Review: Griffin Elan Folio + Elan Folio Slim for iPad 2
One of the more common iPad case designs is a fold-open folio with with a tuck-in stand, similar to what Apple released as its sole case for the original iPad. Now that the iPad 2 has been released, Griffin has introduced its own takes on the same concept called Elan Folio ($50-70) and Elan Folio Slim ($40). Both offer the same general folio design, but they differ significantly in materials, build quality, functionality, and overall execution.
The first version we tested was Elan Folio Slim, and we couldn’t help but immediately notice the shoddy build quality. Griffin’s faux leather is very thin, which has an advantage and disadvantage—while it does not add much bulk, it feels pretty cheap and has no real internal reinforcement. Flipping open the cover, you’ll discover a thin frame around the bezel of the iPad 2. While the opening is cut to the right size, our review unit arrived with frayed threads hanging out, something we haven’t seen in a major manufacturer’s case in a long time. The headphone port, mic, side switch, volume rocker, and Dock Connector are all fully accessible, but the Sleep/Wake button is slightly covered by the case. Around the rear camera is an unnecessarily large hole, while the opening over the speaker does not line up with the dots on the device itself—clearly, Griffin put this together before it had a real iPad 2 to test with the case. Lining the inside of the case is a fabric material which feels fine, but if it’s the microsuede advertised on the package, it’s really thin and not especially impressive material.
In terms of functionality, Elan Folio Slim doesn’t really work as expected. We found it a little bit difficult to insert the iPad 2; with no real structure to the frame, the tablet would get caught on top of the right hand edge unless we propped that side open. When attempting to use the stand feature, the more acute typing angle worked just fine. However, we found Elan Folio Slim simply could not handle the weight of the iPad 2 in the video viewing orientation—it fell over each time. Photos on the company’s website and the case’s packaging show this angle working just fine, but we could not replicate it unless we bent back even more of the leather bottom in an unnatural position, deliberately creasing it.
Elan Folio is better than its Slim sibling, although not without its own problems. Available in either faux leather ($50) or leather ($70) versions, we tested the latter. Its build quality was certainly superior to the Slim, as it should be for the $30 price difference. Here, Griffin’s leather is smooth, and while it does add some more thickness, it also feels more substantial. Inside, the microsuede is less like fabric than on the Slim, and actually feels like suede. Around the bezel is a significantly thicker frame, with swooped openings for the front facing camera and Home Button. While the frame itself is fine, the upper right corner of our review unit was bent and the frame could not lay flat on the screen because of it. All of the ports and buttons are usable, but recessed due to the flat back of Elan Folio not matching the curved, almost sideless body of the iPad 2. A good portion of the iPad 2’s edges were left exposed, especially around both of the top and the bottom left corners.
Unlike the Slim, Elan Folio stood just fine in either orientation. We found it took a little bit of breaking in to get to get the leather to sit correctly for the video viewing angle, but it was sturdy once we did. The typing angle is about twice as high as some of the other cases we’ve tested—not optimal, but not awful.
In sum, Griffin has released two somewhat underwhelming initial iPad 2 cases. Elan Folio is the better of the two, but the awkward fit of the back and relatively high price only earn a limited recommendation—based on past iPad history, it’s a safe bet that customers will soon enough find similar and higher quality options at the same or lower prices. Elan Folio Slim, on the other hand, is seriously disappointing. Not only does the material feel cheap, but there were some clearly cut corners in manufacturing, as evidenced by the exposed threads and imperfect cutouts. Combine that with the fact that it simply does not stand up properly, and we would not recommend this model to anyone. It’s the rare example of a legitimately bad case from Griffin, a company that generally has much higher standards.