A case that tries to merge form and function (April 4th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Digital Treasures
- Thick, protective PU leather - Long-lasting battery - Stylish design - Built-in stand - Can charge non-Apple gear
- Makes iPad significantly heavier, less portable - Latch can obscure screen in landscape mode - Cable system awkward for charging iPad - Long recharge times
It's not often an iPad case comes with a manual, even a short one, but it seems like an increasing number of models include some form of electronics. The Props Power Case needs a manual for its integrated lithium ion battery -- we received an 8,000mAh unit, although a 12,000mAh model is also available. In our review, we'll test how well the case works as both protection and a power supply.
The Props uses a folio design, which snaps in an iPad 2 or third/fourth-generation iPad via four corner pieces. These should hold the device relatively secure, although one of the test sample's corners was a little loose. An unusual design choice is that the lid seals shut with a magnetic latch; unlike, say, the SwitchEasy Canvas, simply closing the lid won't keep it sealed. That being said, the latch seems to do a good job, so it's not much of an issue. A genuine (if still minor) annoyance is that the latch can obscure the very top of an iPad's screen in landscape mode.
If nothing else, the case seems to be built like a tank. The exterior uses a thick layer of PU (a.k.a. bicast) leather, and the interior uses more of the same, but mottled for grip when an iPad is propped up in stand mode. I had my doubts as to whether this would hold an iPad in place, but in practice it's as solid as it needs to be. I should also note that the case is very stylish, and appears to use quality stitching -- time will tell, naturally.
The battery is built into the lid and includes an input port, a power button, an LED charge indicator, and -- rather significantly -- a micro USB output. Instead of plugging directly into an iPad, in other words, the case requires people to marry their Lightning/30-pin cable to a bundled adapter whenever they want to charge their tablet. It's not very sleek frankly, and having to carry around an adapter and a cable to get extra power somewhat defeats the purpose of integrating a battery, versus just buying a separate charging unit.
The Props also weighs down an iPad, making it as heavy as a light laptop like the MacBook Air. That's enough to force people to carry an iPad two-handed, or simply rest it on their legs or a desk. Don't expect to be wandering halls or foreign streets with this case, especially since it's lacking a handle.
One benefit to requiring a cable though is that the case can also charge other devices, such as a smartphone or iPod. The speed with which this happens depends entirely on the target battery naturally, but seems to be enough to replenish something like a Galaxy Nexus in an hour or two, with some energy left over.
To test how well the Props can power an iPad, I fully charged the case, then used it as the sole power source for actively-running third-gen iPad that was already down to 59 percent. Even with the screen on almost constantly, and using apps like Pulse and the App Store on Wi-Fi, the iPad built up to nearly 70 percent charge before the case was fully drained -- five hours later. I was impressed, given that putting an iPad to sleep would of course get far more mileage.
Some words of warning: 3G/4G connections and 3D apps are likely to drain a battery much faster, and the tradeoff for the Props' longevity is a lethargic recharge time. Realistically, the best idea is to recharge the case while you sleep. The included USB charging cable is meant to connect to a computer, but you should be able to get better performance by connecting it to a USB-to-AC wall adapter, if you have one.
At $90, the 8,000mAh model of the Props may be a reasonable deal -- if you happen to fit into an exact niche. That means a person who's traveling often enough to need an extended battery and durable protection, but not so mobile that they have to hold an iPad in their hands for more than a few minutes. For most people, the saner solution may be to get a cheaper case and a dedicated battery, or just be careful about power consumption.