Review: Touch Inspiration Utile 2 for iPad 2
Hong Kong-based Touch Inspiration's Utile 2 for iPad 2 ($55) is pretty unique among folio-style cases for Apple's tablet computers. It's actually composed of two pieces: a hard plastic shell and a clip-on front cover made of the same material. If you're actually looking to purchase Utile 2, you'll have to head to this third-party site, since Touch Inspiration isn't selling it directly in the US. That probably won't be a problem for most people, though.
When used as a stand-alone shell, Utile 2 has a few serious flaws. Unlike most shells that cover the iPad 2’s aluminum edges, this one doesn’t: it extends just a bit past them, and then curves up higher. The cutouts for the buttons and ports are all appropriately-sized, except for the one over the microphone, which is quite a bit larger than necessary, seemingly to create design parity with the Dock Connector hole cutout at the bottom. Touch Inspiration also left the edges between the openings somewhat exposed: Utile 2’s gaps are not as bad as models that have long openings along the top and bottom, but the company could have done better. As with many cases that have a detachable portion, the Apple logo is exposed when the front cover is disconnected—an issue when the rear casing is being used by itself.
The biggest problem is how difficult it is to insert and remove the tablet from the case. Small raised portions of plastic in the four corners hold it in place, so you have to push with a lot of force to get the iPad 2 to snap in. There’s not much give, and it feels like putting the case on could damage the iPad 2. Each time we tried, it took a few attempts and a lot of pressure; the same is true when you go to remove it. We actually noticed some stress marks in the plastic near the corners, indicating that the plastic isn’t made to take that kind of force. Put bluntly, it’s a very poor design that may damage the iPad 2, and will certainly damage itself over time with repeated removals.
The front cover/stand base certainly looks different than most models we’ve seen in the past, and it works pretty well. A simple round clip holds it in place by snapping into the opening over the Apple logo. From there, two beams extend back to a hinge, connected to the plastic plate. On the outside are soft non-slip pads in the corners, and a latch that holds the whole thing shut. Inside, three sets of ridges provide different stand angles; two bumps on the shell’s left side fit right into these. Because of the connection between the two pieces, the shell spins freely into any orientation.
While the design wouldn’t be bad if it were to be refined, the case presents some serious issues in its current form. Some people may find the smaller problems excusable, but the overly tight fit of the shell drops Utile 2 well below our standards for recommendation. We were worried about damaging the iPad 2, and the shell showed obvious signs of stress after only a short period of time. Even if the stand feature were phenomenal—which it’s not—we still wouldn’t recommend this case. Our advice would be to hold off in favor of an improved sequel.