rubber nodes and strips secure your device in place while not scratching the edges, keeping you laptop nice and smooth even without a protective cover. This stand has a pretty big footprint though, but since it can handle 15″ laptops as well, then it is well justified.
A small metal knob that you can slide horizontally finishes the design off and while you may not immediately figure out what it is for out of the box, it will make perfect sense when you place a laptop on the stand. The slanted holder for the laptop immediately tilts once you place a laptop on it and in this case, we used a 2016 macbook pro. Once firmly in place, I noticed that the slanted holder was a bit longer than the laptop, which immediately tells me that this stand can probably take 15″ laptops as well. As you can see from the image below, while the laptop doesn’t even reach the top rubber pods, it’s still held firmly in place due to the bottom pods and the strip.
Once you slide the metal knob, the slanted holder increases in angle, bringing the screen higher and higher, which means you may have to adjust the angle of your laptop screen accordingly. This allowed for better posture as I worked, because now my laptop screen is eye level and I don’t have to look down with my neck bent for hours and hours. My sitting position straightened up as well and due to this I began to feel subtle changes to my energy levels throughout the day just because I was seated properly and was not slouching at all. While this may seem like an exaggeration to some but good posture really does wonders for your health.
As you can see, 13″ laptops fit perfectly into the stand and since most people do have laptops of that size, then this item is perfect for you. Now with all things considered, this is a great product with a specific set of benefits but it does have some downsides to it as well. First is that due to the shape and design of this stand, you may be forced to use a separate keyboard for it. I’m not saying you should, but in my case, it felt awkward typing while my hands was elevated at an unnatural position. Second is that apart from a separate keyboard, you’ll most likely use a mouse as well where you normally wouldn’t for the same reason, my hands were unnaturally high due to the stand so I opted to bust out my mouse and keyboard to pair up with the stand. Third is that I wished the place where you rest your laptop in had slits (?) / grooves / holes? I’m not really quite sure what to call them but for air flow purposes, laptops ideally should be well ventilated and this was something I was really looking for. Fourth, I wish this thing had some semblance of cable management in the back area. Now I know that not everyone will be using wired accessories and peripherals, you cannot discount the number of people who still prefer wires. Lastly, my gripe about this product is that it is priced on the expensive side. The iLevel goes for 4,600php SRP and for that price, I’d expect this thing to make me coffee or light up my room at night.
Overall I’d say the product fulfilled the role it was supposed to. I’m normally a keyboard / mouse person and even when I use my ROG G752 for everyday things, I still connect a USB keyboard and mouse. That said, the gripes I had mentioned earlier were very minor hitches for me. It’s a sleek product and while I wish some things were designed differently, I cannot argue with the fact that it made me realize how messed up my work habits were before I had used something like this. For what it set out to do, it did it very well and for that, I’d give the product a 7/10 and I would have honestly rated it higher if not for the whopping near 5k SRP of the product. It’s definitely not something everybody can easily afford and while there are various alternatives out there, you’d be hard pressed to find one as sturdy as this one.
As we move on from one workspace essential to another, we look into this headset from a brand that may not be well known in this side of the Globe but these guys have been pumping out quality audio equipment for quite a while now. Beyerdynamic is a german brand that specializes in audio equipment and while there are better known brands out there, you can be assured that Beyerdynamic is a brand that will give you quality cans that you would be glad to throw your money at. We take a look at the DTX 350m headset and see how it fares with our use!
Now one thing you must understand is that I’m no audiophile. I enjoy good music and listen to tunes on a regular basis but I’m in no way an expert with all the audio jargon so we’ll go through this review in a more experiential way where I talk you through things and tell you how I felt using these headphones. Let’s jump in!
I totally underestimated the size of these things and was expecting a bigger box based off of some pictures I saw but here we are with a small box that houses a good pair of headphones if we are to judge these by Beyerdynamic standards. As we open up the box, we get to see the contents of the package and we really didn’t expect to see more but it was good to know that the headphones come with a nice stylish carrying case for those times when you need to bring them around. As with anything leathery, one consideration in this country is that the humid weather might make your things flake and crack sooner than you’d like to it’s just a small consideration. The headphones, on the other hand, look really stylish and is something that I would not personally want in any other color other than black. They look good as is and it compliments the overall design of the headphones really well. The Beyerdynamic logo is etched discreetly into the side of the earpiece and on top of the headband which doesn’t complicate the design, +1 for style points.
