Review: SwitchEasy Canvas for iPad 2
SwitchEasy has come a long way since releasing the original version of its Canvas case for the iPad four months ago. Canvas for iPad 2 ($50) preserves most of the same features while making a collection of major cosmetic and functional improvements to the folio-style design. Gone are the first version's oddly colored elastic accents and leatherette interiors, replaced with neutral gray or black plastics and a simpler side clasp for closure. Canvas for iPad 2 also adds support for the new iPad's magnetic screen lock/unlock feature, as well as camera, speaker, microphone, and port holes in all the right places. An improved outer material looks more like canvas than the glossy, plasticy prior version and is available in black, brown, charcoal, or grey.
Canvas takes a different approach to the folio design than most cases. Rather than slipping the iPad 2 into a wraparound frame, SwitchEasy chose to use a hard plastic shell to hold the tablet in place. Attached to that shell is a reinforced soft canvas covering that wraps all the way around, forming the rest of the body and the front cover. One immediate benefit from this design is that the buttons and ports are flush and accessible, rather than recessed like we have seen on most iPad 2 folios with flat backs. The rear camera, speaker, microphone, port holes and buttons are all exposed and fully accessible through the frame’s precision cut openings. That SwitchEasy found a way to leave the rear camera open—and then designed the case’s canvas flap so that it needn’t obstruct the camera when folding back—is another impressive little touch.
While half of the shell backing is firmly attached to the canvas, the left hand side is held on with only a thin stripe of Velcro. This allows the pieces to be separated and folded into a video stand while still protecting the iPad 2, unlike LuxMobile’s Organik Easel Case, which utilizes a similar method but leaves half of the tablet exposed. Ridges on the inside of the front cover allow for one of three video viewing angles, reinforced by stabilizers on the shell. The magnetic screen lock/unlock feature works exactly as expected, waking the iPad 2 as soon as the front cover is lifted and putting it to sleep when the cover is closed. On three of the Canvas cases we tested, we found that the latch to hold the front lid shut requires just a little bit of extra force to be put into place—this tension helps insure that the case stays shut. But on the fourth case, it was actually hard to close the latch, requiring even more pressure, a small production issue. Like most of SwitchEasy’s accessories for Apple products, plenty of extras are included with Canvas: a piece of screen protector film, a microfiber cloth, squeegee, and two sets of optional headphone and Dock Connector port protectors.
The build of Canvas is very high quality and quite an improvement over the prior iteration. As opposed to the glossy and cheap-feeling finish on the original, the more natural matte canvas feels better to the touch, and looks a lot nicer. Using the plastic shell to hold the iPad 2 in place is also a big difference that provides for a higher quality appearance and user experience. On top of all that, we much preferred the clasp to the original elastic band for closure, though a fully magnetic latching system would have been even better. SwitchEasy’s new color options, while more subdued, are more professional and aesthetically pleasing than the previous combinations.
Ultimately, Canvas offers impressive innovations on an earlier design that we were ready to write off. Not only are the materials better on this new version, but SwitchEasy was wise in reengineering how the case actually secures the iPad 2 and functions as a stand. The only obvious improvements we’d like to see would be stronger Velcro connecting the shell to the body of the case—admittedly, a small issue—and a superior front lid latching system. That having been said, SwitchEasy has once again provided an impressively protective solution that looks great and is quite functional, without resting on the laurels of previous designs. Unlike Cara, another SwitchEasy folio design that some of us would naturally prefer on looks and elegance, the same-priced Canvas offers the integrated video stand and auto lock/unlock functionality that most iPad 2 users would prefer to have in their cases these days. Kudos to SwitchEasy for improving on the prior Canvas, and making it worthy of a high recommendation.
Updated April 18, 2012: More than a year after our original review of Canvas, readers contacted us to note that two SwitchEasy cases with hard plastic backs—Canvas and CoverBuddy—were developing cracks after some period of use. While we have not had any issues with Canvas ourselves, we did note cracks were developing in CoverBuddy, and as such have suspended our recommendation for that product. Since the issues with Canvas have been noted by a number of individuals, we are updating this review to make potential customers aware of the possibility of problems, however, this model has been superseded by a followup version designed to accommodate both the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad. It’s also unclear whether SwitchEasy is honoring warranty claims for faulty cases, as the company has suggested that some of the problematic cases may be counterfeits. We have contacted SwitchEasy for comment and will continue to follow developments.