Review: iPort Charge Case and Stand for iPad Air
Over the past year, we’ve seen major improvements to wireless charging systems for iPhones that have brought the concept from "impractical" to "reasonable," including BuQu Tech’s Magnetyze, which brought together a handsome case and a truly useful ecosystem of charging and mounting accessories — without a crazy price tag. iPort was the first to bring a comparable system to tablets, with its Charge Case and Stand for iPad mini, and it has now released a version for iPad Air ($120). Like before, it pairs a protective case with a charging base. Both have unique features that show some real thought went into the design, particularly the case. Because of the similarities between the two systems, this review is based heavily on our earlier findings.
With a body made almost entirely of hard, matte plastic, the case portion of Charge Case and Stand easily slides onto the body of the iPad Air from the top and bottom, with rubber rails protecting the metal back from being scratched. Despite the presence of electronics inside, the case adds little thickness, height, and weight to the mini; but for the 5/8”-tall chin along the bottom edge, it could pass for a standard protective case, and the tablet can still easily be held in one hand. One of the coolest features of the case is that it’s iPad Air Smart Cover-compatible, without leaving an edge exposed. The lid actually connects to the plastic case itself, and still covers the screen properly.
Our favorite iPad cases protect not only the body of the device, but also the buttons; this is the one area in which iPort falls slightly behind the competition. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are left exposed, as are the side switch, headphone port, microphone, and iSight camera. One of the most interesting aspects of this case is how the Lightning port is handled. A Lightning connector is integrated into the case and plugs into the iPad Air’s bottom, but iPort made that connector removable. The plastic around it can actually slide off without removing the case, revealing the port if you need direct access. It’s a really impressive and thoughtful feature that we’re happy to see as a part of the solution. Audio from the speakers is ported out through the front of the case, with no degradation in quality. Finally, there are two sets of charging contacts on the case, found on the left and bottom edges.
The docking station included with the kit is something of a beast, weighing in at more than a pound and a half. Weight can actually be a good thing for stands, though, as it helps keep them stationary. The dock is made of glossy and matte black plastic, with rubber lining the bottom, and a 12W/2.4A power supply is permanently integrated. By pressing on silver pegs on either side, you can move the stand angle between three different positions, from about 25 to 75 degrees.
Raised contacts on the dock match those on the back of the case, and they magnetically attach when placed in close proximity. Once connected, the iPad Air automatically begins charging, and because there are contacts along both the horizontal and vertical edges, it can do so in portrait or landscape orientation. This is a smart choice; we can’t help but think back to early prototypes of the first iPad with twin Dock Connector ports in a similar orientation. Because it’s a 2.4A charger, you get full-speed charging with any iPad that’s docked in the system.
In considering the final value of this system, it’s important to look at its constituent pieces. A good dock without any charging hardware or cables sells for around $30, and a case of this sort would go for $35. Adding a 12W charger and a Lightning cable will cost you another $40, assuming you go with Apple products. When it comes to the $100 iPad mini version of Charge Case and Stand, this combination is a great deal, and rightfully earned our high recommendation. We feel as strongly about the quality of the iPad Air edition, but the price is just a bit too high. Full-sized iPad cases often cost more than their mini counterparts, but in this instance, $20 for some more plastic and no extra electronics is slightly off. Charge Case and Stand for iPad Air is ultimately worthy of a B+ rating. We still really like the system, and find it to be smartly executed; the price gap between the Air and mini versions is just a little greater than it should be.