We’ve seen a lot of truly nice leather cases over the years, but there have been few that we’ve considered using ourselves on a day-to-day basis. Often times, they’re more of a showcase for the premium material than really smart solutions. MapiCases Orion line, available in versions for the iPad 2 ($160) — a model for the third-generation iPad will be released shortly — and iPhone 4/4S ($80), is a different story. Not only does the leather leather look and feel great, but the novel design is well thought out, and fits either device impressively well. The price, unfortunately, puts this series of cases outside the reach of most users.
Both cases use the same rich, textured leather and are available in brown, black, tan, red, and white. We found the construction quality to be very high, with nice stitching and a well contoured fit. The iPad 2 version of Orion starts with a sturdy frame for holding the tablet. Reinforced sides give it an unusually boxy shape that negates the tablet’s curves, but isn’t unreasonably thick. The top edge of the case is open, allowing the device to be slid in and secured with a tab that snaps onto the back. That tab covers about four inches of the iPad’s top edge and has an opening for the microphone; the headphone port and Sleep/Wake button are left completely exposed.
There are also holes for the Dock Connector port, speaker grill, rear camera, and side switch and volume rocker. MapiCases avoided the accessibility issues that we’ve seen on many competitors by extending that last opening from the side around to the back of the case. Orion also covers the bezel of the iPad 2, with a teardrop-shaped opening at the top for the light sensor and camera and a scoop for the Home button. We were happy to see that the leather on the front lays rather flat; it certainly looks nice.
Orion’s key feature is the Smart Cover-inspired lid. It’s attached to the back of the case right in the center with a truncated triangle of leather that expands from two inches to the full width of the tablet. The inside is lined with soft microfiber material, as is the interior of the case. Unlike Apple’s cover, MapiCases’ is segmented into four columns on the horizontal axis. It does, however, also use magnets to maintain its triangular stand. Additional magnets lock and unlock the iPad 2 when the lid is lifted away, and hold it closed otherwise. Once positioned, the stand can be rotated all the way around, allowing for viewing and typing in any orientation the user prefers.
Orion’s iPhone version is, for all intents and purposes, a miniaturized take on the iPad case with a few small differences. The case offers pretty much the same level of protection, and the phone is held in place with a much narrower snap-laden tab. Along the bottom edge, the speaker and microphone are covered, but we found there to be no impact on the audio quality in either direction. Rather than a microfiber lining, the entire case is leather, including the tri-fold lid. The iPhone 4 and 4S lacks the automatic locking/unlocking feature of the iPad 2, but a magnet embedded in the case itself does hold the cover in place. The stand works just as well, and in all four orientations. We found the cover to be a bit of a nuisance when the phone is in use, but when it’s folded up it can be magnetically attached to the back of the case, getting out of the way for the most part.
MapiCases really impressed us with Orion. Nice materials, a great fit, and a smart stand and cover combine to form a pair of truly worthwhile cases. It’s worth noting that we were especially impressed by the structure of the cases, as they held their shape much better than previous leather cases we’ve seen from the company. The only thing preventing a strong recommendation is the incredibly high price. Few companies charge more, with Vaja being the only example that comes immediately to mind. Because of that, both versions of Orion earn a limited recommendation. Those willing to pay the significant price premium will be rewarded with a really nice case, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPad/iPad 2, iPhone 4/4S