Colourful & classy cases for MacBook Pro, Air and iPad

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about what we might ask Santa for, and pretty high on my list is a new case for my MacBook Pro. Now I’m not normally one to get too excited about things like laptop bags, but I will make an exception for the Black Raspberry range from be.ez.

LA-black-raspberry

A new addition to the Black Addict range, the Black Raspberry looks pretty ordinary from the outside, but open it up and you’ll be stunned by the fabulous shocking raspberry-coloured interior.

The LA robe sleeve for the MacBook Air 13in, MacBook 13in and MacBook Pro 15in are made from black jersey fabric surrounding be.ez’s low resilience polyurethane and 5in memory foam, which regains its shape if it is knocked or bumped. There is also a laptop bag, and prices start at £22.99 from www.be-ez.com/where.html

BoomCan

If you want some sounds on the move, how about the Scosche boomCan, which is about the size of a film canister (remember those?). For those who don’t, the speaker is less than 2.5inches tall and not quite 2 inches wide, yet it can pump out the sound thanks to a 40mm driver.

If you want audio when watching movies, listening to music or playing games on your portable media player, the boomCan plugs into any 3.5mm audio jack and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to seven hours of power. It is also possible to daisychain together several of the speakers to create your own sound system.

The price of this mini marvel? £19.99 from Square Group retail stores.

Pippetto

And finally if Santa has been kind enough to give you an iPad2, I personally don’t think you deserve anything else unless you have been exceptionally good. But if you have excelled yourself this year, why not ask him for a Pipetto Classic iPad case?

These luxurious cases are made from Italian leather and come in elegant finishes including patent, rocker black, vintage black or khaki brown. Close the cover and the iPad automatically reverts to ‘sleep’ mode.

A small back pocket can to be used to hold paperwork or cables.

Style and elegance doesn’t come cheap though – the Pipetto iPad2 case comes in at £99.99 from www.pipetto.co.uk.

New iPad 2 keyboard cases

Like Oliver Twist, the iPad has been a runaway success and has slowly helped transition the consumer tech industry towards the post-PC era. People laughed when the iPad was announced (I took a break from the internet for a few days as the venom spat on Twitter and comment threads was insane) but it’s hard to dismiss a device that’s shifted 30 million units and created it’s own little industry as a fad. However, even the most ardent iPad fan would admit that iPads are far from perfect, and one of the main drawbacks for serious work is the lack of a proper keyboard. I’m writing this article on an iPad (I’m a method journalist) and despite help from the excellent IA writer app, a dedicated hard keyboard would clearly be better. We thought we’d take a quick look at some of the iPad keyboard cases out there.

sd-case

One of the cheaper keyboard cases out there is the SD Tabletwear rotating iPad 2 case. At about £45 it’s not that much more than some conventional iPad cases and has many of the features that have become derigeur, such as a magnetically lined flap on the edge of the case to allow the iPad 2 to automatically wake from sleep and the ability to rotate the case between portrait and landscape. Obviously the case includes a keyboard, which uses active Bluetooth pairing and has actual hard keys instead of silicon.

Crux-case

For almost triple the price you can go all out on the Crux Clamshell iPad 2 case. Some high-end engineering and ingenuity transform your iPad 2 into an ultra portable laptop. The case protects the iPad 2 via its tough case design, which covers both the front and back of the iPad 2. You can also use it as a stand for movies or photos.

For more on these or other iPad 2 Cases with Keyboard check out gearzap.

STM Skinny iPad 2 case review

Leading Australian bag manufacturer, STM Bags got in on the hottest game in town the iPad 2 case market, with their newly released Skinny for the iPad 2. You might remember STM for their excellent tablet carrier case featured here or the laptop backpack we took a look at here.

STM-skinny

“We are super excited about the skinny”, noted STM co-founder Adina Jacobs. “As iPad users ourselves, we wanted to create a case that embodied the protective quality of every STM product while looking like something we’d want to carry.”

And they are right to be excited. iPad 2s keep flying off the shelf and with the human propensity for clumsiness unlikely to diminish, iPad 2 cases are just as popular, making it a lucrative market. Whilst Apple’s Smart Cover upper the ante for case manufactures, some of them have risen to the challenge with aplomb.

