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Entries in Portfolio (5)

Adonit Writer 2 for iPad Hands-on Review

From Kickstarter to Production

The Adonit Writer (for the original iPad) was one of the first Kickstarter projects we remember seeing. There was quite a bit of excitement around the web when the first images of the prototype appeared with its compact Bluetooth keyboard integrated into a portfolio style case.

It seemed like a long time from that first glimpse until the Writer was actually made available on general release and by the time the final production versions of the Writer were available we had moved on to the iPad 2 and the different form factor meant a new version was needed.

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too much longer for Adonit to update the Writer for the iPad 2 and it is this new version, the Writer 2, that each member of the iPad Creative team has been testing for a few weeks.

As part of the testing, this whole review has been typed up with the Adonit Writer for iPad 2, using the iA Writer and SquareSpace apps.

First Impressions

The packaging is impressive; a heavyweight end-capped box that is mostly black, with a nice product shot on the front and 'Adonit yellow' trim detail around the end-cap. This adds to the feeling of quality, a bit like an old book box.

Weighty Issue

The first thing we noticed was that the box (and its contents) was quite a bit heavier than we thought it would be.

In fact, the Writer 2 is really quite weighty in the hand. According to our kitchen scales the Writer 2 weighs in at 2.75lbs (1250gms).

We think most of this weight comes from the sturdy construction of the steel and aluminium keyboard and the magnetic panel on the inside of the case cover.

Magnetic Tilt

This magnetic panel is a lot larger than those used on other portfolio cases but there is a good reason for this. This is part of Adonit Writer's unique design.

Where other cases use a magnet as a catch and to 'sleep' the iPad 2, Adonit have included a larger magnetic panel which does both of those things, as well as its primary function of acting as a magnetic track for the adjustable keyboard.

This magnetic attraction keeps the keyboard very firmly attached to the case whether it is on your lap, a table or most other surfaces where you use your Writer 2. But it also has another very important function.

Due to the clever design of the case, moving the keyboard back and forth across the magnetic section adjusts the angle of the iPad so that the screen is tilted further back as the keyboard is slid further forward.

This arrangement means that the iPad, in horizontal mode, can be angled however you want without sticking to pre-defined positions. This adds an easy to adjust flexibility that in our opinion is a key selling point of the Writer.

Build Quality and Design

We were very impressed with the design of the Writer 2, it is obviously well thought out and easy to use once you get used to where everything is.

The materials used in construction of the Writer case give it a reassuringly robust, solid feel (they also have good environmental credentials being 98% recyclable). We think the Writer would certainly live up to daily use and never gave us cause for concern as far as build quality.

The cradle where you snap the iPad in holds your device very securely but it is really easy to pop the iPad out again for quick access if needed, just by applying pressure to the specific point. Adonit call this feature Quick Eject. It is a nice design touch and has obviously been carefully thought out to work the way you would expect it to.

Adonit's Quick Eject feature

The Keyboard

We wanted to rave about the keyboard in the Adonit Writer 2. It is, after all, the main reason why we wanted to review it in the first place. We always tell it as we see it though and unfortunately, our overall feeling is that this is a missed opportunity for Adonit.

On the positive side, in use we found the keys responsive. The scissor action design means the keys spring back well and whilst typing this review we had bursts of speed that matched other keyboards we have tried, but there was a big problem, or rather, a little one.

The keyboard, in our opinion, is just too small and cramped for everyday use. We are not the kind of chaps who have 'plates of meat' for hands but we found the spacing of the keys too restrictive. In fact, we think the keys are smaller and closer together than the iPad's own on-screen keyboard!

In practice, nearly every paragraph of this review required us to re-type words where we had hit the wrong keys or too many keys at once. We also managed to lock the screen plenty of times by accident as the 'lock' key is just above the perhaps necessarily diminutive Delete key. This may partly be due to our incompetence, but the very tight key spacing really didn't help.

We know there is limited space to work with here, and we realise that it can not of been easy to decide where to compromise in the design, but we were really disappointed with the keyboard size because we were so excited about finally getting hold of this case and it prevents us from unreservedly recommending the Adonit Writer 2.

Comparisons

We have also got a Logitech iPad 2 keyboard case by Zagg that we reviewed a few months ago and although the Logitech is not a portfolio case, the Adonit Writer 2 keyboard feels decidedly cramped in comparison. We thought you may like to see a direct comparison so we took a photo of the two together with the Adonit Writer on top of the Logitech/Zagg case.

The Logitech keyboard uses all but one of the function keys, adding Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo and Redo keys where Adonit have left them blank. Not essential by any means, but useful all the same.

