Category Archives: iPad Accessory Reviews

The iPad and iPad 2 are amazing and versatile devices. There are also a huge number of great iPad and iPad 2 accessories available from a wide range of vendors. There’s a huge array of iPad cases available, from skins and minimalist designs to full-protection options. There are also screen protectors, iPad case plus keyboard combos, and some great iPad stands. For the iPad 2 in particular, there is of course the Apple Smart Cover and a wide range of back cover cases that are compatible with it.

Review: Pad & Quill Contega Thin

Pad & Quill Contega Thin_2

The $90 Pad & Quill Contega Thin is similar to the Contega Linen, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. It shares the same Moleskine-style elastic band for closing the cover, and the exterior is still wrapped in durable linen. It’s still a great case for adding scratch and drop protection, without sacrificing on class. Adding a Contega to your iPad Pro is like dressing it up in a sports jacket with cleverly hidden elbow pads beneath.

But the Contega Thin makes a different set of concessions in its design than the thicker Contega Linen. Instead of housing the iPad Pro in a gorgeous wooden frame, the Contega Thin uses a removable 3M adhesive to bind the iPad to the case. This makes the install a little tougher initially because you need to be more careful about how you line the iPad with the adhesive. Thankfully, the 3M sticker is both strong and forgiving — meaning that it can stand repeated installs. Once the iPad is set, you’ll completely forget your gigantic tablet is tethered to the case by a thin layer of adhesive. Your iPad Pro will not be falling out.

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Review: Pad & Quill Contega Linen for iPad Pro

Pad & Quill have a pretty long history of making premium cases for iOS devices. Their signature style has been a wooden frame paired with leather that drips with sophistication. I admit I am sucker for wrapping new tech in tanned skins, but previous Pad & Quill iPad cases just didn’t appeal to me.

My approach to everything before the 12.9″ iPad Pro was that tablets should be as light as possible, because I was supposed to just be able to pick them up and read them like pieces of paper. As gorgeous as Pad & Quill cases are, the wooden frames inevitably added weight and girth to the device, which made the tablet too heavy to easily hold in one hand.

However, now that I’m an iPad Pro user, I almost always tend to lean or rest the tablet against something, so the increased size and weight from this case matter a lot less. In fact, I think this is the device size that these Pad & Quill designs have been waiting for. The Contega Linen feels right at home on my extra large tablet. 

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Quick Look: Apple’s USB 3 SD Card Reader for iPad

The last time I bought Apple’s SD Card Camera Reader, I ended up feeling disappointed and returning it within a day. However, I thought I’d revisit this particular accessory now that I’ve switched cameras. Instead of using a Sony A6000, I’m now using a Fuji X-Pro 2. The JPEG files on this new camera are larger, and the movies are actually transferable to iOS, so I now have a much better use case for this little adapter.

I shoot files large enough files (12-15 MB JPEGs) in a large enough capacity (around 50 shots on a given day) that Wi-Fi transfers aren’t really a great solution for me any more. I can still pull the camera out to transfer 5-10 shots with ease, but transferring 20 shots at 24 MP per shot takes upwards of four or five minutes to complete. That’s four minutes of my iPad Pro and camera being completely useless while the transfer happens. In contrast, the transfer of 19 shots via the SD Card Reader takes less than a minute, and still allows me to do other things while the transfer is happening.

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Quick Look: Apple Pencil Pocket from GearCase

GearCase Pencil Pocket review_1

GearCase reached out after my previous post about my storage option for the Apple Pencil, and I’m really glad that they did. As accessible as my co-opted Pencil clip was for usage at a desk, it did feel a little precarious for storage in a full bag. The Pencil usually stayed in place, but it could easily get caught on other objects in my bag during transit because it was only secured to the iPad at one point.

The Pencil Pocket from GearCase is secure and keeps the Pencil snug against the iPad Pro during transit. I don’t have any concerns about the stylus falling out or getting scratched by other items in my bag.

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iPad Pro Smart Keyboard: Updated Impressions

  
It’s been about six weeks since I wrote about the Smart Keyboard, so I thought it was about time to post an update on the medium-term experience. I won’t discuss the general typing details, but rather focus on the smaller stuff that you can only glean after an extended period with a device. 

Durability

This was the thing I was most worried about when the Smart Keyboard came out. I saw Harry McCracken’s tweet about the paint on his keys wearing off and worried that the same would happen to mine. This wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal if this were a conventional keyboard with plastic key caps,

but the Smart Keyboard isn’t repairable. Any damage done to the keys would require a complete replacement, and those were very hard to come by during the holiday season.

