TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad for iPad Air is like a much more elegant execution of Apple’s own Smart Cases, except this accessory is really a very clever two-sided cover. Installing it is as simple as sticking it to the rear of the iPad. The cover provides adequate scratch protection for transit, but no extra shock protection for the sides of the device. This is an accessory that compliments the premium appearance of the iPad, and doesn’t detract from it in order to provide a bit of extra protection. I’m very happy with this tradeoff, since the SurfacePad does a great job of preserving the Air’s clean lines and chamfered edges.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a durable accessory either. I took my SurfacePad on a week-long trip to Vancouver, where I used the iPad as GPS, mobile Yelp machine, and eReader. The tablet was set down on the dashboard, thrown onto the back of the car seat, and tucked into my backpack along with my DSLR, umbrella, and other gadgets. The travelling did leave some marks, but the SurfacePad doesn’t really look much worse for wear. All of the pictures in this review were taken post-trip.
A Little Extra Weight
It’s obvious that any accessory added to the iPad will increase its weight, but I think it’s always worth examining by how much. The SurfacePad adds just enough weight to make one-handed reading uncomfortable, but most two handed use cases — from thumb typing to browsing — feel fine. In fact, the added friction provided by the leather tends to make the whole tablet easier to hold, which means I don’t have to grip the iPad as firmly.
(Mostly) Magical Magnets
The front cover of the SurfacePad flips open just like a hardcover book. It folds back behind the iPad to become nearly invisible while you hold it in your hands, and it has three sets of magnets embedded in it for use in landscape mode. The rear two magnets work as viewing stands for video or eBook reading, with the front cover functioning as a large, steady base for the iPad. The third magnet is for the typing mode, which is a little more complicated in use than TwelveSouth’s copy writing would have me believe.
The typing mode leverages the foremost magnet on the cover to hold the iPad in place, and also a small kick-stand that sits along the back of the SurfacePad. Unfortunately the kick-stand doesn’t lock into place securely, so it usually requires some resetting when you move the iPad a little, or nudge it the wrong way. The typing angle is high and comfortable for extended use, but it just isn’t secure enough for my liking. I use the iPad in this setup very often at work, and I’ll often have to shift the iPad as I move papers around my desk, and having to constantly reset the typing kickstand has been a bit of an issue for me.
I think a possible solution here would be to make a sturdier kickstand (which would lock at a 90-degree angle), or insert a more powerful magnet along the front of the cover, so that the iPad doesn’t slip downwards as often as it does now.
All that said, I do like the SurfacePad quite a lot. It’s not as comfortably light as I’d like it to be for one-handed use, but it gets big points for letting Apple’s design shine through, and the magnets are genuinely useful without feeling gimmicky. If you’re on the market for something minimal yet functional, there really isn’t anything else quite like TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad.
The SurfacePad was provided by TwelveSouth for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.