SwitchEasy updates a classic folio case for the new iPad. (March 26th, 2012)
Product Manufacturer: SwitchEasy
- Attractive, functional design
- Polycarbonate shell provides extra protection
- New latchless lid
- New stand grooves support more viewing angles
- Sleep/wake magnets don't work on charcoal model
- Black case prone to showing marks
- Lid no longer folds back for typing
- Tough to undo velcro for stand mode
- iPad can slip in some stand positions
For the third-generation iPad, most case makers have been content to tweak existing designs to fit the thickness of the new tablet. The Canvas, by SwitchEasy, is the one of the few exceptions to the rule. Despite the popularity of the original case, SwitchEasy has decided to make some fundamental design changes this time around -- the question for this review, of course, is whether they've been for the better.
The essentials are still intact. The Canvas uses a folio design, with its namesake stitched material wrapping around the back and the front. Separating it from most folios, though, is the fact that the iPad snaps into a polycarbonate shell, giving it a second layer of protection. Smooth cutouts nevertheless expose all of the ports, buttons, and switches, as well as the camera lens. The latter is an important point -- some other folio designs can cover up the camera, rendering it useless.
The case's lid, meanwhile, serves a couple of purposes apart from protection. After detaching part of the shell from some velcro, an iPad can be put into a standing or typing position by aligning ridges on the shell with grooves in the lid's microfiber lining. Here a change in the new case is that the grooves are no longer large and well-defined; instead they cover the whole interior of the lid, and in thin, wave-like patterns. For the most part these still anchor an iPad quite securely, and in several different positions, although an iPad might slip now and then in a few of them. Deeper, straighter grooves would've been preferable.
Perhaps the most welcome evolution in the new Canvas is that the lid no longer uses a latch, which on the old case was sometimes difficult to undo. Sleep/wake magnets serve double-duty in the update, keeping the lid shut. This actually works surprisingly well; I imagine that nearby jostling objects could wedge the lid open, but in most circumstances even shaking the case while it's upside-down won't pop it. A small tab makes (intentionally) opening the lid a breeze.
One annoyance is that the lid is no longer creased, which means that it can't be folded back into a convenient typing position. The only equivalent option for typing is to crane the iPad back as far as possible in stand mode, which is alright, but means an iPad can bounce slightly if a person is typing with any speed. It's a strange step backwards.
Options and Glitches
The Canvas comes in four different colors, all of which were tested: black, red, brown, and charcoal (gray). Although my preference has so far been for brown, each of the options is attractive in its own way. One warning: during testing the black case managed to pick up white markings within a matter of hours, which doesn't bode well for it staying attractive in the long run.
More seriously, the sleep/wake function didn't function at all in the charcoal case I was sent. Anecdotes I've heard suggest this could actually be a widespread issue, so I would avoid charcoal entirely until SwitchEasy gives the all-clear. It's rather unfortunate, because a cautious buyer is effectively limited to the red and brown cases, at least at the moment.
The only other significant drawback with the Canvas is the velcro attachment mentioned earlier. It puts up a lot of resistance to being undone, which can make using the stand mode a little awkward. At the same time this is probably a fair tradeoff, since it keeps an iPad from flapping around when the case is in regular use.
The Canvas remains one of the best folio options for the iPad. It provides an extra layer of protection in a gorgeous package, and eliminating a latch just makes it more convenient. If it weren't for production problems, the new version could easily score 4.5 out of 5 -- it makes using an iPad feel just like reading a hardcover book, while still being eminently practical for people who take their iPad outside of the house.