Apple discussion board headings confirm update iLife, MacBook Air products

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Date: Wednesday, October 20th, 2010, 04:35
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Software

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With only hours to go before the company’s “Back to the Mac” event, updates to Apple’s official online forums reveal at least some of the products due to be unveiled at today’s “Back to the Mac” event, including iLife ’11 and a new MacBook Air.

Per AppleInsider, new sections on the Apple Discussions page added Wednesday include iMovie ’11, iPhoto ’11, and GarageBand ’11, all part of the iLife software suite. There is also a forum titled “MBA (Need official name)” which will likely be the discussion home for the newly redesigned MacBook Air.

Finally, a mystery space on the forums points to but does not reveal what product it represents. It simply carries the title “Reserved 10 20.”

Last week, the following details were located and confirmed regarding an updated MacBook Air notebook:
- A smaller 11.6″ display.

- 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (with a 2.33GHz option possible).

- 2GB of memory in the base configuration.

- No optical drive.

- Mini DisplayPort, USB, and SD card reader on the left side; USB and power on the right.

- The trackpad has been updated to match that of the new MacBook Pros.

- Although smaller due to the 11.6″ display, it’s still about the same thickness as the current MacBook Air.

- A black power key now sits immediately to the right of a smaller eject key on the MBA’s keyboard — the round aluminum power button is gone. A design decision that might support the MBA’s rumored instant-on capabilities though our source didn’t see this functionality exhibited (possibly because it was running OS X 10.6.4).

We’ll know the full details in a few hours, so stay tuned and we’ll bring you everything we can get our mitts on.

Review: 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 2.5″ Notebook Drive

Posted by:
Date: Sunday, October 10th, 2010, 12:35
Category: hard drive, Hardware, Review

Maybe it’s part of getting older.

When the idea of solid state hard drives first emerged a few years ago, there was some hesitancy on my part.

Not quite the smashing of all available nearby looms, but some hesitancy.

This was a new thing, a hard drive made entirely of flash memory with no moving parts whatsoever and thus mysterious. And after years of fighting with both ATA-IDE drives (including occasionally realigning the pins with a pen when they bent) and SATA-based hard drives, you become hesitant to change.

Beyond my own hesitancy came the idea of sheer capacity. Yes, various hard drive companies had been offering solid state options for a while, but when they first hit, their capacities were a fraction of what you’d find on a conventional hard drive with moving parts. Yes, a MacBook Air with a quiet solid state hard drive seemed cool when it first came out, but when your capacity topped out at 40 to 80 gigabytes, this put pause on being an early adopter.

Still, 120 gigabytes didn’t seem like something to sneeze at and with my 2008 white plastic MacBook’s conventional SATA hard drive slowing down during iMovie work, there seemed to be no time like the present to try an alternative.

The result: I’m going to be reluctant to have to ship Other World Computing’s 120GB Extreme Mercury Pro SSD drive back in a couple of days.

Having done the classic hard-drive-swaperoo of taking the new drive, putting it in an external carrier, cloning the old hard drive’s data to the new drive and then swapping the new drive in, the drive booted cleanly and without issue. In the following months, the drive has run a bit quieter than its conventional SATA alternative and felt just as brisk as a conventional notebook hard drive.

Even if the drive itself doesn’t blaze along at a professional grade speeds (there’s always been something cool about a high end 10,000 RPM desktop hard drive tearing through Photoshop and Final Cut processes without slowing down in the least), the Mercury felt like something you could install and forget about. Yes, this was a new thing, my very first flash hard drive. Still, once installed, it fell into the background, ran completely reliably no matter what was thrown at it and never seemed to slow.

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting news in the world, but it does offer a promise for the encompassing technology itself. Even if conventional SATA notebook drives still offer a larger capacity and these are the early years of flash-based notebook hard drives, there’s something reliable here. As strange as the idea of a hard drive without moving parts may be (upon removal from the box, the drive itself weighed next to nothing, almost if if you’d received a fake cardboard hard drive in the mail), the end product works reliably enough to install into grandma’s Apple notebook if need be (provided it supports SATA hard drives), makes sure all her old files have been cloned over for her to use and you’re off to the races.

No, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it is cool, fun to install and reliable in the end. The drive installs, it works briskly and you can put it in the back of your mind and get on with the rest of your day, remembering to feed your pets instead of wondering why your hard drive appears to be groaning loudly or, worse, scraping one of its data platters during day to day operation.

