Review: ZeroChroma VarioSC for iPad Air
Improved from the award-winning iPad mini version, ZeroChroma's new VarioSC for iPad Air ($50, previously Vario-SC) is the latest and greatest generation of a case we've enjoyed using for years. Made predominantly from TPU-style soft black plastic, VarioSC is impressively svelte on the Air, even though it's packing a multi-angle rotating stand. This is where the biggest update over previous models can be found: the company's new Flux Stand offers the same rotation and angle versatility found in earlier Vario-SC models, but with what ZeroChroma says is improved long-term reliability.
Setting aside the stand, the case itself is rather plain. The material is similar to that of Incipio’s NGP cases, with a smooth finish and enough give to make installation easy. Previous cases in the family have lacked button coverage, but this time, ZeroChroma has attended to that detail. The volume buttons and Sleep/Wake button now have raised, glossy plastic over them, offering just the right degree of clickiness. Otherwise, cleanly cut holes expose the speakers, ports, camera, side switch, and microphone.
There’s one more opening, and that’s along the iPad’s left edge. While the other three edges of the case continue over to the front, covering the bezel a bit and helping to protect the screen from falls, the left side is open between its top and bottom corners. This is to a deliberate omission to ensure Smart Cover compatibility. We can understand why one might want to protect the tablet’s screen with a lid, but the stand functionality is superfluous with VarioSC’s Flux Stand there, and actually pales in comparison to it. We’d really love to see ZeroChroma offer a Vario that protects on all four sides; good screen film would help keep the screen in pristine condition.
While we like the case, it’s the Flux Stand that we love. ZeroChroma has done something really special here, and that’s saying something, because previous iterations of the stand were already very impressive. To start, it’s embedded in the back of the case, an almost imperceptibly raised hump. The circumference of the plastic disc housing the stand is much smaller than before, now only about 4.25”. In the center is a 1.5” wide, 3” long rectangle, with a rounded finger hole at one end. This is the only visible portion of a significantly simplified stand mechanism.
Lift that rectangle of plastic, and you have a stand. It’s that easy. A metal bar runs through it, and this is what allows the multiple positions. Unlike previous cases from ZeroChroma that offered 11 angles, clicking into place at each one, VarioSC can slide from 15 degree to 40 degrees in landscape orientation, stopping at any point along the way. The tension of the plastic around the metal bar holds whatever angle you choose. Flux Stand also rotates all the way around, meaning it’s easy to move between portrait and landscape positions.
There were two small issues with the stand that aren’t deal-breakers by any means, but must be addressed. The first is typing. Because the stand is so narrow, tapping away at the iPad Air’s screen to type can make it wobble slightly from side to side. We weren’t ever worried about it actually falling over, but we do prefer a sturdier hold. There was also some debris on the back of our iPad, which seems to be from the metal scraping against the plastic. This will likely go away after some use.
If it had wanted to, ZeroChroma could have simply rejiggered its previous design to fit the iPad Air. Instead, it went back to the drawing board, finding ways to make its already great system even better. Those who’ve used prior versions won’t be blown away by the improvements, but they will appreciate them. The stand is smaller, quieter, and offers more angles. Added button protection is a good thing too. VarioSC is not substantially different though, and it continues to earn an A- rating. While it’s not a perfect case, it’s a truly great one. We’d really love to see a version that offers protection on all four sides, but in the meantime, we highly recommend what ZeroChroma has to offer.