In late 2014 we received a rather unique product for review which we quickly found out was one we could not live without – especially not when shooting our videos for the site. This product was the Tabelz SP135M Laptop Table, and as we shall see in this review it is going to appeal to both stills and video photographers alike.
So why would you as a photographer (or videographer) need a laptop table? for us the answer was simple – for the past year or so we have been using a piece of free software called DslrDashboard (we will have a full review of this really amazing software in a few weeks), but for the purposes of the current review we will simply say that we use this software for all our videos as a monitor for checking out focus, colors, exposure etc as well as actually controlling the camera. Coming from the stills world, we have been progressing gradually with our video productions over the past 2 years, and while there are still issues (even on the current video), especially when it comes to sound, we are hoping that some of our more recent gear additions (especially new Tascam DR70-D recorder and the Audio-Technica AT899 lav microphone) will help solve some of the issues on future videos.
Getting back to the laptop table – having to work with a laptop on every video we make requires a comfortable, stable place to put it on and here comes the Tabelz SP135M. The company – Tabelz – currently offer 3 primary table sizes (13 inch, 15 inch and up to 17 inch), 4 tripod options and a host of useful accessories – some of which we had a chance to test. As we are using the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro as our primary laptop when shooting videos we went with the 13 inch version along with two accessories which we shall cover shortly.
Tabelz SP135M Laptop Table with the ST60 side table
Design and accessories
The Tabelz SP135M is a pretty straight forward product. It is a rectangle shaped Aluminum plate with a thickness of 0.2 inches (minus the special grip surface). The unit also has a front raised part (about 0.3 inches tall) to prevent your laptop from falling forward (this did not happen to us but we would still like this part to be just a little bit taller).
Front part – could be just a bit taller
Here are the official specs of the unit:
- Dimensions: 13.5 x 9.25″ (34.3 x 23.5 cm)
- Color: Black
- Weight: 1.94 lbs (.88 kg)
- Material: Aluminum
- Accessory slots: 2
- Load capacity: 50 lbs (22.6 kg)
- Attach to: 1/4 -20″ & 3/8″ screws
All the corners are rounded very nicely and at the bottom of the plate you can find a 0.2 inch extra plate in the middle where you can find two accessory holes (one on each side) and the holes for attaching the tripod (or light stand/c-stand – using the LS-25 accessory which we will talk about in a minute).
The only thing that we would possibly add to the bottom design is some sort of rubber protection around the mounting screw holes as we noticed that it can get scratched easily (but this is just an aesthetic issue for the most part).
Moving on to the accessories – Tabelz did a very nice job creating an entire ecosystem around their tables. Here is a list of the current accessory line up (more are promised in the future):
ST60 Side Table – the most useful accessory in our view – a small side table made from the same material and grip coating as the table itself which can be used for an external mouse or a hard drive (although the company is working on a dedicated hard drive accessory). It comes with a small mouse pad – we didn’t find it useful but the grip surface worked great with our small Logitech laser mouse. The ST60 cost about $30.
Grip surface on the ST60 – great for our mouse
TS1 Accessory Arm – this unit is similar to the side table but has a 3/8″ screw in the middle so you can attach other accessories to the side of the table – for example a microphone or even a ballhead with a camera (although working on the computer will most likely transfer some vibrations to the camera). The TS1 also cost about $30.
TS1 Accessory Arm – for a B camera or a microphone
CH1 Cup Holder Kit – side cup holder which can also be useful to hold a small camera lens, cell phone, car keys and other small items. Includes an insert made from the same grip surface as the table. The CH1 also cost about $35.
CH1 Cup Holder – also good for your smartphone or even an extra lens
LS-25 – Stand adapter. This super robust stand adapter will help you mount your Tabelz table on either a light stand or a C-stand. We found it a bit strange that the body of this unit is made from metal but the locking part seems to be plastic (although supposedly pretty strong one).
The huge LS-25 – only if you really need to work with a light stand
The LS-25 cost about $50, making it one of the more expensive accessories from Tabelz (our recommendation – if you don’t absolutely need it – skip it – the table works great on any half decent tripod you might have).
Real world use
Although the Tabelz SP135M table was designed specifically for the Apple MacBook 13 inch computers (MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air), we had no problem fitting our Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 13″ laptop on top of it.
At first we were pretty skeptical about the effectiveness of the ultra grip surface that comes with the table but as you can see in the demo on our video above – it actually work surprisingly well. It would be nice to have a set of holes for connecting a strap to hold your laptop but from our experience it wasn’t truly necessary.You do get with the table a set of “ultra dots” which are small sticky dots made from the same grip surface material as the table which you can put on the bottom of your laptop – it is a cool addition but we didn’t find a need for it as the regular grip surface seems good enough (you can use it for other things of course).
The Ultra dots
The Tabelz laptop table was thin enough to fit into our camera bag (the really great Lowepro Fastpack 250) along with our laptop and we also really enjoyed using the ST60 side arm with our mouse. We did test the LS-25 and it worked fine, on our studio but as we noted above – for the most part having the SP135M on a good heavy tripod with a ballhead did the trick for us.
Update: Tabelz just informed us that they have a new accessory for the table – the G64 Hard Drive Holder ($50) shipping very soon:
If you are a professional photographer or videographer and you either shoot tethered or need to work with your laptop on location you will need a laptop table. Tabelz solution proved extremely useful in our case especially as we needed the additional side arm for our mouse.
Pro laptop tables is a small niche market with very few players. Maybe the most familiar name in this category is Tether Tools which have their own line of pro tables and accessories. Having been around for a longer time, Tether Tools have more accessories to offer than Tabelz (such as a hard drive storage unit which Tabelz are promising to release this year) , however they are more expensive ($175 for a 13″ table vs. $125 for the same size on Tabelz). Tether Tools also lack the extremely useful ultra grip surface which Tabelz have so you will need to find other ways to secure your laptop to the table such as straps.
Tabelz SP135M Laptop Table – great pro table
If you are not a pro photographer (or videographer), spending $125 on a thin piece of metal might seem like an unnecessary expense (not to mention the accessories which could get you close to the $200 mark) and you can always use a chair or a folding side table. However these are not ideal solutions and in most cases you will not be able to set the height or the angle to your liking and so if you are going to use a laptop on a regular basis we would highly suggest that you consider what Tabelz has to offer.
What we liked
- Great built quality.
- Portable (can be carried easily along with the laptop in almost any camera bag which will fit the laptop itself).
- Very useful range of accessories.
- The Ultra Grip surface actually works (and works very well!).
What we didn’t like so much
- The Ultra Grip surface might wear out eventually (nothing like that happened to us though and it might take years if you take care of it).
- The plate of the ST60 side table does not have a hole for the screw (but it still hold very well when you tighten it down).
- Pricing – while very competitive vs. other pro laptop table solutions, it might still be too high for amateur photographers.
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