In the massive ecosystem that is the iPad case market, there are a few recurring designs, and a few unique specimens. Of the recurring models, there are those similar to Apple’s design, those that cover only the back, and those that include handles for “clipboard”-type use. With their new IC-1000 case, Cyber Acoustics went with the popular Apple design, but modified it in ways that few other companies have done. (I think everyone has seen Apple’s iPad case by now. It is a thin flocked plastic cover with a hinge on the front about an inch from the center edge. When the front cover is folded back and inserted into a tab on the back, the whole case forms a wedge that can be set down on the long side for typing, and on the short side for watching videos or for reading.) I was sent one of the CA units and have been using it off-and-on for a few months, in an effort to determine where it bests the competition and where it falls short.
When the case was first taken out of the packaging, what struck me was the softness of the leather. The finish is a glove-like, well-seasoned natural texture that begs to be touched. There is a little padding, so that it gives to the touch, but there is a firm structural element underneath. Inside, there is a heavy felt lining that you know will never scratch the screen of your Precious.
To hold the iPad into the case, there is a heavy plastic frame sewn into the inside back cover. It has grippers that slip over the corners of the iPad. It is a firm, yet flexible material, and I have never worried that it would chip, break, or loose it’s grip on my iPad. The machine stitching is tight and firmly ingrained into the rear frame. When the iPad is attached, there is no flexing or movement between the rear cover and the iPad – it’s a rock-solid mount.
The overall design, as I said, mimics Apple’s design of folding back into a keyboard stand. The front hinge is very pliable, so much so that I worried it would wear out. (That’s one reason I tested this for so long – no one wants a case that’s going to fall apart in two months!) Through all my carrying and using it – being slid into my Tom Bihn Cafe bag or tucked under my arm for transport, being opened and closed and folded back constantly, and being removed from the frame to answer questions about how it’s attached, the hinges and frame look the same as the day I first pulled them from the plastic. The hinges are just as easy to fold, yet are not looser.
On the back of the case, there is a tab of the same leather sewn in an inch of so from the center of the edge. This allows you to tuck the front cover in and form a wedge that holds your iPad at the typing angle nicely. Again, tight stitching, no wear, and good function.
As added bonuses, Cyber Acoustics has added two small elastic straps on the corners of the case, and a wide strap running longways down the inside front cover. The corner straps allow you to keep it closed or fully open without worrying about the cover flapping apart. The wide band is the perfect place to slide your hand under and lets your fingers grip the edge of the iPad. In this manner, you can securely use it as a clipboard for one handed typing or filling in forms. (I often use a company iPad in this manner, and we recently moved to a case with a similar strap for this purpose. Before, I was constantly worrying that I might drop it, but with the simple addition of that strap on the back, I’m much less concerned about that.)
People I talk with looking for iPad cases usually want two things: protection and easy access. If the case is too fiddly, with zippers and tabs and such, they are not interested. Likewise, if the thing is like Fort Knox to get into, it defeats the ease of use that is a hallmark of the iPad. The corner straps, while secure, are not so strong as to require a firm hand to engage or remove. They are just enough to hold the cover open to prevent anything from getting between the screen and the flap – like keys, or papers with staples. Holding the case open for one handed use, they are secure, but I’m glad that I can get my fingers through the strap and around to the screen bezel all the same.
So, with all these positives, where are the negatives? Is this the perfect case? Not quite. There are a few things that bother me. First is the overall looseness of the hinges. They have not showed any signs of wear in the months I’ve used them, but the stability of the case in the wedge mode is not stable enough that I feel comfortable sitting it on the narrow end and walking away while a video is playing. It’s very back-heavy, but not bad if you’re holding it with one hand. I’m sure part of this is because of the tab being farther from the edge on the back than Apple’s is because of stitching, but for whatever reason, there is no solid video mode with this case.
The other ding is in the area of aesthetics. The plastic corner grips, no matter how secure and functional, look a little homemade. Not a big thing to me, but I’ve heard the comment from others on more than one occasion. They look as though they would provide cushion in the case of a fall, but I don’t think they would. They’re just kind of knobby.
All told, I give this case 4 out of five stars. Materials and workmanship are excellent, and design is top shelf. The overall looseness, which contributes to the case not standing correctly in video mode is a problem, but it’s not bad enough to lose more than one star.
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A gadget nerd from childhood, Smythe has always been drawn to solving everyday problems with clever tools. An Apple fan since his Mac Plus in 1987, he's sure the company will one day do great things, despite being perpetually doomed by their competition.