The Australian-designed Wallee Headrest brings the iPad into the car with the promise that it's the "most elegant" headrest mount you can buy. What happens when you install it in a really cheap car? The cheap car in question would be mine. A quick tip here, youngsters: If you ever want to get rich, don't get into journalism. Or to put it another way, if I was taking all the bribes people say I am, do you think I'd be driving a seventeen year old car?
Anyway, I covered the Wallee Headrest a few weeks back, and put a request in for a review sample. One arrived last week, and I've spent some time installing and driving around with it to give it what can only be dubbed a road test.
What We Liked
There's no shortage of iPad accessories on the market, and most of them feel like they were made out of the off-cuts left over from recycling old He-Man action figures. Not so the headrest, which is very solidly constructed indeed.
The installation methodology is pretty flexible; a system of Allen keyed bolts that'll tighten around the metal part of the headrest uprights on most cars. The fact that it uses an Allen key for installation is also a plus, even though Allen keys do have that rather cheap IKEA association with them. The thing is, they're nicely ubiquitous; if you did happen to lose the Allen key that comes with the headrest, it's going to be easy to find another.
Once it's solidly installed, the amount of bounce in the unit is remarkably small. My car's something of a shudder magnet -- something to do with the suspension being more than a decade old, I suspect -- but the installed iPad 2 I tested with only moved around a little even on the roughest surfaces.
What We Didn't Like
You'll need to buy a Wallee itself to make any use of the Headrest; while that's quite clearly laid out on the Wallee website, connecting all the bits together can be fiddly, especially if you usually use another case on your iPad. The Wallee itself should be smart cover compatible (I've not tested it, but I can't see why it wouldn't be), but any other case user will have to slip it out of the case, onto the Wallee and then snap it into place.
Speaking of which, the snap sound the Wallee makes when removing from the Headrest does speak well of its securely locked nature, but it's also somewhat stomach-churning. Nobody wants to hear snapping noises around tablets.
Installation is easy enough, but it's not a headrest that you'll easily take off. That's kind of the point, but it does worry me that I'd be leaving an obvious peripheral accessory in the car at all time, which could well be a magnet for car thieves -- in the same way that it's a bad idea to leave a GPS screen mount on your car windshield.
Unlike an in-car DVD player, where you can easily grab it and make changes on the fly if you're entertaining backseat passengers, the fixed position of the Headrest makes it actively difficult to alter anything unless you're already in the back seat.
Should You Buy One?
This is a specific product for a specific niche; it's not suitable with other tablets -- well, not unless Wallee start releasing Wallee units for other tablets, anyway -- and while it's technically removable, it's essentially designed to be a permanent fixture in your car. If you do travel a lot with kids (or impatient adults) in the back seat and use an iPad in that scenario the Headrest is certainly a solidly built unit that delivers exactly what it promises.