So what’s the skinny on the skinny? The case is made from durable 300D ripstop fabric. The custom fitted, hard shell back lined with soft micro suede protects your iPad 2 from scratches and external abuse. There’s also a nice little loop closure for quick and easy access and reminds me of a smart Filofax from the 80s.

One of the marquee features of the Smart Cover – being able to turn the device on or off (or more accurately in and out of sleep mode) simply by lifting the flap – is replicated here. Another useful function is the foldable front cover for typing or viewing – depending on how you interact with your iPad.

All in all a nice little case to protect your iPad from the outside world, without bulking it up to the point where it’s ungainly.

The STM skinny is available now at the RRP £39.95. For stockist information please go to: www.stmbags.com

Speck HandyShell & SmartShell iPad 2 cases review

Like many I was incredibly impressed with Apple’s Smart Cover for the iPad 2. It looks cool, is functional both as a protective case and as a stand, can be refashioned as a grip when reading and has the magic of magnetism on its side. What’s not to like? Well baby hasn’t got back – in a manner of speaking. The Smart Cover, whilst being as swanky as cases come, fails to protect the back of your iPad and it is possible to scratch your new darling. The Speck Smart Shell is an ultra-thin (1.2 mm) lightweight solution that aligns to your Smart Cover spine for a nice streamline fit and provides an extra layer of protection for the paranoid among us.

Speck-HandyShell

Not bad you might think. But what if you don’t have a Smart Cover. And what if you do a lot more with your iPad than sit on the sofa and read webcomics (which is a magic use of anyone’s time that I’d whole-heartedly recommend)? Well perhaps you’d be interested in taking a look at Speck’s HandyShell an iPad 2 case that brings something a little new to the table.

The box for the HandyShell proudly declares “Grip it, Stand it, Hand it, and More!” It should say “Grip it, Stand it, Hand it … and that’s it … but that’s stull quite a lot” but I guess they ran out of space.

The HandyShell has a big red handle around the back that, as you’ve probably guess from the box’s enthusiasm, can be manipulated in a number (three) of cool ways. You can flip it out completely and hand the iPad in landscape on the wall – useful for recipes, to-do lists of weather apps – especially if you have a hook handy and no surface. In the flipped out position you can also hold the iPad 2 like a key-tar or guitar and rock out. It feels a little dorky doing this – but in an awesome way and I’m sure a few performers will be tempted to incorporate this into their act. And finally you can fold it back and make it into a cool stand for flat surfaces. If you’ve been staring at your existing iPad case and wishing it could do more, than maybe the HandShell is for you.

For more information head to SpeckProducts.com

Cygnett Rotating Armour iPad 2 case review

In typical Steve Job’s fashion, Apple’s launch of the iPad 2 was accompanied with much fan fare coupled with a slap in the face for third-party developers and accessory makers who’d been suckling at the iPad 1’s teat for the past year. Not only was the iPad 2’s form factor radically different to the iPad 1 making many existing products incompatible but Apple released the SmartCover, an excellent and innovative protection solution for the iPad 2. Not only did they have first-mover advantage but they’d also come out of the gate with an incredibly strong offering.

Cygnett-Armour

However, like all Apple products, there were numerous omissions and various problems that certain groups were vocal about – funky as SmartCovers may be they don’t provide the best level of protection for your precious new toy.

Enter Cygnett, provider of innovative and stylish accessories for tablets, smartphones and MP3 players, who have launched the Rotating Armour case for the iPad 2. We had a play with it at the Gadget Show but it’s out and in actual shops now.

Cyngett-iPad-2-stand

The case boasts automatic activation of the tablet’s wake/sleep function when the case is opened or closed, which is by far my favourite feature of my SmartCover, as well as three viewing angles for the popular Apple tablet.

The case’s multiple viewing angles, in both portrait and landscape positions are incredibly convenient. FaceTime chat, watching movies, internet surfing and strain-free typing are enjoyable and comfortable experiences with the Rotating Armour case.

The design of the Rotating Armour draws attention to the Apple logo on the back of the tablet. Made from an extremely tough microsuede-lined cover, the case protects the iPad 2 from wear and tear, while the heavy-duty design enables safe and easy transportation of the tablet. A secure clasp and locking strap keep the tablet safe at all times and it looks pretty suave and business-like if that’s your thing.