And at the end of the day, none of these are terrible things.

Give it a gander.

The 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro retails from US$289.99 and is available now.

Hitachi releases updated desktop, notebook hard drives, offers up to 750 GB capacities

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Date: Wednesday, October 6th, 2010, 08:10
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics maker Hitachi announced its new 375GB per platter, 5400-rpm and 7200-rpm, 2.5″ hard drives: the Travelstar 5K750 and Travelstar 7K750 on Wednesday.

Per Macworld, Hitachi has stated that the drives offer the industry’s highest capacities in a standard 9.5 mm two-disk design.

The Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 drive families are the first Hitachi hard drives that feature Advanced Format, which increases the physical sector size on hard drives from 512 bytes to 4096 bytes, or 4KB—eight times larger. Hitachi’s previous generation drive was the Travelstar 7K500, which had maximum areal density of 370 Gbits per square inch. The new platters have an areal density of 472 Gbit per square inch.

Hitachi’s 5400-rpm Travelstar 5K750 drives feature an 8MB buffer for caching and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit per second interface for fast data transfer rates. The drive consumes 0.5 watts while idle and 1.4 watts power during read/write operations, which Hitachi said contributes to longer battery life in notebooks and other unplugged applications.

Hitachi’s 7200-rpm Travelstar 7K750 drive has a 16MB buffer, which allows quicker access to data and faster system performance, especially for multi-tasking and other high-performance office and home applications. It uses 0.5 watts idle and 1.8 watts during read/write operations.

The Travelstar 7K750 is a self-encrypting drive using Hitachi’s Bulk Data Encryption (BDE) specification, which encrypts data using protected keys in real time. It also speeds and simplifies the drive re-deployment process. By deleting the encryption key, the data on the drive is rendered unreadable, thereby eliminating the need for time-consuming data-overwrite. The drive is said to be “independent of OS so that a BDE hard drive can be used on an Apple Macintosh system. However, because Apple systems do not support the ATA security feature set, a BDE drive will function only as a standard drive in an Apple system.”

Both of the new Travelstar hard drive families come in capacities of 500GB, 640GB and 750GB.

Travelstar 5K750 Retail Hard Drive Kits will be available next month with a suggested retail price of US$130. The drive will be shipping to system manufacturers for qualification by the end of the year. The 7200-rpm Travelstar 7K750 family will be available in Q1 2011. Pricing for that drive has yet to be announced.

Game Review: Pro Zombie Soccer

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Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 09:03
Category: App Store, Game, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Pro Zombie Soccer is a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (still a Pixel-doubled version, not native) distributed by Chillingo and developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. I’ve never been caught up in the Zombie craze, although I did enjoy Zombieland and Shawn of the Dead, so I was not really excited about this game at first, but a friend assured me that it was a lot of fun and he was right.

Some of the things that made this such a fun game was the artwork and the storyline. While not complicated, the story added enough depth to propel you from scene to scene. The artwork has a punk attitude, similar to what is associated with Gorillaz, and is pretty lively and colorful.

In the game, you are playing the role of Jax, a young, talented soccer player who freezes up while trying out for the big team. While moping about town, the zombie outbreak occurs and Jax is bitten by a zombie who happens to be the star player of the soccer team. Jax soon finds out that his zombie infection has given him super-soccer powers which he decides to use to take down the zombie apocalypse….while he still can.

The controls are simple. You thumb aims the direction that Jax kicks the soccer ball and lifting your thumb fires it off. You have a regular kick, and a super-charged kick at your disposal, but eventually you acquire other “zombie powers” which you can choose from during certain parts of the game. Doing a “head-shot” to a zombie (beheading them) is worth extra points as is several head-shots in a row. Some zombies can only be killed with the super-charged kick, which takes more time to “charge up”. Eventually you run into zombies that can only be killed in a certain way, like ricocheting off a wall, as well as avoiding obstacles like fleeing scientists which, when hit, will end the game. If you finish the game too quickly in Normal mode, you can play through again in Hardcore mode which won’t be so easy. The game’s music is pretty good and in the Extras you’ll find the Music Player which allows you to play back the game’s soundtrack, a total of 16 tracks.

