What better way to test a ruggedized iPad case than an excursion outdoors? And what better way to test a heavy and bulky ruggedized iPad case than on a bike trip, where the extra ounces and inches won’t really be felt?
That’s why, when we headed out this past weekend on a bike tour to the *Delta de L’Ebre* (Ebro Delta) in southern Catalonia, I saddled up, and I zipped the iPad 3 into an a G-Form Extreme Portfolio for the iPad 3. Short answer: It was invaluable, if a little unwieldy. Long answer — read on.
The G-Form cases are made from something called PORON XRD, plus various other secret ingredients. For our purposes, what we need to know is that the material is fairly light, flexible, and feels like a kind of shiny, floppy foam which stiffens on impact and — according to G-Form’s own publicity — absorbs 90% of the energy of that impact.
This particular case — the Extreme Portfolio — is a folio-style case with an extra hard protective sheet in the front flap, and a zipper which holds the case closed. If you open it and fold the front flap around back, you can zip it open, too.
It’s rugged. I had sworn to take my old iPad 1 with me after spending my last two-day bike trip worrying about the iPad 3 jiggling around inside my pannier. With the Extreme Portfolio, though, I was happy to sling it into the rear bags without fretting. Not only is it tough, but the whole case is fat enough even to protect from a corner-on smash.
This let me enjoy the route (and battle into the headwinds) without constantly worrying whether the bump I just hit would damage the iPad within. That kind of peace of mind is gold when you’re riding in such relaxing isolation.
The case is also something of a disguise. When you stop to check the GPS, you don’t always want to broadcast that you’re carrying expensive gear. The Extreme Portfolio makes it look more like you’re using a Dell laptop. Saying that, some kids did call across the street to me while I was waiting for The Lady to pick up some bread and cheese. “Is that a tablet?” said the little boy. I told him it was an iPad. “The iPad 2?” said his little sister. I started to tell them that it was the new one, without a number, but they ran away.
Even if the case is left unzipped, I felt safe enough as long as it was closed inside a well-organized pannier. And when we needed to jump on the train double-quick when coming home, I was pleased to have the iPad tucked inside the Extreme Portfolio when I tossed the panniers into the railway car before getting in with my bike.
I think the case is kind of good looking, in a retro-future kind of way. But many may not. What can’t be disputed is the bulk and the weight — 570 grams (1.26 pounds) according to the average of three readings on my highly accurate kitchen scale. Add in an iPad 3 (4G) and you hit 1,234 grams (2.72 pounds).
On the other hand, this isn’t much compared to the tools you’ll be carrying, or the panniers themselves (short trip), or the tent, sleeping and cooking gear (longer trip). It’s also a lot lighter than hard cases.
Another downside is the lack of a magnet to sleep/wake the iPad slumbering within. Or so I thought — the case’s front flap is probably too far from the screen to make this practical, and as you already have to undo a hefty zip every time you open the case, a quick slide-to-unlock is no big deal.
Finally, it isn’t waterproof. My panniers are, though, so I don’t care so much about that.
If you’re looking for a svelte, fashionable case, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a case that offers a surprising amount of protection for a soft, lightish package, then the $90 Extreme Portfolio might be for you. And if you regularly go bike touring or mountain biking and like to take you iPad along, then you might consider it essential.