Fortunately, I really have nothing to report on this front, and no news is good news as far as durability is concerned. All of my keys are still in the same condition: none of them feel lose, and they still respond to contact evenly, regardless of where you hit the key (which is one of my favourite features of this keyboard). I am seeing a few more distinct oil stains, but I expect to see that on any keyboard, and it’s less evident on the fabric keys than it would be on plastic key caps.

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Smart Keyboard Impressions

I have to say: the Smart Keyboard really didn’t impress me when it was announced alongside the iPad Pro in September. I saw it and immediately thought of it as a Type Cover rip-off (which it still is). It pairs with the iPad via a hardware connection, it has a keyboard embedded in the cover, and it’s usable on the lap — just like the Surface Pro’s keyboard. None of that is really news in the iPad keyboard world. We’ve already seen really impressive offerings from Logitech and Belkin, and Apple’s own keyboard struck me as a very obvious and bland accessory. Its asking price also seemed well above what I would ever want to pay for an iPad keyboard — at $230 CAD, it’s more than any gaming keyboard I’ve ever purchased, and gaming peripherals are known for being far too expensive.

Typing Experience

What ended up changing my mind was the feel of the keys. I really like these keys. I love the feel of the grippy fabric under my fingers as I type, and I’m a fan of the shallow dome switches. In contrast to the squishy sound they make, the actual keystrokes are short, sharp, and even. It doesn’t really matter if you hit a key on the corner or right in the middle because it will feel identical.

I’d be lying if I said the keyboard hasn’t been a bit of learning curve though. I love typing on the keys 90% of the time, but I also notice that they can stick a little bit, every once in a while. I think this has to do with a vacuum effect that occurs internally. There are vents along the top of the keyboard to let air in and out of the keyboard to prevent keys from getting stuck in the down position, and my theory is that dust or humidity can affect how well these vents perform. If my iPad is on my desk overnight, I don’t have any issues. However, I can occasionally have some sticky keys for the first 30 minutes after I take the Smart Keyboard out of my bag.

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Review: thingCHARGER, the Charger for all your Things

thingCHARGER-back

In this day and age, we all have our fair share of electronic devices–with more variations and categories introduced into our lives every year. We use our devices for an increasing number of our personal as well as recreational tasks. These tasks range across various topics including maintaining a depository for ideas and future plans, navigating to appointments, keeping track of our schedules, and maybe even some relaxing media time. Electronics aren’t just for adults anymore either, with our children making up the fastest growing population utilizing the benefits of these devices. From phones and tablets, to cameras to laptops–there exists a never-ending train of accessories that all have one thing in common–they all need to be charged on a regular basis. This is a necessary evil that often creates a predicament for households where there are a plethora of devices that all need to be charged at the same time–not to mention the need to have outlets available for stationary items. This is the obstacle that the thingCHARGER was created to overcome.

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I Opted for Apple’s Smart Keyboard Over The Smart Cover + Magic Keyboard Combo

  
I recently wrote about some workarounds I was thinking up for working with the Magic Keyboard + Smart Cover combo on the iPad Pro. I was having trouble finding Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Create Pro in stores, so I spent a few days trying out the only keyboard solution I could get my hands on. 

There are no shortages of the Magic Keyboard or Smart Cover, after all, and they have some interesting selling points:

  • they’re separable so you can leave the keyboard at home if you’re only going to draw or watch on the iPad Pro
  • the Magic Keyboard has more travel than the Smart Keyboard (important to discerning typists)
  • the Smart Cover has the extra low viewing angle for touchscreen typing or drawing at a desk (which the Smart Keyboard completely lacks)
  • the Magic Keyboard can be used with any device that can connect via Bluetooth
  • the Magic Keyboard has iOS-specific shortcut keys for brightness, music playback, etc.

Those were the theoretical pros that I had listed before making the purchase. In reality, I really only cared about the extra low viewing angle and the shortcut keys. The other bullet points were still objective advantages, but they didn’t make my experience any better.

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Quick Look: ChargeTech’s Dual-USB Port 24W Charger for iPad

  I wrote about the ChargeTech 24W charger a few months ago. It sounded really promising because of its double USB ports for charging an iPhone and iPad simultaneously, and the 24W output was surprising despite its diminutive size. The ChargeTech is not quite as small as Apple’s own 5W iPhone charger, but it’s definitely smaller than carrying around a 12W iPad charger (which only has a single USB port).

