Review: Innopocket EliteFolio + SeeThru Folio for iPad 2
It's not unusual for a manufacturer to release different versions of a case that have a similar form factor but minor physical differences. What's rare is to see versions that appear close to identical yet function in drastically different ways, at hugely different price points. That's just what Innopocket has done with its EliteFolio ($199) and SeeThru Folio ($35) for iPad 2. Both have similar shell styles and the same unique rotating hinge, but in actual use they're quite different from one another.
EliteFolio stands out for a number of reasons. Not only is it the first real carbon fiber case we have seen for the iPad 2—a device that has been graced with faux carbon fiber cases since before the actual iPad was on store shelves—but this is also the most expensive folio-style case that has come into our office; that’s saying something given that we’ve tested a whole bunch of high-end leather cases over the past few months. As carbon fiber’s a very expensive material, the price isn’t the major objection. Rather, it’s that EliteFolio uses a very odd hinge/stand mechanism to hold its two shell-like pieces together, and then does a very poor job of actually holding the iPad 2 in place.
The use of carbon fiber is pretty neat, especially compared with all the plastic approximations we have seen from competitors. This extremely thin, extremely light material is often used in high-end sports cars, and both the rear shell and front cover are made substantially from it, although the outside has a thin coating of clear plastic that shows scratches very easily. The rear shell has all of the appropriate cut outs for the ports and openings with plenty of clearance for each. Unfortunately, however, the iPad 2 simply did not stay put in our review sample. Unlike SeeThru Folio, EliteFolio has no significant mechanism for holding the iPad 2 in the shell, so it falls out almost immediately when even the slightest bit of pressure is applied to the left side, or if the unit gets a gentle shaking, or even if it’s just in general use. Compounding the issue, there is nothing to hold the front cover shut—in fact, it doesn’t even close all the way. In almost any situation, this is a major issue that makes the case more of a showpiece than a practical protective solution for an iPad 2.
Unlike most folio-style cases whose front covers fold underneath the backsides, the large obtrusive hinge on EliteFolio allows it to open only a little past 90°, a very impractical position. To address this issue, Innopocket built a rotating mechanism that allows the cover to rotate all the way around. A half rotation puts the lid in a position to be folded behind the shell. While it’s not the most practical solution we have seen, it does work. A foldout stand built in to the hinge can be used to create a typing stand, and the company suggests that the case can be situated in an inverted V shape for video viewing. We would be cautious of doing so, however, because the iPad 2 can just slip right out.
At first, SeeThru Folio looks strikingly similar to EliteFolio. Upon close inspection, though, there are major differences—some good, some bad. The first difference is the material. Rather than including carbon fiber, SeeThru Folio is made substantially from clear polycarbonate plastic. At the two right corners on front and all four corners on the back of the case, rubber feet are installed to keep it from slipping around, much like those seen on many laptop shells. It’s not a great look for the iPad, but not horrible, either.
The fit of this shell is thankfully much better, such that the tablet actually snaps—and stays—in place in either orientation. To accommodate this, the openings along the top and bottom edges are unusually shaped and more open than on most comparable models. Both run almost the full length of the device, with divots for the camera and speaker. There is also a cutout for the side switch and volume rocker on both tall sides. Unlike EliteFolio, there are small clips to hold the front cover shut, a nice feature. Otherwise the case works in the same way, with an identical hinge and stand system.
Even though they look alike, EliteFolio and SeeThru Folio are completely different cases. One is inexcusably bad given its high price, while the other is actually pretty good for a much lower one. Because of the poor performance in holding the iPad 2 in place that’s exacerbated by a ridiculously high price, EliteFolio earns a D- rating. Our advice would be to just stay away from it unless it receives a significant redesign. SeeThru Folio, on the other hand, is worthy of a B. It is a good case, albeit one that exposes more of the tablet’s rear than we like, with a weird but useful hinge. While we don’t love the way it looks, the functionality it adds is nice enough, and we appreciate that Innopocket took a different approach to the standard folio here.