Adonit do include the more essential music transport controls, volume, mute, lock, home, search, slideshow and on-screen keyboard buttons. These all worked flawlessly with no delay.

Seeing the two keyboards together we wondered if the fairly large bezel around the edge of the Writer's keyboard could be reduced to make more room for the keys? We realise it could affect the robust feel of the case but perhaps this would help open up the keyboard spacing.

Carry Case

When you are on the move, quickly folding up the Adonit Writer is a cinch. The heft of the case with iPad in place can actually help weight it down in your hand whilst it is carried.

The magnetic panel will keep the case closed if you carry it as shown in the photo above, with the keyboard closest to the palm of your hand.

Hold it the other way round though, or especially horizontally and turn it over so that the flap faces towards the floor, and the weight of the keyboard will be too much for the magnet to hold and the flap will fall open. It is probably as secure in this regard as Apple's Smart Cover.

This may not be an issue for you and it will depend on whether you put the Adonit Writer in your bag next to other items while in transit which could hook it open fairly easily.

If you use a bag that has a dedicated pocket for your iPad, like the brilliant iPad Messenger Bag we reviewed a back in July, then this won't bother you at all.

Adonit Writer 2 in Rear Pocket/Section of Messenger Bag

Power

The Adonit Writer 2's Bluetooth keyboard is powered by 3xAAA batteries. These should provide you with many hours of usage as the Writer possesses power management features that shut off the keyboard when you close the lid or after a period of inactivity.

Having to purchase replacement batteries is a pain and may or may not bother you. We know it is not very environmentally friendly to use replacement batteries and in our house the AAA batteries have a habit of disappearing into the kids' toys and appliance remotes before we have a chance to use them.

On the whole though, we would prefer a built-in rechargeable battery. Remembering to charge built-in batteries is always a hassle, but at least if it runs out 3 hours into a flight or train/car journey there may be more chance of finding a power outlet to recharge from than a shop selling AAA batteries. 

Final Thoughts

It is obvious that a lot of thought has gone in to the Adonit Writer 2's design and we were impressed with the build quality and robust feel of the case and keyboard.

With its multiple-angle positioning the Writer 2 will suit most situations where you need to use your iPad, as long as it is in the horizontal orientation. When you want to, you can very easily pop the iPad out of the case using the Quick Eject feature.

You may have issues with the size of the keyboard and we have to be honest and say that we think it is too cramped and the keys are too close together. As we said earlier, we think it is a missed opportunity for Adonit to nail the built-in-Bluetooth-portfolio-iPad-case market. You may find otherwise, but even after a couple of weeks use we still felt the same way and it really disappointed us because we so wanted to unreservedly recommend it.

As it is though, we still think the Adonit Writer 2 has many positive points and is one of the best designed cases, aside from the keyboard, that we have seen. Sadly, the keyboard is what we would be buying this case for, so we recommend you try it out first to see if it fits your hands and typing style.

The Adonit Writer is available in two versions, for the original iPad at $79.99, and the version we reviewed for the iPad 2 at $99.99.

Create Great Looking Photo Albums on your iPad with Album App

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We have been waiting for the Album App by Dreamix Studio to receive a much needed update because in our opinion it was missing some key features at release.

Following the recent 2.0 update though we feel the Album App is much more accomplished app and we recommend you have a look at it.

The app now includes essential features such as deleting pages (added in 1.1 to be fair), re-ordering pages, sharing to Facebook and Twitter, plus, importantly for us, AirPrint (so that we can create PDFs of our albums).

Whilst some of the UI interactions are still a little quirky, it is a great app to use for building personal albums that you want to display on the iPad or share with others, including some useful page layouts and fairly straightforward page editing tools.

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If you skip some of the more gimmicky bits and pieces and stick with a fairly plain theme you could even use the Album App to create your portfolio and share it with potential customers.

We have been playing with the app for a couple of weeks and the nicely produced video below from Dreamix Studio is a good representation of the app in action.

As always, we are interested to hear what you have to say, especially if you have tried the app yourself. Check out the video below, and let us know what you think.

Copycat Cases?

A couple of days ago we mentioned the Keycase iPad Folio which has an integrated Bluetooth keyboard and basically turns your iPad into a mobile workstation. Yesterday quality iPad case maker Sena announced a very similiar product. Sena is calling theirs the Keyboard Folio Case.

Here are both cases:

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Keycase iPad Folio (above)

 

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Sena Keyboard Folio Case (above)

Quality and Similarities

As you would expect from Sena, their case seems to include superior build quality and craftmanship, the materials used by Sena look a lot nicer. If you look at the photos, Sena's case seems to have the iPad set back further from the keyboard and a different closing mechnism for the case.

