Don’t Panic! I Love This Case, Despite Its Stupid Problems [Review]

The Don’t Panic case is like a pair of comfy slippers for your iPad. As the name suggests, just using it is relaxing, the iPad-acessory equivalent of a valium or a well-mixed Old Fashioned at the end of a long day.

The floppy felt and leather sleeve is also a little like your embarrassing uncle. He has some horrible habits, and annoys you to death some times, but you can’t help loving him despite his foibles.

The Don’t Panic started off life as a Kickstarter project, and has continued to evolve even after shipping the first round of orders to the original supporters. I have tried out both v1.0 and now v2.0. I love them: the Don’t Panic is one of my favorite iPad cases ever. But it also drives me batshit crazy.

Don’t Panic! I Love This Case, Despite Its Stupid Problems [Review]

The engine of the case.

The case is a felt sleeve, stiffened with leather panels. The iPad is held in place by four corner-straps (pick the color which matches your iPad and you won’t notice the straps are there) and the case is held closed by a wraparound leather “tail” with an absurdly strong magnet in its tip.

This magnet, combined with the moving metal plates inside the leather panels, is both the case’s best feature and its biggest drawback. Think of it as The Ring in Lord Of The Rings and you’re pretty much there.

The Good

The Don’t Panic is light. Very light. This is thanks to the felt construction. It is also soft, tough and provides a surprising degree of protection. But the real feature is its amazing flexibility. The magnet-tipped strap keeps the case closed tight, and when you open it you can use the same strap to keep it folded open, or to make an A-frame stand. This stand is sturdy enough to stay upright on a sofa or bed, even as you bounce around.

Moving the sliding plate on the front panel lets you stick the magnet at different points. It’s best to check out the guide over at the product site for the full run down, but here are a few things I use it for.

Don’t Panic! I Love This Case, Despite Its Stupid Problems [Review]

Prop it up anywhere.

Typing. You can bend the case to a good angle for typing, and it’s comfier and sturdier than the Smart Cover.

Reading. Wrap the tail around your hand, or around your thigh (yup, it’ll grab on tight) or drape it over your knees, or balance it on your belly or chest (without the iPad’s sharp edge cutting into your ribs as you lie down). The case adapts to any part of your body.

Traveling. It doesn’t slip, and you can prop it up on almost any surface. The case is also low key enough not to look like an iPad, and lightweight enough to carry all day.

Don’t Panic! I Love This Case, Despite Its Stupid Problems [Review]

Peek-a-boo!



Taking photos. The original shipped without a camera-hole. The current model has one, and the foldaway case and handy strap make extended photo-shoots pretty easy. IT’s also possible to slip off the top right strap to get more access to the camera, for adding accessory lenses and so on.

And more. If you can think of it, the Don’t Panic can do it. It even hangs safely from a refrigerator door thanks to the magnet.

The Bad

The magnet sticks to everything. And I mean everything. With the original case, I managed to zap my credit card, and to yank a cast-iron teapot containing boiling water onto The Lady’s lap. Thankfully she finagled the hot pot to avoid any spills, but it could have been a lot worse.

V2.0 has a clever metal flap (encased in the tip of the tail) which flips onto the magnet and blocks most of its magic magnetic rays, and also lets you clamp things like earbuds and styluses into its fold. This has (so far) protected my credit cards, but I have had the tail grab a few metal objects and try to yank them from their perches.

The second problem is heat. Between the iPad 3’s laptop-like heat output, and the insulating properties of felt (which is thick, matted wool alter all), there’s quite a build up inside. In everyday use this isn’t really a big deal, but if you’re watching movies (which the case is perfect for, especially in bed) then the iPad 3 will get pretty toasty.

Don’t Panic! I Love This Case, Despite Its Stupid Problems [Review]

Whatever you do, Do. Not Panic.

The iPad 2? No problem at all.

The Verdict

As you can see, the Don’t Panic is somewhat conflicted. V2.0, with its safer magnet, camera hole and reliable sleep/wake trigger, is suitable to be your everyday, always-on case. And if my iPad didn’t get so hot when inside it, the Don’t Panic would be on it all the time.

As it is, I only use it for reading and other non-demanding applications (non-demanding both for me and for the case). If you have an iPad 2, or one of those iPad 3s which don’t heat up, then this case is highly recommended, with a 4-5 star rating. If you have heat trouble, or you use a cast-iron teapot, then my rating drops somewhat lower – around 3 out of five.

So there you have it. Like the case, this review is also somewhat conflicted. If you can live with its idiosyncrasies, the Don’t Panic is truly excellent. If not, then move along and spend your $99 ($79 intro offer) eleswhere.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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