A few years back, when I was discussing my home automation wants and needs with Control4, the company pushed me pretty hard on the idea of adding a dedicated touchscreen remote to my system. At the time the idea seemed silly. I had two iPads kicking around the house, after all. Either of them, I figured, would work just fine when I wanted to control my system via touch–for lighting control or media streaming, or what have you. If you’ve ever used a tablet for home control, though, you no doubt know where this story is going. Fast forward three years, and I’m glad I relented and got a dedicated touchscreen. I honestly don’t know where my iPads are half the time, and even when I do know where they are, chances are good that they’re dead. Which really puts a damper on those moments when I’m trying to show off my system and get to the, “and there’s an app for that!” part of the demonstration. At least that was the case before I installed iRoom’s iDock right over my nightstand.
Granted, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried a docking solution for my tablet. I’ve bought (and thrown away) a number of tabletop solutions, all of which were wobbly or unreliable, or simply more trouble than they were worth in terms of getting the iPad to actually connect with the docking port and keep the thing standing up. Granted, I usually knew where my iPad was. But more often than not, it was lying on the floor beside my nightstand, having fallen over for apparently no reason at all.
The iRoom iDock is an in-wall solution for mounting an iPad
Needless to say, since the iRoom iDock is an in-wall solution, it doesn’t suffer from that problem. Unlike a lot of in-wall (or on-wall) iPad docks, though, it’s not a permanent mounting solution. It doesn’t turn your iPad into a fixed in-wall touch screen, per se. But it allows it to serve double-duty as such, while also giving you the flexibility to easily pop it out of the wall at the touch of a button via its motorized mounting mechanism.
The version that iRoom sent me for review is a portrait dock, by my choice, although the company said this isn’t the more popular version (for what reason I don’t know). It consists of several pieces, including a backbox that installs pretty similarly to a standard in-wall speaker (with a bit more putting-together to be done on the installer’s end), the motorized docking mechanism and hinge, a frame, and a magnetic faceplate/bezel that covers all the moving bits and frames the iPad nicely. iRoom also provided me with a PoE injector to provide the iDock power via its ethernet port.
Since my iPads are of an older variety and still sport the old 30-pin plug, not the more current lightning connector, the company also sent along an adapter and instructions for how to switch between them. This, it turns out, caused me a little more trouble than I would have expected, mostly because iRoom’s documentation isn’t the clearest in the world. For one thing, the instructions included an extra step that wasn’t necessary with this model, and no indication that it doesn’t apply to all hardware. So I spent a while looking for a PCB daughterboard that doesn’t exist, and a red cable to disconnect that wasn’t connected in the first place. Also, in screwing the 30-pin connector to the docking mechanism, I misaligned it a little and over-tightened its cover.
I’m not entirely sure, but I think that’s what caused problems I ran into when I first got the dock all put together, powered it up, and tried to update the firmware. The iRoom iDock has a companion app that’s used not only for updates, but also for adjusting features (like power-on and power-off behavior, whether the dock automatically opens in the event of a power outage, etc.). The firmware updates are necessary because Apple likes to change the nature of its docking ports to thwart unauthorized accessory manufacturers. And since iRoom is an authorized manufacturer, they’re able to keep up with such changes via handy updates. Problem is, although the app seemed to recognize my iDock and connect just fine, it froze up when trying to update the firmware. For hours at a time. After a quick call to iRoom president Chris Lehnen, he agreed that something was amiss and that a replacement was in order.
When the replacement docking mechanism and 30-pin connector arrived two days later, it was really no effort at all to go through the assembly process again. It’s one of those things where the first time through is a bit of a trick, but once you’ve done it, you could do it again in your sleep. Literally less than five minutes after unboxing the replacement bits, I was powering up the iDock and updating the firmware, which took no more than a couple of minutes.
With everything put together, installed, and working properly, perhaps the most surprising thing for me is just how classy the iRoom iDock looks and feels. I say “surprising,” only because when you first unbox all of the pieces and parts that go together to make up the iDock, it all looks a little plastic. But with everything assembled (and most of the plastic hidden behind the wall where your clients will never see it), there’s a wonderful fit and finish to the assembly that’s quite impressive. A simple press of a button and the iPad smoothly tilts out from the wall. And once it’s time to put it to bed again, it slides gracefully into place and connects to the dock without a bit of wiggling or fussing or salty language.
Truth be told, if I had an iPad from the modern era, I probably wouldn’t have had the first problem with the iRoom iDock. Even the iffy documentation wouldn’t have been a problem because it’s really a pretty straightforward affair. But even with the issues I had, I’m impressed. This little beauty keeps my iPad charged and ready in a handy location. But best of all, it doesn’t make my tablet a slave to the wall it’s housed in.
iRoom’s iDock is a flexible, well-constructed motorized iPad docking solution that is smooth in looks and operation, and doesn’t require that you permanently affix your iPad to the wall
My only real beef with iRoom’s iDock is that its documentation needs a bit of work. Expect your first installation to be a bit of a head-scratcher, but your second one to be easy-peasy.
► Dimensions iDock Portrait (W/H/D): 220 x 310 x 66.8 mm
► Dimensions installation box (W/H/D): 214.13 x 305 x 65 mm
► Dimensions installation box cutout (W/H/D): 205 x 295 x 65 mm
► Power supply: 110/230V, 12V, power over ethernet (PoE)
► Weight: 1,700 g