Upon examining the specs for both cases though they are virtually the same though. In the screen captures below of the integrated keyboard there are slight differences in button layout/functions, but both are made from soft silicone and claim that they are "spill-proof".

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Keycase iPad Folio (above)

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Sena Keyboard Folio Case (above)

 

Sena are only taking pre-orders at the moment, with shipping dated for 7th October. Their case will cost you $129 (~£84) if you order now (normally $149), whilst the UK distributor for the Keycase version is showing that they are out of stock, with more arriving soon. The price of their version is £59.95 (~$92).

We are not seriously claiming that anyone is copying anyone else, but you cannot deny the similarities in design and keyboard layout between these two recently announced cases.

Any thoughts on which one you would go for?

Guest Post: I rest my case, in search of an iPad case…

Today we have a special Guest Post from Paul Westlake, a Photographer and iPad user we have followed on Twitter and Facebook for a while now. Paul has just taken delivery of the Marware Eco-Vue iPad case, so we asked him if he would let us know what he thought of it. Paul's review, posted on his Tumblr, has been reproduced below with his kind permission.  Over to you Paul... 

I rest my case, in search of an iPad case

As lovely a design as the iPad is, from the first time I took it out of the box, I knew I would need to protect it in some way…

Not just from the inevitable bumps and knocks when putting it down, but with two over-eager sub-6 year olds wanting to play with Dad’s ‘Big iPhone’ 24/7 I knew that I needed some sort of case to offer my pride and joy a little extra protection.

Both the Apple Store and PC had a very small range of cases at first - The majority of which were slip-in envelope style cases, which were fine for transporting the iPad from one location to the next, but offered zero protection when in use.

I wanted something that would protect the device both in transit and also when in use.

After a little searching, and some very positive reviews, I decided to go for an Eco-Vue for iPad case from Marware - However, it seemed like I wasn’t the only one, as finding one in stock in the UK (I believe they are also on back-order in the US) was next to impossible.

Logo

Amazon had them available for pre-order, so I placed an order with them (my ‘Prime’ account means that postage was free). The lead time was initially 4-5 weeks, which then moved back to 8 weeks at one point (although it actually arrived yesterday which was 5 weeks in the end). I paid £29 for mine, I see today they are available for £34.99

Compared to the Apple iPad Case

I knew I couldn’t wait 5 weeks with no protection, so I bought Apple’s case whist I was waiting for the Eco-Vue to arrive - As it turns out, this gave me an excellent ‘benchmark’ item to compare the Marware with.

The comparison between the two is like night and day… Remember that BOTH cases retail for £30 (although some Amazon marketplace sellers are selling the Marware for £55 + delivery, so be aware!).

I never really loved the Apple case to be honest - I thought the edges were not very well finished, I hated the fact that the cover material looked filthy all the time (a baby wipe cleans it up well by the way), but it was very slim, protected the back on the iPad, and made typing much easier.

Open Case

Then the Eco-Vue arrived… Wow!

I am very much quality oriented, so paying a few £s more for a product doesn’t bother me if the quality of the product warrants it - As it turns out, the Marware WASN’T extra over the Apple Case.

The feeling of ‘quality’ is really important to me - I am using the iPad to show potential Wedding clients my Photo Portfolio… Having the iPad in a tatty (dirty) looking case doesn’t portray the initial impression I am after.

The Eco-Vue portrays a feeling of ‘Class and Quality’ - That’ll do for me!

The case has a very solid, durable feel to it and the workmanship is fantastic - From the initial embossed logo and stitching on the ‘sustainable’ leather exterior to the lovely ‘suede effect’ internals.

It is a really nicely engineered case -  It’s fit is absolutely PERFECT. All the ports are accessible without even a hint of poor fit.

Ports

The iPad itself slips into the case from the top - It is then held in place by folding a strap over the top, which slips down behind the iPad.

I must admit I was sceptical as to how this would stop the device falling out it you tipped it on it’s end, but when testing (holding it upside down and shaking it!), I have seen no movement at all.

As a ‘belt and braces’ measure I have added a bit of velco to the inside of the case where the strap meets it - Perfect.

It is the little details that give you the impression that this was designed by someone who actually thought about how it would be used, (which is not always the case) for example;

The kick-out stand to raise the iPad for typing is ‘held’ in place when not needed by magnets - nice touch.

Stand

The addition of an elastic strap that you put your hand through when using in portraits mode - Gives you far more confidence that you aren’t going to drop the iPad.

Strap

As you can tell, I am more than happy with the case so far…

The case is ‘strong’ enough to support the iPad in Portrait and Landscape modes, which makes it great as a photo frame and for watching movies:

Portrait

Landscape

What would I change?

