It could easily be imagined that the bookbinding industry is struggling to survive these days. As books cross over in ever-increasing numbers into the digital world, the demand for physical books have disappeared — and with it, the niche crafts that help create them. Ironic, then, that what’s breathing life into the industry now is that which began to kill it: e-books, e-readers and tablets (and in this case, the iPad 2 specifically).
Like the FieldFolio case Killian reviewed last week, Pad & Quill’s Contega Case for iPad 2 ($90) is a devilishly handsome iPad case that harnesses the mystic craft of bookbinding to create a stylish book-like home for the iPad 2. Unlike the FieldFolio though, Pad & Quill has given the Contega a large dose of practicality.
There’s so much to like about this case. Case? No — it’s more of a finely crafted iPad display cabinet, or perhaps a hand-built iPad home. I couldn’t, for some reason, shake the sense that the Contega would be the case Gandalf might give Bilbo Baggins to keep his iPad safe; that’s probably due to the richness the Contega’s wood and leather construction evokes (but it also might be the fact that I’ve recently been having dreams I’m an elf on the back of a Great Eagle).
And it really does look amazingly like a book when closed. The Baltic birch Pad & Quill chose for the interior of the case gives the magical illusion of pages sandwiched between the leather covers.
It was also nice knowing that my iPad was safe inside something as sturdy as wood and thick leather. I dropped my iPad recently (I know, cringe away) while it was in a much slimmer, but much less protective case; the case mitigated the damage, but my iPad still came out of the ordeal with small spider cracks around one corner. But had it been in the Contega, I’m certain my iPad would have come away unscathed.
Part of that feeling of security comes from the fact that the case simply wouldn’t let go of my iPad. Besides the precision-cut enclosure, four rubber strips (one at each corner) make sure that, once in, the iPad won’t budge. The case comes with extra custom tips extra rubber strips of different thickness to customize the fit. In order to help lift the iPad out of the case, there’s a red ribbon (in the guise of a bookmark). The ribbon helped, but I did just fine prying it out through the headphone and power button cutouts.
So it looks great, and it’s the Secret Service of cases where protection is concerned. But here’s where I was really surprised: It’s also highly practical.
The case has two grooves on the inside of it’s front cover — which, by the way, is magnetic, to wake/sleep on open/close — for the case to rest in. The grooves are fairly close together, yet still manage to provide a good choice of angles: a sharp angle for watching movies when the iPad is more or less at eye level and one at about 45 degrees that works when the iPad is lower and is better for typing (though it’s not ideal — see below). because it has such a large base when set like this, it’s also very stable — even on a lap.
There’s also shallow hidden pocket for documents that’s so hidden I didn’t discover it until very late in the review. Lastly, the cutout for the speaker also does a great job of amplifying sound from the iPad’s speaker.
While it’s not a pig of a case, the Contega isn’t going to win any friends in the ultralight set. Then again, it isn’t meant to be, and Pad & Quill have done a great job of keeping mass and volume to a minimum for what it is.
It could sometimes be a little tricky to access things like the volume controls and power button through the cutouts.
My biggest gripe is that, even at the shallowest resting angle, it’s still wasn’t shallow enough to be ideal for long typing sessions; ironically, this is not the most ideal case for writers.
A tough, protective case wrapped in a sophisticated demeanor matched with near-flawless manners; how Pad & Quill can offer a product this superb for such comparatively paltry price is beyond us.