One thing I've always loved about Apple products is their distinctive smell fresh out of the box. I can't describe it as there's really nothing it smells like, but I'm pretty sure Apple employs a Chief Olfactory Officer who is responsible for making all Apple products emit this strangely satisfying cocktail of plastics and aluminium.
The Contega Case for iPad (3) from Pad & Quill has a decidedly more natural aroma produced by the Spanish leather that covers the case. Along with the bindery cloth and satin-finished wood the Contega is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that exudes quality and timelessness - truly rare characteristics in the world of gadget accessories.
There are several folio-style iPad cases on the market, such as the BookBook from Twelve South or the DODOcase, to name two fairly popular ones. There are also tons of cheap knock-offs I won't link to out of respect for the originals. Coincidentally, I already own a BookBook and while it's definitely nice, I find it lacking in quality and usability compared to the Contega. The DODOcase also seems like a nice option and, at first glance, looks a lot like the Contega with its wooden frame. After obsessively comparing my options, I settled for the Contega. Let me detail the reasons.
The Contega is craftsmanship at its best. Everything looks and feels solid, all the parts fit well and the manufacturing tolerances seem very low for a hand-made product.
The Contega holds on to the iPad with what P&Q call "Sure-Lock" bumpers. These rubber bumpers make for a very snug fit which the iPad snaps into with a reassuringly solid feel. I'd wager that it's highly unlikely the iPad will ever accidentally fall out of the Contega, even if I ever happen to drop it.
Bookmark for removing the iPad
As mentioned above, the "Sure-Lock" bumper system holds on to the iPad very firmly. The downside is that it can be a bit difficult to pry the iPad out of the Contega. Thankfully, like every other P&Q case, the Contega comes with the signature "bookmark", which works similarly to those little ribbons some battery compartments have that make it easier to remove the batteries without needing to use your fingernails. The bookmark easily removes the iPad's lower left corner from the firm grip of the bumper and you can then remove it from the bottom right one using your fingers.
Back pocket for papers
The backside of the wooden frame has a compartment for some papers. I don't think I'll be using it, but it's a nice idea for otherwise wasted space.
Wake and sleep the iPad with the cover
The Contega's front cover has a built-in magnet that makes it work just like Apple's Smart Cover for waking and sleeping the iPad. Open the cover and the iPad wakes up, close it and the iPad goes to sleep.
Maybe you've noticed that cupping your hand behind the iPad's speaker greatly improves the volume and overall sound quality. There are even two Kickstarter projects I know of that collected funding to build small plastic clip-on accessories that basically mimic a cupped hand behind the speaker. Pad & Quill apparently also know about this particular flaw in the iPad's speaker design and added a sound channel to the Contega. They carved out the area of the wooden frame surrounding the speaker, effectively redirecting the sound from the speaker towards your ears. It works surprisingly well.
Hole for back camera
I'm probably not going to take many pictures with my iPad, but the hole for the back camera is a testament to Pad & Quill's attention to detail. What's more, the Moleskine-style rubber band that holds the front cover closed doubles as a cover for the camera hole, offering at least some level of protection. Neither the BookBook nor the DODOcase have this, so you'd have to remove the iPad from those cases to take pictures.
When I started comparing iPad cases I quickly decided that I wasn't going to settle for a case just to store the iPad in. I wanted to have a case I could use the iPad in all day, without having to take it out of its case for, say, propping it up to read. The Contega let's you prop up the wooden frame into two grooves on the backside of the front cover. This is great for reading or watching a movie in bed, for example. It only works in landscape mode, though.
Groove on the backside for easier carrying
This is another one of those little details that make the Contega stand out. On the backside of the case, there's a top-to-bottom vertical groove to give your fingers something to grab when you're carrying the Contega. The bonded leather is actually quite slippery and the case with an inserted iPad is pretty heavy. The groove helps prevent the Contega from slipping out of your hands.
Of the three folio-style iPad cases mentioned here, I think the Contega is by far the best choice. It's extremely well-made and the many little details make it a pleasure to use. That said, it's also the most expensive choice. But – and I love saying this – you get what you pay for.
- Solid, high-quality craftsmanship
- Beautiful, timeless and elegant
- Choice of interior colors
- Very good protection
- Prop up the iPad at two angles
- Lots of little, well thought-out details
- Doesn't add too much bulk
What's not so great:
- Well worth the price, but still expensive
- Fairly heavy
- No stylus compartment or holder