Available in black with orange or black with grey, the latest in Cygnett’s line of iPad 2 cases also ensures that all functions of the iPad 2 remain operational when it is securely fastened in the Rotating Armour, which includes front/rear camera openings and the speaker vent.

The new Cygnett Rotating Armour is priced at £39.95 and is available now from Tesco and Amazon.

Archos G9 tablet hands on: Cheaper, faster alternative to iPad 2

A £200 tablet more that’s powerful than the iPad 2? Madness, you say? Lies? A cunning French deception? No, the Archos G9 is none of those things. It’s real, it’s quick, it’s got a 1.5GHz processor and it’s coming with a 250GB harddrive (with a nine-hour battery-life). Excited? Read on.

Archos-G9

Alright – we stretched the truth a little. The £200 tablet is only 16GB with an 8-inch screen, but it’s still got the internals to out-run the iPad 2. In fact, the 1.5GHz processor (an ARM A9, but developed by Texas Instruments) is rumoured to be 50% faster than the nVidia Tegra found in other Android devices and the iPad’s brain.

The 8″ model – 1.7-inches smaller than the iPad – boasts a 1024 x 766 display, a resolution almost identical to that of the iPad but in a smaller form. The colours, contrast and viewing angle are by no means as beautiful as Apple’s IPS screen technology, and pushing too hard on the plastic front distorts the screen, but it is certainly most impressive form a £200 device.

The 10.1″ model, available for £279, has a Macbook-equalling 1280×800 resolution, which means it actually pulls ahead of the iPad quite significantly despite a much lower price-point. Watch out for other articles claiming it’s £249 – a mistake in the press release has widely circulated this incorrect rumour (we spoke to Archos’ CEO himself).

The 250GB harddrive version – which uses a combination of 4GB Flash memory and 246GB of the traditional computer kind – gives the G9 exceptional storage capacity for £400. Operating system files (Android Honeycomb 3.1) are stored on the Flash memory for instant access, better durability and lower battery-life costs. Other stored media hangs about on the huge hard disk.

We questioned Archos whether sticking a giant hard drive in a tablet kills battery-life, and were pleased to hear that the regular battery-life (10 hours) only drops by one hour on the 250GB model. Whether they did this through voodoo or science, it’s exciting and definitely innovative.

The other major innovation is the 3G dongle. While the standard tablet comes with wifi built-in, 3G is available through a plug-in USB stick, so instead of having to decide on your 3G demands before buying your device, you can choose to update at a later time.

It also means that you can pull out the 3G dongle and use it for 3G surfing on your computer, so you’ll only need one 3G account for both your tablet and your laptop.

Add a video conferencing 720p webcam, a light body (under 500g from the 8-inch) and full Android Market support and there’s a lot to love about these machines.

Our only downer was the chassis – it felt like it costs half that of the iPad or Samsung Galaxy. We’d also like to know how much RAM is inside the body – if it’s 512MB or 1GB, it’s a great little machine – otherwise we might see halting or stuttering as more apps open up (when we went hands-on, it seemed perfect.)

HD video played without a problem, and the 1080p HDMI output to a screen worked flawlessly. For us, it was the seamless tablet experience that users have previously only got with the iPad – we thank the big-ass processor.

All-in, we’re very excited for the September launch. Very excited indeed.

Glamming up the iPad 2 with the Mophie Workbook

Mophie, the California-based designer and manufacturer of mobile intelligent devices and accessories, has launched the Workbook for iPad 2 – a “smart case with interchangeable colour straps that delivers protection and style.”

Mophie-Workbook

This lightweight and adjustable case doubles up as a stand, which, by enabling various angles for typing, browsing and viewing, improves the whole iPad 2 user experience.

If you are after greater flexibility from Apple’s second generation of the iPad, then Mophie are driven to deliver the “protection, portability and enhanced function iPad 2 users want,” says Megan Harmon, Regional Sales Manager at Mophie.

Not only does this classy iPad 2 stand created ‘infinite viewing’ and typing angles, but it offers ‘magnetic closure’, meaning users can wake up their iPad 2 by opening the case and once their done, put it back to sleep by closing the case.

iPad cases, like many modern technological accessories, are even featuring on catwalks across the world, being marketed as the latest must-have fashion accessory. Given their dedication to offering a chic defence against wear and tear, Mophie’s Workbook predictably comes available in multiple colour combinations, with ‘mix and match straps’, meaning fashion-conscious technology consumers can change their iPad 2 case’s straps to match their handbags and shoes.

