Review: Element Case Wood Series Cases for iPad 2/iPad (3rd-Gen) + iPhone 4/4S
Element Case has primarily used metal for its past accessories, so its Wood Series cases for iPad ($90) and iPhone 4/4S ($65) are somewhat surprising. Although we're not going to review the iPhone version -- a simple but pricey wood veneer-covered plastic shell with a front bezel sticker and film -- we did want to spotlight the tablet model, which is a little more novel, and designed for both the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad.
What’s most noteworthy about the iPad Wood Series design is its thinness—it’s light and thin even by plastic shell standards, thanks to an internal composite material that Element alternates between calling “synthetic fiber” and “carbon fiber,” depending on what you’re reading. This material looks like faux carbon fiber, shiny and checkerboarded, but feels more rigid than typical plastic, and enables the company to create a stiff but contoured wooden cover for the iPad. Because of the rigid material, we found it difficult to remove the case unless we started by popping off the top right corner, then moving down to the one below it; the other corners don’t flex as easily as common plastic. By comparison, the outside of the shell is covered in a “warm natural wood” veneer. While that layer isn’t very thick, it does look and feel real, entirely unlike plastic/sticker-based wood replicas. We really liked it.
When it comes to covering the iPad’s metal frame, Wood Series is almost complete but not quite there. All four edges expose a sliver of silver, though the corners are fully covered. Openings offer unhindered access to the ports and buttons, while small holes over the speaker similarly allow audio through; overall, Wood Series isn’t as protective as the best iPad shells we’ve seen, but it’s not bad, either. Unlike many shells these days, there’s no room to attach a Smart Cover, which some users will appreciate more than others: this adds protection to the iPad’s body, but denies users of that accessory the ability to use it.
Wood Series Case’s single biggest issue is pricing. Even if the wood veneer and fiber base are considered “premium” materials, it’s hard to justify paying $90 for something so conceptually close to a simple plastic shell. Element Case did a nice job with the Wood Series styling and engineering, but there’s too little here to justify the cost. We see it as the flip side alternative to Miniot’s Cover Mk2, which is similarly attractive, adding a new stand feature with modest protection; Element’s design is nearly as handsome and more protective, while lacking the stand. Given the price, it merits a limited recommendation. If you love wood, consider it; otherwise, save your money for something that brings more to the table.