I wish it had a small pocket in which you could place a micro-fiber cleaning cloth or business cards, but that is a VERY minor thing.

It does add a fair bit of weight to the iPad - Personally I don’t mind this all that much, but should be something you should think about if you are considering the case.

When fitted, the case is about 1/3 thicker than the Apple Case - This does obviously offer more protection, but also makes the iPad look far more ‘bulky’.

Bottom line, if you want a perfect fitting, beautiful leather case that shows off your iPad to the fullest, this is the way to go.

For the same £30 you will spend on Apple’s own case, I think it is a no-brainer… I would even go as far to say even when I factor in buying the Apple Case as a ‘for now’ solution (essentially meaning the Marware has cost me £60), it would be worth it.

I know a number of resellers say they will have stock from the start of August - I suggest you get yourself on a waiting list now. 

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Paul is a Bedford based Professional Wedding/Portrait Photographer and Apple nut.

His background is working as a Training Consultant, which taught him how to deal with the most difficult part of being a Photographer... Influencing people with absolutely no authority!

We recommend you check out Paul's Professional portfolio at SmugMug but he posts some great photos on Flickr too.  You can also check out Paul's blog here.

iPad Case Roundup - Portfolio Style

For Photographers, Designers and other visual artists, one of the most exciting things about the iPad must surely be the potential to use it as a digital portfolio.  Some have tried this on the iPhone with varying degrees of success, but the small screen size is not really up to the task of replacing a proper printed portfolio in the hands of potential clients and/or employers, and there are some who say that the iPad cannot replace a physical, printed portfolio either.

Having seen how beautiful original artwork and photography can look in the iPad, we think it does have the potential to replace a printed portfolio for the more receptive client / employer, with the screen size being a close proximate to the form factor when held in the hand(s). These cases may also appeal to those wanting a more business-like way of transporting their iPad.

So here are our top 3 Portfolio style cases at the moment:

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Marware Eco-Vue

A quality case made from Eco-leather (involving a tanning process that impacts less on the environment), the Eco-Vue holds the iPad fairly securely inside a lovely suede (non-scratchy) interior pocket which fits all around three sides of the iPad with an open top side where you slip the iPad in.

The case is kept closed by an elastic strap, evoking memories of those portfolio cases many have carried around, or the desirable moleskin notebooks.

This is one of the most portfolio-like cases we have seen so far and the Eco-Vue looks like a class product, you can get a detailed look in several video reviews on YouTube.

As you can see here, the Eco-Vue cover also folds back so that the iPad can be stood up horizontally and used for viewing your media, held with a built-in hand strap, or even used with a little kick stand that flips out so that you can type on the iPad in 'table-top computer' mode.

 

Tuff-Luv multi-view

Available in several materials and colours, this case admittedly looks a little bit odd with all of the studded poppers on the front, but these poppers are part of the case's unique design which enables your iPad to be set at one of five viewing angles, between 20 and 70 degrees.

By detaching the strap around the front, folding back the cover and snapping one of the poppers back in you select the angle you require.  It is a nice implementation of the multi-view model.

The black Napa leather version is £39.99 at i-nique (with Free delivery!), but we quite fancy the Saddleback version pictured here, which is being sold for £54.99.

 

The Wallet

Whilst not actually available yet, The Wallet by Happy Owl Studio is aimed towards those iPad owners who need to carry a few more bits and bobs along with them. A bit more 'business-like' in its stylings, The Wallet will be available around late June and yes, they are accepting International orders, although their site FAQ does say that they are talking to International distributors for their cases.

From the website:

The Wallet has pockets for cash and change, credit cards, business cards, pens, a stylus, a passport and a mobile phone. Plus, you'll still have plenty of extra space in the larger pocket for your MiFi, keys and more! Style and function united.

Happy Owl Studio is taking deposits of $15 towards the introductory pricing of $64.99 for this case which can be used in the usual landscape stand orientation and there is a version aimed especially at Female users of the iPad called The Clutch, available in Red or Blue, for the same price.

Deposits made are being used to determine the initial run quantities, so this might be a bit of a risk, but Happy Owl Studio have been promising these cases for a while now and demand seems to be high, so there is a good chance that you will get your case, but you have been warned, they are not real just yet.

Have you used, or are you planning to order, one of these Portfolio cases?  Any thoughts about the cases we have chosen? Let us know in the comments.

Don't miss the other posts in this iPad Case Roundup series:

iPad Skins and Shields

iPad Slip Cases and Pouches

iPad Bags

iPad Wooden case, Book style case and a DIY book option