Review: TwelveSouth SurfacePad for iPad mini
Following last year's attractive but not very protectiveprotector of the same name and design for iPhone 5/5s, TwelveSouth revealed its SurfacePad for iPad mini ($70). Not truly a case, SurfacePad is a sheet of Napa leather, cut to match the shape of the tablet, and lined with felt. It uses an adhesive material to stick to the back of the iPad, leaving the edges less protected than we like, and offering no button coverage. Coming in red, black, or white, it does include some new tricks in the lid that are undeniably cool.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between SurfacePad and Apple’s iPad mini Smart Case. Both cases are made of high quality leather, cost $70, and utilize magnets embedded in the lid to hold the tablet up in standing positions. But Apple’s offering is a full case, and SurfacePad is more of a cover. Once you peel back the film protecting the adhesive material, line up the pad, and press it in place, the tablet’s top, bottom, and outside edges remain exposed. This means no button coverage, a protective feature Apple executed well. While there’s a hole punched through the material to expose the rear microphone on Retina iPad minis, the entire top left corner is missing to make way for the camera.
Instead of folding, the lid is a a flat sheet, stamped with the number 12 towards the bottom. We found it took a few attempts at installation and some breaking in of the spine to get it to line up properly with the iPad’s right edge. Thankfully, SurfacePad is designed to be removed and reapplied without leaving behind any residue or losing stickiness. Surprisingly strong magnets hold the cover closed without the need for any straps or hooks, and even though it may slide up or down a bit, it doesn’t travel far enough to unintentionally unlock the tablet. When you actually open it the cover, the screen does turn on.
Three sets of hidden magnets inside the lid work with those embedded in the iPad mini’s left edge to hold the tablet at viewing and typing angles. The first, about 3.7” from the outer edge, props it up at a little more than 80 degrees for video playback. An inch closer to the edge brings it down 10 degrees. Move it all the way to the edge, and the iPad will rest at 30 or so degrees, which is a little high for typing, but works fine.
If SurfacePad didn’t have a direct correlation in the iPad mini Smart Case, it’s possible it could receive a higher rating. But at such a high price, we have equally high expectations, especially when it comes to body protection, and Apple makes it evident that premium materials don’t have to preclude coverage or functionality. We find the design a little less objectionable than we did on the C-rated SurfacePad for iPhone, since iPads are generally less prone to day-to-day damage, but it’s still not an ideal solution, and it falls short of earning a recommendation, meriting a C+ rating. The magnetic lid ensures that some people will like SurfacePad, but in any scenario we can imagine, the Smart Case will be a better option.