The Contega case for iPad 2 is another solid creation from Pad & Quill, makers of fine portfolio cases for tablets, readers, phones and more. The concept behind the Contega and its brethren is to duplicate not just the feel of handling a book but a hardbound leather one at that. Think of them as the Easton Press of gadget case makers.
Pad & Quill has produced the very popular Octavo for iPad 2 for some time now but has just added the new Contega to its lineup. The Contega follows the same basic premise of the Octavo, in that it is a leather bound and cloth lined case for the iPad 2. It also shares the bookbinding aesthetic of the original and the overall feeling of care in its manufacture. The new sauce is the fact that the Contega now also functions as a two-position easel style stand for your iPad as well as a protective case.
The Contega is built in much the same way as the Octavo, with the exterior bound in a soft Italian leather that’s pleasant to the touch. It really feels like a high quality business folio or collectors edition book. It’s relatively resistant to scuffing and scratching, although you’ll probably have to protect it in much the same way as you would any leather object.
There was very little to complain about as far as the build quality of the Contega that I had to review. The seaming is all excellent and the leather was all bonded and folded nicely as well. The interior was pleasantly lined in a green cloth, although there are other colors available on Pad & Quill’s site.
The frame that holds the iPad in is made of Baltic birch and is relatively light, although not nearly as light as the bamboo of the DodoCASE. The birch does feel significantly more sturdy though. Its laminated layers should hold up well to bumping and banging and there is little danger of flex causing it to come unglued from the backing. The openings for the buttons and ports are all generous and you should be able to fit any size dock connector or headphone cable that you need to. The hollows scooped out around the orientation switch and volume buttons are plenty big enough to reach into although a bit of finger-shoving is in order for the switch.
The cutout for the speaker is scooped so that sound will travel forward. Since the iPad 2’s speaker is decent but not exactly ear-shattering, it’s nice when a case is designed not only to avoid muffling the audio, but also to amplify and project it. This is a nice detail that I’ve come to expect from most high-grade cases and the Contega didn’t disappoint. The camera hole doesn’t obstruct the view so that’s fine there and the elastic clasp seemed to work just as well as any other I’ve seen.
The easel function of the Contega works very nicely and because the design of the case is nearly identical, adds no bulk at all when compared to an Octavo. The easel is used by sliding the iPad holder frame out from the backing and setting it into one of two grooves on the cover. This will place it at an angle so that you can view the screen hands-free. The two angles work best from about 2-3ft or 4-5ft away, although that will probably depend on your height. You can still flip the cover around back to provide a small wedge that can help you type on the iPad while it’s laying flat.
The cover of the Contega contains a magnet that allows it to work with the iPad 2’s automatic on-off function. This means that when you close the lid or open it, the iPad will turn itself on or off. It also leads to the biggest flaw in the Contega.
The biggest issue that I have with the Contega is that, because the binding is, necesarily so, not attached at the edge of the frame, it tends to shift laterally towards the spine while you’re holding it closed in your hand. This means that the front edge slides toward the iPad, triggering the auto-unlock and power on feature. It leads to a constant click-click-click as the iPad turns itself on and off.Even if the volume is turned down, your iPad is still power cycling. While it’s unlikely to be harmful in the short term, it’s unlikely that this is any good for it.
The bigger problem is that if you set it down without checking, it’s likely that it will have been turned on while you were carrying it. This means that if your iPad is set to the ‘never’ setting under auto-lock, you’re in danger of draining your iPads battery, which I did while testing the Contega, twice.
Now there’s two solutions to this problem. First, you could just set an auto-lock time, which is fine and not that difficult, but that defeats the whole purpose of the iPad 2’s cool new automatic on feature, which the Contega is equipped to take advantage of. In the end, the better solution is for the positioning or power of the magnet in the Contega’s front cover to be changed so that the triggering no longer occurs. Frankly if it didn’t offer the magnet at all, this issue wouldn’t exist, so just shut off the automatic feature of the iPad and it will go away.
If you use an iPad only in your home then you may not really get the market for premium iPad cases. They’re pricier than a simple shell or the Apple Smart Cover, and they’re usually a bit bulkier too. But what they give you is a combination of protection and an air of respectability. In the case of the Contega, you get a sleek portfolio case with gorgeous looks and the tactile pleasure of leather, as well as an incredibly useful easel case. It’s really the best combination of these two types of cases that I’ve seen.
If you’re not hung up on the auto-lock setting and don’t mind setting it to something reasonable, the Contega offers more than enough polish and functionality to overlook the magnet issue. The Contega is available directly from Pad & Quill for $89.99.
Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.