Review: Zenus Neo Classic Diary Collection for iPad mini
Two of case maker Zenus' first folio-style cases for the iPad mini -- Color Point Diary Collection ($55) and Neo Classic Diary Collection ($60) -- are built off the same base but vary in features, particularly when it comes to what's inside the front cover. They're made with different textures of faux leather that's nice enough to pass for real cowhide, each in a variety of colors that range from classic blacks and browns to louder oranges and reds.
Both Color Point Diary Collection and Neo Classic Diary Collection use the same iPad holder on the right side—a somewhat lacking design given how good rival shells have become. Instead of proper coverage, Zenus’s iPad holder only covers roughly three quarters of the height of the tablet’s edge, leaving the chamfered corner and some of the aluminum below it exposed. Raised segments along the left and right edges serve to actually hold the iPad mini in place, a design element Zenus should have used all the way around the perimeter. All of the iPad’s ports and buttons are exposed, with individual openings for the headphone port, microphone, and Sleep/Wake button, plus combined holes for the side switch and volume buttons, then the speakers and Lightning port. We weren’t worried about the tablet falling out at any point, but it should have been more thoroughly protected.
Of the two cases, the slightly less expensive Color Point Diary is more basic. The exterior is covered in a naturally textured faux leather, with a small square of a contrasting color in a silver frame at the bottom right corner of the front cover. Even though the lid has auto-locking magnets built in, they’re not strong enough to secure the lid to the display; instead, a tab with a magnetic snap comes around from the back to hold the case shut. Open it up and you’ll find three small pockets—a little wider than necessary for credit cards—plus one larger pocket that runs the entire height of the lid, capable of holding folded paper. A single ridge allows the cover to fold around back and tuck into a flap on the back in a viewing angle or a very high typing position. Unfortunately, the tab floats above the screen with no mechanism in place to keep it out of the way.
Neo Classic Diary Collection is more advanced in some areas, but lacking in others. For example, it has no embedded magnets in its lid, so it can’t automatically wake up the iPad mini, or put it to sleep. Here, Color Point Diary’s textured exterior material has been swapped for smooth, glossy, marbled faux leather, while the inside of the front cover is lined with a suede-like material. An elastic hand strap now runs horizontally across the top, and there are two fold-out stands. The strap seems to be best suited for using the tablet in landscape orientation, as it allows the device to rest against your forearm. It’s just a bit tighter than we’d prefer, so it may be uncomfortable for users with larger hands. Both stands are held against the inside of the cover with magnets, with the keyboard stand nestled inside the one for video viewing. They both work fine, but again, the tab hanging in front of the screen is an issue.
Ultimately, Zenus’ solutions are attractive, but not particularly good cases. Both fall short of ideal device protection and lid convenience, and while their other features—particularly stand functionality—are appreciated, they’re not executed with any sort of originality. On top of all this, they’re expensive by iPad mini case standards. These are options you choose for looks above all else; at least they’re successful in that regard. With that in mind, both Color Point Diary Collection and Neo Classic Diary Collection earn limited recommendations.