In this edition Best Case Scenario, we're checking out new iPad sleeves from Timbuk2 and Haul, a hardshell case from iSkin, and we've got a special edition of Face Off, our new section where we review two products that are similiar in their utility, but different in their performance. This week, we're taking a look at iPad cases that transform you tablet device into a horizontal-standing Netbook, so you can show off to your Windows-loving brethern that you don't need to drop $300 on a cheap computer just to have the same mobile functionality as a full-sized notebook. Who's laughing now, eh?
There's utilitarian and then there's stylish, and then there's something perfectly in between. Timbuk2's Scuba Sleeve for iPad belongs smack dab in the middle of this spectrum. We might sound slightly biased because the design of this case features the perpendicular slope of San Francisco's bustling Market Street, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this sleeve doesn't have other notable qualities.
Inside the stretchy neoprene sleeve, your iPad rests comfortably cradled by black faux fur interior, which will keep the device warm in the cold winters, and safely padded should your device go down with you. The sleeve is also thin enough to fit inside your large bag or backpack, and the velcro lid enclosure ensures that crumbs and dust won't infiltrate your tablet device. Timbuk2 is generally known for making bike-friendly bags, and it appears that this iPad sleeve falls into the same criteria. The Scuba Sleeve for iPad comes in black with red or grey lettering. Hopefully, Timbuk2 will release other designs, so that you're not forced to only pledge allegiance to the city by the Bay. ($35.00)
The iSkin Vu is incredibly hard to put on. Once we actually put on the case, we really didn't want to have to bother with taking it off. But that's all right, because the case was so sturdy, we had no problem "accidentally" dropping the device on the floor (as we did a couple of times during Labor Day weekend…oops) because we knew it was well protected. However, while the iPad might seem indestructable in this hard shell candy case, the environmentally-friendly soft plastic was not very finger-friendly, and made it sort of difficult for us to push the top button and the volume switch. Additionally, the way that you access the ports and the orientation-lock switch is a bit of a struggle, but at least you can rest assured knowing that dirt and dust will stay out of your ports. You can also slide off the bottom part of the case to reveal the connection port, enabling you to effortlessly dock the iPad to type up emails. ($65.99)
These eccentric iPad cases are made out of the rubber printer blankets that were used during the offset printing process. Chances are, this iPad case has printed a couple thousand newspapers, catalogues and labels at one point in time, which makes it sort of ironic that you're stashing your tablet reading device into a case made out of material that used to print words.
On the outside, the folio fully wraps your iPad in its tough rubber material, while the inside is lined with brightly-colored fluorescent felt. Considering the heft and weight of this thing, we don't see anything awful happening to your iPad anytime soon, unless you physically throw the device on the ground yourself (but if you do that, you're just asking for it, so...). However, this thing is bulky, and its rubber casing means that it might get a bit difficult to wiggle it out of a purse or backpack. At least if there's a war, your iPad will fit right in. ($79.00 AUS)
Oh man. We haven't seen a Face Off this riveting since that terrible John Travola/Nicholas Cage movie. Anyway, you know how that Apple-branded keyboard dock can be a tad inconvenient to travel with? Well, both Kensington and the Brando Workshop have come up with iPad cases that incorporate Bluetooth keyboards and virtually turn your iPad into a portable Netbook. The idea is actually pretty cool, but we were curious to see how the cases work and if the idea of a tag-along keyboard was worth the price.
First things first, both the cases have the exact same keyboards, down to a T. The power switch is on the side and there's a button that you press to pair it with your iPad. It took us a moment to get used to typing on the soft-shelled, silicon keyboard, but after banging out a few words, we eventually got the hang of it. However, because it's such a tiny keyboard, we expected we'd mess up once in awhile, just like on a Netbook. The keyboard includes keys for returning back to home screen, skipping songs, muting the volume, and bringing up the on-screen keyboard, in case you need it to type in a symbol of some sort. Both keyboards require that you plug them via MicroUSB to charge, and we can see this become an inconvenience if someone brings their iPad with them as their only computing device (though you could probably piggy back on the iPad's USB wall charger).
Despite having the exact same keyboards, both cases fell short in their own ways. Once placed inside the Kensington KeyFolio, the iPad stood up rather sturdily in its horizontal orientation, but the leather band at the bottom stuck out a bit, leading us to believe that this isn't a perfect fit. Fortunately, when we set the iPad so that it protruded out beyond the keyboard, we could watch Mad Men comfortably without any worry that the device would slip and ruin the TV-on-DVD experience. Because no one comes in between us and Don Draper. No one.
The Brando Workshop iPad case, on the other hand, felt flimsy from the get go. When we set the iPad on the table to type, we were actually worried that the device would topple over on our fingers. When we folded it up the outer flat so that'd be out of our way, it sort of tilted the keyboard upward, which made it feel a tad awkward because of our typing style. And when we closed up the portfolio-style case, it's sort of felt like compacting a large sandwich so that it wouldn't all fall apart. And don't even ask about trying to watch movies on it--the case isn't even sturdy enough to hold up the iPad in an angled position.
Both cases have pretty phenomenal keyboards, and we love that the iPad is in horizontal orientation as we're typing. But, if you're looking to use the iPad as the Netbook it could have become, then the Kensington case is the one to make this possible.
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