ChargeTech has been emailing me recently with some significant Holiday discounts, but this has only served to remind me how disappointed it has been to deal with them as a company. I ordered two chargers from their website on July 20, and two weeks went by without my receiving any shipping information. I contacted ChargeTech’s support on August 3 and received a reply the next day: Sorry, but we’ve had a delay in shipments and it will be another 3–4 weeks.

I decided to wait for the order instead of cancelling it, but I look up ChargeTech’s reviews on Amazon.com. I was concerned by the number of complaints about quality control. People were saying that their chargers were breaking off right at the prongs within days or weeks of receiving them, and some of them were just DOA. This was concerning, but I hoped that it was simply a vocal minority because 83% of the 280 Amazon reviews are 5-star ratings.

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The Apple Pencil Enhances Note-Taking On The iPad Pro

Pencil - notetaking

On the whole, I think most reviewers have been too dismissive of the Apple Pencil. There’s no question in my mind that the Apple Pencil is a boon to digital artists. The pinpoint accuracy and the incredible palm rejection make for the very best drawing device I’ve ever used on iOS, but I think the Pencil has a wider appeal than that.

There are lots of pen-and-paper users out there, and I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time and money over the past year in an effort to become one. I acknowledge how silly that sounds, but digital has always been a more comfortable medium for note-taking than a paper notebook, at least as far as I’m concerned. Digital notes can be tagged, duplicated, and synced to any of my devices. I also type far faster than I can write.

But there is no denying there’s a romantic aspect to writing with a real pen, even to a zero-and-one digital loyalist like myself. The scratchiness of a fountain pen on good paper, the sensation of posting a cap before you write, and the way the ink flows over the page — all of these sensations are satisfying in a similar way to typing on a great keyboard. There’s a lot to delight in when you’re writing with quality tools.

This is where the Pencil comes in for me. With the introduction of this accessory, Apple has suddenly given Evernote, Paper, and their own Notes app far greater appeal. There are many instances where text notes don’t fully capture an idea, where a quick diagram would do far more to preserve a memory or train of thought. However, creating these diagrams with any degree of accuracy has always taken extra effort on the iPad. Keeping the palm off of the screen has always been of paramount importance, lest you accidentally activate a multitasking gesture, or leave weird marks on the page from where your palm was resting. All of the third-party stylii with palm rejection only worked about 50% of the time because they were at odds with multitasking gestures built right into iOS. Prior to the Pencil, writing and drawing on iPads always took a considerable degree of contortion to succeed in.

Apple’s Pencil is noteworthy because it breaks all of the rules that other stylii had to abide by…and it just works. It has the power to turn metal and glass into something similar enough to paper. I don’t think it’s overdramatic to say that it sets the form factor free. We’ve been able to use iPads as little writing laptops for a few years now, but the Pencil is what allows you to use an iPad like a blank sheet. You can rest your hand anywhere on the screen when you want to write, and drawing feels very natural, especially when you can physically rotate or tilt the entire canvas. This is something that no other iOS or OS X device can do as well, and it’s a a very powerful selling point for the iPad platform.

In preparation for this article, I’ve spent a lot of time on the iPad Pro in a particular set of apps that have fine-tuned their experience with the Pencil.

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Introducing the Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro

iPad_Pro-Apple_Pencil-drawing

During the Special Media event yesterday Apple introduced the all new iPad Pro.  We already shared how much we love the new form factor, blazing speed of the  new A9X processor, performance boosting GPU, and integrated quad speaker system.  However, to say this announcement caught most of us a little off-guard is an understatement.  It’s not that we weren’t expecting a jumbo size iPad.  We heard the rumor mill churning all summer like everyone else.  We fully anticipated that Apple would make an announcement some time this summer or early fall.  What caught us by surprise was how much we were blown away after watching the keynote.  More accurately — how much we tried to convince ourselves we needed an iPad Pro in our lives!

At its core, the iPad Pro is still an iPad — an iPad on steroids, but an iPad nonetheless.  So what makes this new model so appealing to both current and potentially new iPad owners?  Simply put, we think it’s the sum of its parts, especially the two new accessories Apple designed specifically for the iPad Pro.  Right now let’s focus on the Apple Pencil and what functionality it adds to the user experience.

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