Saturday, 18 June 2011

Protect Your Assets - 3 Cases for the original iPad

There's no question that the iPad is a beautiful piece of kit and it is surprisingly robust. But if you're like me and carry the iPad around with you, out and about, on a daily basis you really need something to protect it from the rigours of travel and general knocks and bumps. I've tried a selection of cases and stands over the past year, but I think I've finally got the right solution. In this post, I'll put the original Apple case, Joby Ori and inCase Origami Stand Sleeve head to head.

I bought the original iPad Apple case when I first picked up my iPad. I've always tried to protect my gadgets and I wasn't prepared to risk my new investment on the flight back from Boston to the UK, and the subsequent return trip to Switzerland. The Apple case also doubles up as a stand but it falls a bit short in both case and stand departments. It doesn't provide much in the way of protection other than keeping the front and back of the device safe from picking up scratches, but that's probably true of most cases. As a stand it works well as a prop to support the iPad in landscape mode, but you need a fairly flat surface to guarantee its stability in its portrait orientation. It is fairly thin, which is a plus point for a number of docking devices and stands (I bought the Compass stand at the same time). It doesn't add a huge amount of weight to the device which is also a good thing when holding the device for any length of time, and I like the idea of the book metaphor. Having a case that opens like a book cover does help me think I'm reading a book rather than looking at a tablet. The biggest negative for me is the battle getting the iPad out of the case once it's in place. Getting it in is OK, but it's really tough getting it back out again.

The Joby Ori is a much bigger and sturdier beast altogether. Again it acts as both stand and case but is much more flexible than the Apple case. The name derives from origami (Japanese art of paper folding) and the Ori's primary selling point is the variety of stand configurations it can assume. The Ori adds a certain amount of bulk and weight to the iPad, but the super-strong composite material used certainly gives one the confidence that it can take quite a beating before the reaching the precious contents. I managed to use the Ori with my iHome iA100 docking station but I expect the extra depth that comes from the case will prevent a suitable marriage with other devices. The Ori suffers from the same problem as the Apple case in that it's the devil's own job to get the iPad out once it's in place. And quite frankly, the Ori is not well suited to holding the iPad for extended periods - it's just too heavy and thick. Flexibility and strength also come at cost however, and the Ori is not a solution for those on a tight budget. I paid £80 for mine and then got a hefty C&E import bill to boot. I notice now however that the price on the website is down to £60.

My most recent purchase is the inCase Origami Stand Sleeve, another dual purpose case. Everything you need to know is in the name - it's primarily a sleeve with good all round padding and a faux fur interior to protect the iPad in transit. The tablet is fairly easily removed and replaced, and is then available to be used as is - showing off the beautiful design and fitting into all the gadgets designed around it. I say fairly easy to remove and replace because the sleeve top is quite tight, especially when you first use it, but it does loosen up after a while and becomes much easier to use. The clever part of the design is that the sleeve folds back on itself when empty, and an elastic loop and plastic hook mechanism allows the sleeve to be used as a stand in either portrait or landscape. Whilst not as robust as the Joby it provides a firm enough support to type on in landscape mode and a comfortable enough angle to watch in portrait mode.

inCase Origami Stand Sleeve
iPad 1 in the inCase Origami Stand Sleeve

Of the three designs, I suspect only the inCase sleeve will support both the original iPad and the iPad 2, although clearly the iPad 2 was designed with additional smart case capability. I tend to use the inCase sleeve as my primary case as it is the most versatile and comfortable, and I really prefer using the iPad without any casing when I'm at base. The Joby Ori is my case of choice when travelling on longer journeys, and it really comes into its own when your iPad is your only source of entertainment, especially when watching movies or TV. I passed on the Apple case to a friend who has recently acquired an iPad as it had become surplus to requirements, but it served me well for the first six months, and I think some of the harsh criticism I have read is unjustified.

If you are thinking of buying a case you need to consider a number of things.
  • Do you want to use the iPad with or without a case when not on the move ? - Get a case that's easily removable
  • Do you want to dock the iPad on a regular basis ? - Make sure the iPad and case will fit
  • Do you want a stand facility ? - there are plenty of cheap sleeves out there if this is not a requirement

As an afterthought to this post, I recently bought the inCaseOrigami Workstation for the Apple Wireless keyboard. This is a tasty little case for the keyboard but also allows you to prop up an iPad and use them together as shown below. This combo, with the inCase sleeve for the iPad is the ideal combination for the road warrior.

inCase Origami
iPad 1 in the inCase Origami Workstation