With a soft interior, your beloved iPad 2 can sit snugly inside the Workbook, while its tough and durable exterior protects it from any potential damages it could be exposed to.

If owning an iPad 2 isn’t impressive enough and you are looking to impress friends, colleagues and friends even further, swank Mophie’s Workbook for iPad 2 and stylishly showcase the contents of your iPad 2 in the optimum of angles and light.

iPad2 review roundup

In its short life, the iPad has managed to turn on an enormous number of people to the joys of tablets. More than 15 million have been sold in just nine months.

Now it’s all about to start again as the iPad 2 hits the shelves of the UK stores on March 25 (the same day as the 3DS). Coming in at around twice the price of Nintendo’s pocket gaming device, the iPad 2 will require you to splash out 399 of your Earth pounds.

iPad-2

At first glance, reviewers are not convinced that this second generation of the iPad is much of an upgrade at all: “It’s thinner, lighter and also available in white,” points out Mark Prigg in the Evening Standard.

However, having had a bit of a play with said devices, he changed his mind, pointing out: “while subtle, this really is a major upgrade and a glimpse of the future of computing.”

So what has Apple actually tweaked and improved in its latest release? Well, the first most obvious thing is the size, as Jason Snell at MacWorld explains:

The iPad 2 is easier to carry with one hand, and the decreased weight makes it easier to hold for longer periods of time. But if you’re planning on using the iPad 2 to read a lot, you’ll still find yourself propping it against your chest or setting it on a table.

Joshua Topolsky at Engadget has been wowed by the design : “Apple is known for its industrial design, and they didn’t just chew scenery here; the iPad 2 is beautifully and thoughtfully crafted.”

But he was not quite so impressed with the two cameras: the rear-facing camera can record 720p video at 30fps and images at 720×960 pixels (about 0.69 mp), while the front-facing camera (designed to be used with Apple’s video calling package FaceTime), records stills and video at VGA resolution (640×480). “They’re not unusable, but it’s clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth-generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results.”

The IPad 2’s screen remains the same as its predecessor – 9.7inches, backlit multitouch with a resolution of 1024 x 768 at 132 pixels per inch.

But the biggest changes, explains Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica “are under the hood.”

The iPad 2 is the first Apple device to sport the company’s brand new A5 SoC or System on a Chip. This one chip contains the CPU (a dual-core ARM A9 processor in a power-saving configuration), the GPU (a PowerVR SGX 543 MP2), and 512 MB of DDR system memory.

Over at PC Pro, the experts there put the increased power and new iOS 4.3 to the test: “We upgraded the first iPad to iOS 4.3 (the same version as the iPad 2) and ran a number of tests with the two iPads side by side. In BBC iPlayer, programmes consistently launched a couple of seconds more quickly on the iPad 2.”

When the iPad was first launched it had no competition, but this time around Android tablets are up against it, however, PC Pro points out:

“It’s even more impressive when compared to its Android rivals. Even the original iPad had a significant edge over the Tegra 2-based Android tablets we’ve seen, and the extra core of the iPad 2 gives a further boost.”

Adam Banks at MacUser watched Steve Jobs handle the US launch of the iPad 2, and found that what really excited everyone was the possibility for more powerful apps:

“What got the audience going were the demos of iMovie and GarageBand. There’s already a mini-iMovie for the iPhone; the iPad version, still only $4.99, does much more, and a single purchase covers both devices. Before we called software “apps”, we used to test products that did less for 20 times that price and call them top value.”

So the new iPad, is disarmingly slimmer than its older brother, has more power, potentially more exciting apps, and decent battery life (up to 10 hours).

So should you buy one? “If you already have an iPad, you may feel it’s too soon to shell out to get your hands on one. There’s not too much to make it worth a whole new upgrade – after all, you can still use the same applications. This upgrade is designed for those who don’t have an iPad, and desirable it will be to those who aren’t yet equipped with one,” says Clare Hopping at Know Your Mobile

But the last word goes to our first reviewer, Mark Prigg at the Evening Standard, who concludes: “the incredible lure of Apple means there will be an awful lot of households with two iPads over the coming weeks.”