There are 3 things I look for in a pair of headphones: 1. it has to be light and comfortable enough for prolonged use. 2. the joints and the headband must be sturdy enough to withstand daily use. and 3. if it is wired, I expect the wires to be tough enough to not break after a few months because we know that if the wires conk out, your cans are officially dead. Let’s go through them one by one.
Out of the box, i vowed to wear these things for one whole work day without taking them off. It would have been unfair for me to be wearing them in this heat so I turned up the aircon and worked through my daily motions. As to what I listened to, we’ll save that for later. I’ll have to say that these earphones are deceptively light and comfy. They don’t really look like it, but you’ll immediately feel the foam on the earpiece sink as you place them over your ears. The headband could be cushioned a bit more, and maybe it’s a preference thing but with what it has, it already does the job. One thing I do not like though is that since these are leatherette cushioned earpieces, then it’s not as breathable as I’d have wanted. I was in a relatively cool room and after around maybe 4 hours, I still felt some beads of sweat forming underneath. While this is something minor, it would have been nice if the material used was not leathery, just considering the weather we have here. I did have to take it out a few times over the span of 8 hours but overall, the headset was light enough that I didn’t feel any discomfort while wearing them. Lightweight and comfortable check.
Second, it’s interesting to note that the headset is mostly plastic. While there are a few metal parts, namely the metal bands when you extend the earpiece and the metal screw that allows you to bend the earpieces inward, the headset is predominantly plastic. I’ll take a wild guess and say that the product is not a sturdy as I would like it to be but from the time that I had used it, I can tell that it would last long with the way I used these things. Now there’s a difference because I’m a careful guy but the slight creaks on the plastic didn’t do well to boost my confidence, this would be especially true for people with wide(r) heads. You can bend the earpieces inwards to fit the carrying case when not in use and if you have them on, you can flip the earpieces 90 degrees so that they lay flat when you put it around your neck. I’m 50 50 on the durability side of this product, and while I can’t say for sure how sturdy it is (because I would not want to break a review unit), one thing I can say is that based on how I take care of my things, these may last me a good year or two.
Lastly, I expect the wires to be of good quality. I cannot count how many headsets I’ve gone through because the left or right earpiece wouldn’t function properly due to faulty wires. While my standard for wiring is double braided, flat setups such as these are acceptable too. A good thing about flat wires is that you won’t experience tangles as much unless you really tried, and tangles are the number one cause of faulty wires. The 350m does well in this criteria and while it could be better, I’m not complaining.
These cans sound really good. I listened to a variety of tracks during the time that I had this and I can confidently say that I varied the track list as much as I could, ranging from Lin Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, Kanye West in “All of the lights”, Bruno Mars in “24k Magic”, Justin Timberlake in “Cry me a river”, Paramore in “Pressure”, Backstreet Boys in “As long as you love me”, Foo Fighters in “Everlong”, One OK Rock in “Mighty Long Fall” and much more. Each track I listened to sounded great, I could clearly hear all the words properly pronounced down to the tiny details like the hi-hats and the cymbal taps from the drums. The bass was not overpowering, but was enough to get me thumping along to the beat, and even at high volumes the sound quality didn’t break not get distorted in any way. Overall, I’d say that these things not only look sleek but sound good as well!
There are a few things I did not like about this headset though, so hear me out. Volume control? anyone? It’s sad to know that something that costs this much doesn’t have something as simple as volume control on the in line remote. While it can accept calls from both iOS and Android smartphones with adequate audio quality, I’d have expected a volume knob somewhere there. Next, this isn’t necessarily the cheapest pair around, setting you back 3,590PHP SRP, and while the audio quality is great, the lack of any other compelling features make this a tough purchase. For the price though, the sound quality is fantastic. Lastly, and this is a very minor nitpick,
I thoroughly enjoyed the time that I listened to music with this product and I’d have to say that while it is relatively pricy, you can justify the purchase based on sound quality alone. It’s a big plus that you can answer calls from it so you can practically keep it plugged into your smartphone for the whole day. 350M, you can take my 8/10 rating but please next time, volume control mmmkay?
*review units are from A. Refinery and you can check out their shops in the following venues:
UP Town Center:
B338 2nd Level UP Town Center, Brgy., UP Campus, Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, 1105 Quezon City, Philippines
L 348, Level 3 Ayala Center Cebu, Business Park Barrio Luz, Cebu City