Review: Incipio Flagship Folio + LGND For iPad 2 / iPad (3rd-Gen)
After seeing its upcoming lineup at CES earlier this year, we knew that Incipio had some cool new cases in the pipeline. Another two of the more noteworthy ones have been released after tweaks to fit both the third-generation iPad and iPad 2. First there's Flagship Folio ($70, aka Flagship Executive Folio), which won our Best of Show Finalist Award when it was introduced under the name "Bentley." It's a unique take on the folio-style case, with great styling and a large metal hinge that's unlike anything we've seen before. Then there's LGND ($35), a separate folio design that's available in three colors, each with a uniquely segmented, magnetic lid that uses origami-style folding. They're both creative takes on the folio, a style that has become rather staid, but one's a bigger deal than the other.
Though there’s a huge price difference between these two models, we really preferred the look and feel of Flagship Folio. The base of the case is polycarbonate plastic, which is used for both the rear shell and the front cover. It’s covered with faux carbon fiber on the outside, and lined with micro-fiber on the inside. Combined with the aluminum hinge system, these materials look seriously classy—better than one might imagine from the “plastic” and “faux” descriptors. Incipio’s novel hinge is attached right at the end of the cover, fitting into a depression on the back that allows it to sit flat, and running just past the midpoint of the case. The shell is adequately protective, running to all four of the iPad’s edges without unnecessarily large openings, save for a gap to relieve the plastic clip that holds the case shut. There are embedded magnets, and they do work correctly to lock and unlock the displays of both iPads.
The hinge mechanism allows for eight different landscape viewing angles, achieved by folding the lid and taking advantage of the hinge. Rubber feet on the shell rest against ridges on the inside of the cover, with positions ranging from almost straight up and down to about 40° off the ground. Lowering the articulating piece of the hinge and letting the the case rest against the clip brings the case to a suitable typing angle. We found all of them to be sturdy, even when the tablet’s screen is being poked and tapped. The downside to this style of case is that it requires about 7.5” of desk space for the lid to lay flat, unlike a Smart Cover or similarly styled case that has a much smaller footprint. It may also take some users a few tries to get used to putting Flagship Folio in stand mode, versus simply folding the cover back and having it rest flat against the case; the metal hinge needs to be placed in different orientations to support each position. After learning those positions, the folding process should become quite natural.
LGND isn’t quite as exciting, although it still brings some unique features to the table. Like Flagship Folio, the rear shell is made of plastic. Rather than being covered with carbon fiber-style material, however, the outer layer is faux suede—the interestingly textured material extends to make up the front cover as well—and instead of full coverage, this one leaves the top edge of the tablet exposed. It’s surprising to see Incipio get coverage right with one case and wrong with another, but so it is. Inside, the case is lined with soft gray micro-suede to protect the tablet.
Unlike most folios with folding covers, this one isn’t divided into three or four columns: instead, it’s segmented into six uneven triangular pieces, with the largest taking up about half the cover while the others make up the rest. It’s not immediately obvious, but the idea is to fold the grey parts in on themselves in an origami-like fashion, creating a stand with the nubuck on the outside held in place by magnets. It can be used in either viewing or typing orientations, although we found the former to be a bit shallower than we prefer, and the latter slides more than we’d like. Alternatively, the cover can be folded in an inverse fashion, forming a stand that fits over your leg. Again, it’s not completely intuitive, but it does work, though without much benefit over cases without “leg stands.” Since there are different ways to fold the lid, we’d suggest users clearly examine the packaging to get the folds right, as incorrect folding can make the stand unstable. Similarly, it’s worth noting that the magnets in the cover do lock and unlock both iPads’ displays, although the flexible hinge connecting the pieces allows it to move up and own, which can unintentionally wake the tablet if jostled. We heard the locking sound effect much more than we’d expect.
Incipio’s latest releases are both intriguing, and Flagship Folio certainly deserves particular credit on creativity, looks, protection, and overall functionality. It’s an example of a company taking a different approach to an established style, and it works, though small issues detract a little from its appeal. Some users won’t like the amount of space required on a desk or table, and the price is also somewhat high for a folio, although the look and feel definitely help to justify the cost. Ultimately, it’s a cool case that will appeal to many users, and it’s worthy of our high recommendation. LGND, however, doesn’t merit as high of a rating. While we appreciate its novel folding front cover, the execution isn’t fantastic or different enough in actual value to users to justify the added work—it’s like a less intuitive Smart Cover. Combined with the less protective back, less-than-perfect stand, and lid that can accidentally unlock the iPad, LGND falls short of the potential its idea originally held. For the price, however, it’s not a bad deal, and it deserves our limited recommendation.