Review: Uzibull Ekto2 + Flex Case System for iPad 2
Sold separately or as a set, Uzibull's new Ekto2 case ($40) and Flex system ($75) give iPad 2 users a variety of options for protecting and carrying their tablets. The former is an unusually thick silicone case, while the latter starts with that piece, then adds a hard plastic frame along with a collection of attachments. Available in either white or black, the system certainly doesn't have universal appeal, but some users may be willing to deal with a bulky case for the sake of detachable accessories.
Saying that Ekto2 is thick doesn’t quite do it justice. This rubber case takes Apple’s impressively thin tablet computer and makes it into something much larger—one of the biggest protective options we’ve seen. The shape is comparable to that of Incipio’s Hive for iPod touch 4G, but larger and with greater weight. Not only is the material itself thick, but the shape adds bulk around the edges, while also providing some bezel coverage. Surely this design is intended to provide substantial protection against drops, but unfortunately, because the case is designed to be used as part of a set with something underneath it, the fit is a bit too loose. You can feel the iPad 2 moving around slightly inside the case, and it easily pulls away, especially along the long edges. We do like the curved ridges along the back though, which provide some extra grip.
There’s an appropriately-sized opening for the volume rocker and side switch, as well as ones for the camera, the speaker, and the Dock Connector port—don’t even think about docking this one in any iPad dock, though. On the other hand, while it appears that the headphone port might present an issue due to its depth, the hole actually does support L-shaped plugs as well as straight ones, and is not limited to thin, Apple-sized plugs. Ekto2 also provides coverage for the Sleep/Wake button, but that comes at a slight cost: because of the loose fit, pulling down on the case causes the button to depress. On multiple occasions during our testing, the screen turned off by itself or even displayed the “slide to power off” message without us intentionally pushing the button. Two holes along the right side of the back, as well as one large one over the Apple logo, leave some of the aluminum back exposed. They serve a purpose as part of the Flex system, but are a liability when the silicone case is used by itself.
The Flex system is composed of the Flex frame, a padded shoulder strap, a hand strap, and a tripod thread. Flex is a plastic frame that snaps onto the back of the iPad 2, with Ekto2 fitting over it: with this piece alone, the holes and ports aren’t affected, although it does add a grate over the speaker. With this piece installed, the case not only fits much better, but also feels more complete. Holes along the right serve as pass-throughs for the plastic accessory loops. The opening over the Apple logo? It’s still a problem, but winds up serving as a way to attach the accessories. With Flex attached, the iPad 2 is more stable inside, but the edges still do pull away.
Attaching the shoulder strap is easy. Simply hook the metal clips at the ends of the narrow fabric strap onto the loops, and it’s done. Unfortunately, we can’t imagine anyone actually carrying an iPad 2 like this; it strikes us a much less practical option than a bag. For the most part, the tablet is still exposed to the elements, there’s no way to carry accessories, and it may even be unwise in certain settings to make it so obvious to the world that you’re carrying around an easily snatchable device.
The plastic piece that serves as the base of the tripod mount and hand strap is a bit more practical. It snaps into place right in the center of the case, and can be removed by squeezing tabs on the sides. When bare, the metal thread is exposed in the middle, and can be attached to any standard tripod or similar mounting accessory. When it comes time to use the hand strap, the included Velcro-laden band is fed through wings on either side of the tripod mount, and can be adjusted depending on the size of the user’s hand. Either way, the tablet can be spun 360°. Both of these modes could be useful in certain specific situations, and we appreciate how easy it is to interchange them.
It’s important to consider who Uzibull is gearing its Ekto2 and Flex system towards. While we might otherwise suggest the bulky silicone case as a good choice for those who intend to hand an iPad 2 off to a child, the loose fit, overly exposed back, and Sleep/Wake button issues would make us think twice about that. On the other hand, we can’t see a lot of adults choosing this as a daily case or packing it into a bag for work or play. As a standalone case, Ekto2 merits a C rating. Taken as a whole, the Flex system offers a slightly higher value—at almost double the cost. With the flex frame in place, the fit is better, and the ability to add on accessories is appreciated. While we find the shoulder strap to be negligible, a subset of users may find the other two useful. We don’t see these features justifying the high price, however, and for that reason, Flex earns the same C rating. A redesigned, considerably lighter and smaller version with similar functionality could be more appealing to users.