The sound effects and gameplay are great, and everything looks awesome on the iPhone 4′s screen. As of this writing, the game was iOS 4 compatible, but did not take advantage of background app switching. Leaving the game means starting again from the main menu, although it should remember your progress. I didn’t try it on the iPad, but it is compatible with iOS 3.0 and up. I look forward to an HD version, but I hope it’s an Universal app.

The game uses the Crystal gaming network, which I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of, but not because it is a bad system.

I highly recommend this game. It’s fun and relatively easy to play, and the stages make it easy to play a few minutes at a time, or kill 20 minutes or so. Pro Zombie Soccer is a pretty good deal at $2.99.

Game Review: Predators™

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 11:41
Category: Fun, Game, News, Review, Software

The Predators game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a direct tie-in with the recently released Predators movie by Robert Rodriquez (directed by Nimrod Antal) distributed by Chillingo for Fox Mobile. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ve been told it’s good fun and the game seems to do it’s job of getting me a little more jazzed to see it. Unlike a lot of game-movie tie-ins, this game actually has some solid play value.

One of the things appreciated about this game is that is it a Universal app, meaning the same app plays on all three “i” devices. An issue that bugs me a little is games that require you to buy a completely new app in order to play it in full resolution on the iPad. I understand that developers have to make money, and that they do have to do some extra work, but it just feels wrong to have to pay a second, higher price for a game I already paid for. I wish they would just work out a system to upgrade to a Universal app for the difference of the two. On a side note, I had a problem with the game on my iPad crashing on launch, but rebooting the iPad seems to have fixed it so far.

Off my soap box, and onto the action.

In this game, you are playing the role of the Predator which is a nice switch up. This is probably because he has all the cool gadgets. The first several “missions” teach you the essentials of mauling and beheading humans for trophies. There are also in-play tutorials for learning to use the gadgets like the wrist knives, shoulder cannon, and the cloaking device. Later, you also get other abilities like thermal vision. I really liked how the tutorials played out so you can get used to using just one weapon or combo attack, rather than just being thrown into a melee and having to figure it out.

The game isn’t strictly a shoot ‘em up either. In some scenarios, you get more points for stalking your prey in cloaked mode, and killing humans undetected. There are also human “boss” characters which represent the main characters from the film such as Royce who is played by Adrian Brody in the film. These guys are harder to beat. I haven’t gotten too far in the game, but so far the terrain has just been your basic jungle with some different environmental factors like darkness or rain (with makes you more visible in cloaked mode). I’ve been through about seven levels and it hasn’t gotten boring yet, so I hope it just keep getting better.

The game stays very true to the Predator feel and mythos. Even the crosshair for the shoulder cannon works like it did in the movie and you can shoot people behind you. The graphics can be a bit gruesome if you are worried about younger audiences. There is lots of blood and your Predator very clearly rips people in half and pulls their head off with a nice, wet, ripping sound. Obviously the graphics are very good and optimized for the iPhone 4 and iPad, and the sounds are quite good as well; probably taken directly from the movies. You will also be happy to know that the game is compatible with iOS 4′s backgrounding, so you can leave in the middle of a mission and come back in the same spot and continue. There is also a pause menu too, until the iPad gets iOS 4.

I liked the iPad version the best, but mainly because the controls cover less screen than the iPhone version. Menus are slightly different for the iPad, but the gameplay is identical to the iPhone/iPod Touch version. I liked that none of the combos were too complicated. I find that annoying about some console games because you end up concentrating too much on how many buttons to push instead of the game. The controls are pretty good and straightforward. There is a “joystick” on the left and action buttons on the right. There are also toggles for things like night vision, weapons, and cloaking. It isn’t a problem for me, but I’d like to see more games give people the option of flipping the controls. The only problems I had were the ones inherent in a touch-based system; when the action gets fast, you tend to slide your fingers off the controls and can’t center again without looking away form the action. Perhaps I have more trouble with this than most people, but I can’t really fault the game for this.

Lastly, the game uses the Crystal gaming network. The frustration I have with all the game networking systems could be a whole post in itself. I’m waiting to see how Apple’s Game Center changes things. Developers naturally have investments in tying themselves to particular systems, but I wish you could choose which system to use for each game instead of being forced to use the one the developer picks.

I highly recommend this game. If you like action games, shooters, and anything to do with Predators, this game is a steal at $2.99.

