For a product made of grass, the Grove case for iPad 2 feels remarkably solid. Where it departs from many other hard cases that incorporate wood is its feather-like weight. Those two things combine to make one of the better and more beautiful cases that you can buy for an iPad, but they come at a price.
Grove has a history of making cases made of bamboo for Apple devices dating back to the iPhone 3GS. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to handle several generations worth of their products and I can tell you that they’ve refined their process incredibly well.
The cases are made in the US, by a single team in Portland Oregon. Everything from the design to manufacturing and customer support is all in one place. This kind of family feel translates to the quality of products and to the customer support, which has traditionally been excellent. I’ve seen them take handle case splitting and fit issues with care and consideration, which is a must in a premium case manufacturer.
Grove’s case for iPad 2 carries on the reputation for quality, offering you a polished and precision fitted case made of one of the most attractive organic materials around. There is little about this case that doesn’t scream care and consideration.
The leather cover is offered in a set of designs from artists and they also offer a custom option. The leather that is used is of high quality and the laser etching is detailed and lovely. The stitching is great throughout and the interior side of the ‘smart cover’ is lined in suede, which will polish your screen when you carry it around.
The cover detaches and attaches in a similar fashion to Apple’s official Smart Cover, and, although there are magnets in it, the ends of the spine are capped in bamboo to prevent scratching and for aesthetics. This is the detail I’m talking about, great stuff.
Precision-cut ports, all sanded and polished for comfort and access make using the switches and buttons a breeze. The power switch has a small bamboo plunger assembly which makes activation feel super snappy. There’s even a small hole drilled for the microphone on top, so you can still Facetime away.
The mute switch is easy to activate with your forefinger, although if you use your thumb, you may have some issues. The volume buttons are well clear of any edges.
If you use non-Apple headphones, you may have some issues with the jack though. It’s very deeply recessed and, while it worked for me with other headphones that featured the same ‘cylinder’ shaped jack as Apple’s do, it’s definitely a no-go with a wide array of other third-party headphones. A wider notch would be a great tweak here.
The edges, while not perfectly flush, feel that way as they are nicely chamfered towards the edge of the case, allowing your thumbs and fingers to slide naturally off the edge while swiping. One handed holding for reading and such is made very easy by the notch on the right for the tip of the cover and the notch on the left for the spine.
The case does support the horizontal standing feature that the Smart Cover enables, although you need to fold it forward, rather than backwards, to enable this.
While bamboo is rigid and should protect your iPad against most bumps and scrapes, it’s also relatively brittle, so if this gets dropped from any height onto a hard surface, you’re likely looking at some splitting, although the iPad has a higher chance of surviving. A friend has had this happen with his iPhone 4 packing a Grove case.
The Grove case for iPad 2 is a relatively steep $139, but it is custom made and very, very high quality. In the end, it’s worth the money if you’re in the market for something that is a classy cut above the standard Incase or Case Mate options for the iPad. But will most likely feel steep for someone who just wants to protect their device.
If you’re in the market for a premium case that displays as much attention to craftsmanship as the iPad itself, then the Grove should be among the very top of your choices. Along with the Contega from Pad & Quill, it sets the bar for how a high-end case for the iPad should feel and work. A bit pricey for the regular crowd, but, to quote Ferris Buehler, “if you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up.”