Review: CruxCase Crux360 for iPad 2
The iPad 2 keyboard case space has evolved to a point where there are finally some genuinely great options available, such as Adonit's Writer 2 Plus. So it's now important for new models to stand out from the crowd with superior keyboards and unique designs. While it's somewhat different from earlier options, CruxCase's new Crux360 for iPad 2 ($149) is also somewhat familiar: it's designed to replicate the look and feel of a laptop in a design that looks very much like Clamcase LLC's Clamcase iPad 2 Keyboard Case. They're clearly not the exact same product, but they both sell at steep premiums over more common $100 alternatives, and fail to deliver a decidedly superior user experience.
Crux360 has a hinged folio-style setup: the left side is a somewhat thick and very sturdy keyboard, while the right is composed of a two-piece frame to hold the tablet. Although it’s mounted a bit differently—built into the plastic rather than surrounded by leather or fully removable—the keyboard is a variant of the OEM model we’ve previously seen from Wekreat, GreatShield, and Nuu. We have noted that this keyboard is good rather than great: the scissor-style keys include iOS-specific functions along the top row; all of the keys are responsive and have nice tactility, but they’re small and close together, resulting in a cramped feeling. Most of the case’s weight—1.55 pounds compared to the 1.33 of the iPad 2 itself—comes from the keyboard, an intentional design decision that seriously bulks up the tablet. The battery charges with the included Micro USB cable, and is rated for 120 hours of continuous use or 1,000 hours of standby time.
Unfortunately, Crux360’s iPad frame is much less protective than most cases. It splits on the vertical axis, with a larger section remaining attached to the frame and the other coming fully loose. When together, they leave a very large portion of the iPad 2’s back exposed—an area larger than 4.5” by 5.5”. Crux360 does have openings for all of the ports and buttons, although they’re similarly at least a little larger than necessary.
We knew there was a problem when we first tried to place an iPad 2 in the frame. With thin screen film on, the iPad slid into the bottom part of the frame pretty easily, but a lot of force was required to properly attach the other half. When it came time to remove the iPad, there was a serious issue. We were able to quickly separate the iPad from the bottom, but the standalone half just wouldn’t come off. The fit was so incredibly tight that the tablet wouldn’t budge no matter how hard we pulled. Removing the iPad eventually took two adult men, pulling in opposite directions—not something you normally want to do with a $500-$830 device—to even loosen it. Once it was loosened, we were able to work it off, but for a time we thought Crux360 was on there for good. Our understanding is that CruxCase is aware of the fit issues and plans to fix them, but our experience with the unit we tested was really not good.
Crux360 is advertised as supporting four different modes. With the lid closed, it’s in “carry mode”—magnets in the base hold it shut and also automatically lock the iPad 2’s screen. Opening it up transforms the case into “laptop mode,” with the hinge allowing for a wide range of viewing angles. Flip the keyboard underneath and you have a video stand position, with four rubber feet preventing the keys from pressing against the table or other surface underneath. Folding the tablet frame all the way back gives you “tablet mode,” without keyboard visibility but with all the extra weight of the keyboard and frame.
CruxCase priced Crux360 at such a high level—$50 more than what most competitors charge—in an attempt to position its product as a premium offering, just as Clamcase did, and that’s a gamble: from our perspective, the premium price just isn’t justified. We found Crux360 to be too heavy and thick for what it offers, particularly given the latest crop of impressive competitors we’ve covered. If the keyboard was substantially better or if the case offered other standout features, the package might make sense, but neither is the case. Combine that with a shell that posed serious removal and protective issues during normal use, and we can’t recommend Crux360. It earns a C- rating. There are far better, less expensive options available that don’t trap your iPad 2; hopefully CruxCase will make some major revisions to a future version.