Review: Find My iPhone

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Date: Monday, June 21st, 2010, 11:28
Category: iPhone, Review, Software

By Steve Abrahamson

Friday, Apple released the Find My iPhone app (in truth it’ll find your iPad too). In this reviewer’s opinion, this is an app that should have been here a year ago, but I’m just glad it’s finally here.

Having this as an app is a terrific idea. A case study: early last year, before you could even get to Find My iPhone in Mobile Safari, my wife misplaced her phone, and we had to go home to find where she lost it. If we’d had this, I could have found it while we were still out – and it turns out, near where she’d left her iPhone. For families with more than one iDevice, this app makes a great functionality more accessible.



With tools this powerful, however, comes increased risk. Improper access to this functionality in the wrong hands could easily offer the potential for serious stalking, and Apple stands in the way by insisting on login credentials for the device you’re looking for, each time you launch the app.

Unfortunately, it “offers” you the same Login ID you last used to successfully log in – and there does not appear to be any way to clear it, even between sessions. I tried deleting the ID, but the app remembered the last successful login and “offered” it when I re-launched the app; so it doesn’t remember null values. I tried replacing the ID with a random word, but that wouldn’t stick either. Power cycling the iPhone didn’t even clear it.

Not only does the app offer whoever is launching it a user ID, it ignores non-valid ones: anyone launching the app can therefore be assured that any ID they find there is a real, valid ID.

I understand the desire to offer a helping hand to the end user, but this “offering” an email address – one of only two pieces of security info – blindly to whoever is holding the device is exactly the sort of thing AT&T got into mighty hot water for just two weeks ago, exposing millions of email addresses with iPads. This isn’t Facebook. This is an app that will silently give you the accurate location of a person (well, their iPhone, but that’s probably the same thing), or even let you lock them out or destroy their data.

For an app this powerful, with these kinds of security implications, “convenient” should lose to “secure.”

All Apple needs to do to fix this is rev the app to let it forget the login credentials between sessions. This otherwise wonderful little app would be so much the better for it.

Steve Abrahamson is a technologist and Certified FileMaker developer in Chicago. He has a small development firm, Ascending Technologies (http://www.asctech.com), and is really just a technofetishist writing software as a cover to buy more toys.

Review: Apple Store app

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Date: Tuesday, June 15th, 2010, 15:37
Category: Review, Software

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By Steve Abrahamson

I just downloaded the new Apple Store app from Apple, and I must say, it’s quite nice.

Most of the comments seem to focus around crashing problems by people trying to pre-order their new iPhone 4. It didn’t crash for me at all, and I’m guessing that’s because I wasn’t interacting with AT&T’s servers, which are totally bogged down today (again). Overall, I think this a great app.

First off, it’s fantastic for Apple fans like me to have in my pocket, so that when a friend or colleague asks something about an Apple product, I can get specs right away, in seconds, in the palm of my hand. It’s great for that.

But I did find three problems, one frightening:

1.) It never asked for my account info, it just took it from the phone’s mobile me settings. That’s OK (it’s a first-party app, after all), but the app should say it did. So when I was idly poking around the app, I almost accidentally purchased several thousand dollars of stuff on my iTunes account! The app needs to make it more obvious at the start that it’s grabbing your credentials, and explicitly ask for permission to use them for purchases. I expect my iTunes account to never see purchases of over 10-20 bucks – I buy computers with a different credit card.

2.) Under Stores, it doesn’t offer the option to tell the store to set something aside for streamlined shopping. For instance, if you know you want to go in and buy a MacBook Pro and an LED display, and you know exactly what you want, there’s no way to specify that and have it waiting for you at the store to just pick up. If they want to get customers in the door and back out again in the most efficient way possible (and they do – they’ve done a lot to streamline and remove friction from shopping at the stores), they should offer this through the app. It’d be ground-breaking for computer retail, and be a great way to service the people who don’t need to spend time, just money.

You can set up an appointment with a Personal Shopper, who’s going to expect to answer questions and demo stuff… but the only way to say you want this stuff waiting for you is to put it in the “comments” section, and they might or might not even have a chance to read that – you have no way of telling.

3.) When I did look for Personal Shopper appointments, it told me there were none available at the store I wanted to go to. It did offer to look for nearby stores, which is nice, but I’d rather it was simply able to look further ahead. Do their servers only take appointments a few days out? Maybe they need to increase that.

