Review: Striped Sail miFrame for iPad 2
One of the more underused iPad capabilities is the Picture Frame feature found on the Lock Screen, which lets you turn a docked iPad into a digital photo slideshow device with just a single screen tap. Striped Sail has sought to capitalize on this feature with its miFrame dock for iPad 2 ($79), which is composed of three separate pieces: a black plastic back with an integrated Dock Connector and USB charging cable, a black or silver metal frame that snaps on and off, and a stand that can hold the dock in either orientation. The bare iPad 2 simply slides down over the plug, and the cable can be connected to something to charge the tablet. Also included is a pane of glass-like plastic, in case you choose to use miFrame as a frame for a real photograph when an iPad's not inside.
While the value of such a solution may be debatable, we have to give Striped Sail credit for executing on the concept as elegantly as it did. It’s very easy to insert and remove the iPad 2, and even without the frame on, the iPad stays in place. The frame snaps on and off without too much effort, and both variations look nice, with diamond cut beveled edges that really stand out. miFrame would have looked better if it covered the iPad’s bezel, but that would also block access to the Home button, so we can understand why it was designed the way it was. The aluminum stand slides easily into the bottom, left, or right side of the plastic back, and is very secure regardless of the iPad orientation you choose.
One big issue: the charging solution is incomplete. You can plug miFrame into a computer’s USB ports for charging and syncing, but practically, most users are going to want to place a picture frame someplace away from a computer screen, such as a kitchen or living room. In those places, you must use either the 10W charger that came with your iPad, or go out and drop $29 on another one; for the $79 asking price, Striped Sail should really have included a wall adapter of its own.
Overall, we see miFrame as an OK solution for users who want to dock their tablet for charging, as well as anyone looking for a way to show off photos using the iPad’s screen. Considered broadly, miFrame is best understood as a somewhat more elaborate version of Apple’s iPad 2 Dock, which costs only $29; both require that you use your iPad 2 without a case—inconvenient for many users—and though miFrame has advantages such as including a USB cable and supporting multiple orientations, Apple’s dock has the benefit of audio output and minimalist design. Judged against the iPad 2 Dock, the $50 premium that Striped Sail is asking users to pay is a bit steep, with too few benefits to justify the price tag. miFrame’s C+ rating isn’t meant to discourage you from considering it if it fits your needs; it could just stand to be more fully featured or less expensive, if not both.