Review: Element Case Soft-Tec Pro for iPad Air
Element Case has always made premium cases, often using materials such as metal, wood, and leather. Soft-Tec Pro for iPad Air ($80) is actually one of its least expensive products, forgoing those high-end materials for different forms of rubber and plastic. The convertible case can take on multiple forms, changing from a playthrough case to a folio as you choose. It has a modern, automotive inspired design, and is throughly protective. Some of the details when it comes to the fit and finish are off, which detracts from the overall appeal, but there are some cool things going on. Included with the case is a strap that can be attached for carrying the iPad on your shoulder.
At the heart of it, Soft-Tec Pro is a rubber frame with a ring of plastic inside. The iPad slips in, although the fit isn’t perfect. Towards the top, our review unit was a bit loose; some of the chamfered edge was visible, and it was very evident when the covered Sleep/Wake button was pressed, as the rubber went along with it. The issue wasn’t as bad at the volume buttons, although they’re a bit squishier than we’d prefer, whereas the button on the top corner at least clicks well. All of the openings are big enough to expose what’s below, including the rear camera hole, which is actually wider than necessary. The rubber ports the audio from the speakers out from the front of the tablet.
Element Case suggests the case can be used as is, with a large rectangular hole on the back. Thankfully, it includes a plastic backplate that covers up the Apple logo and the rest of the exposed aluminum casing. It easily snaps into place, and matches the rest of the case. Above and below it, there are openings used to attach the cover. When being used as a playthrough case, included plastic inserts fit in, keeping the back smooth and clean looking. They can be removed by twisting a coin in a slot at the top or bottom, but we found only a dime will fit, and even then, it can be difficult to pop the pieces out. We did a little bit of damage to the plastic just trying to switch between modes.
Those openings are also used to attach the lid, which is a nylon-like material on the outside, and suede-ish on the inside. Its rear portion fits into the holes, snapping into place. We found it took a bit of effort to do so, but for how often most people will switch between the two setups, it shouldn’t be a big problem. The lid does have magnets for locking and unlocking the iPad, but they’re not strong enough to actually hold the cover shut, and it moves around enough that the feature may be triggered by accident, which could lead to unintentional battery drain. By folding the cover underneath the tablet, it transforms the case into a stand for viewing, or typing, depending on how you orient it.
We think Element Case had some good ideas with Soft-Tec Pro, but the execution is a little off in a handful of different ways. If you’re willing to deal with these minor issues, and like the design, the case may be for you; that’s why it earns our limited recommendation. We like that it can switch back and forth, even if doing so isn’t completely seamless. This, along with the attractive design and level of protection help justify the somewhat high price.