Overall, this is a fantastic v1.0 app, and like most of Apple’s apps, it’s free. There’s plenty of time for refinements, but today, out of the gate, it’s an excellent app that every iPhone customer should have in their hip pocket.

Steve Abrahamson is a technologist and Certified FileMaker developer in Chicago. He has a small development firm, Ascending Technologies (http://www.asctech.com), and is really just a technofetishist writing software as a cover.

Review: Street Fighter IV for iPhone

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Date: Friday, June 4th, 2010, 05:01
Category: iPhone, Review

By Joshua Simmons

If someone had told me over a year ago when I picked up Street Fighter IV for the consoles that I’d play a near identical version for my iPhone, I would have feared for my hands and the onset of arthritis from trying to play such a complex fighter on the small touch screen. Thankfully, Capcom decided to have mercy on my digits and took the time to adapt the controls to a more comfortable scheme. It is worth stating I am also continually surprised by the games that are being release on the iPhone, Street Fighter IV being the latest example with its gorgeous graphics and little to no slow down. Of course, being one to enjoy Street Fighter games, and Capcom’s latest offering, I had to download this iPhone iteration and check it out for myself. So, how does it measure up to its big brother counterpart?

As mentioned, the graphics are superb and transfer well to the iPhone screen. Capcom effortlessly translates the new graphically style they employed in the console versions for this port; these aren’t your Street Fighter II 16-bit graphics. Even more impressive is they manage to do so with no slow down, or lag. I currently own the iPhone 3G model, which is typically slower and gets the shaft when it comes to higher profile games, and Street Fighter IV runs as smooth as possible whenever I pick it up. A few details in the character models are lost to fit the resolution of the screen, but this is still one of the best looking iPhone games to date. The soundtrack and audio are also excellent and what one would expect from a Street Fighter game. Something I am also thankful for in this game, that most iPhone games I have played don’t do, is the screen being orientated so that my hand isn’t covering the primary speaker the audio is coming out of while I am playing.

The gameplay and control scheme have been wisely adapted for this version, saving the screen from being cluttered with buttons. Instead of six attack buttons (light, medium, and heavy), we are given just two: punch and kick. There is also an onscreen joystick, as well as a button for specials and one for SFIV’s focus attack. This simplifies the gameplay a bit, and may seem disappointing to the hardcore, but it allows for an ease of play on the iPhone that is needed yet still leaves room for exploration. For example, Supers and Ultras can now be pulled off by not only performing a specific combo, but also by simply moving the stick in a certain direction and hitting the SP button, or Ultra meter. Lastly, a nice touch to the game is the allowance for customization of the control layout by individual buttons, not to mention the ability to adjust the transparency of the on screen buttons; which is useful if you prefer to see more of the action.

As great as the game is on the iPhone, it is not without its flaws, however. It is difficult to decide if the US$10 price tag justifies the amount of content in the game. On one hand, the game’s presentation exceeds that of anything else on the iPhone, but on the other it is limited in just what the gamer is getting out of it. With an offering of only eight fighters for the iPhone version versus the 25 in the console iteration, and 35 in the recently released Super Street Fighter IV, the roster is petite by comparison. As far as the game modes are concerned, the offerings are also scarce. You can play solo, which includes tournament, free sparring, and training modes yet lacks any story, time attack or survival. There is also a versus option via Bluetooth, however you will need a friend with an “idevice” as well as the game to play with. More desirable would have been a wifi versus option, but it stands to reason that it is just not possible at this time unfortunately. The game also lacks any unlockable extras, somewhat dampening its replayability.

Despite these few flaws and gripes, Street Fighter IV is an excellent game for the iPhone that offers something for everyone. The load screens can be a little too lengthy at times, but it is still easy to just pick up and jump into a fight while on the go. Regardless of a simplified interface and limited roster, the hardcore will be for the most part pleased with this offering. The graphics and audio are superb, and at just US$9.99, this is a most own game that will show off the power of your particular idevice. If anything, Street Fighter IV makes me even more excited to see just what else is in store for Apple mobile gaming in the future, especially considering the potential power of the soon-to-be announced 4th gen iPhone. Perhaps we will even be seeing a mobile version of Super Street Fighter IV? One can only hope.

Based on a 1 out of 5 point rating system, I would give Street Fighter IV for the iPhone a 4 out of 5.

Review: Flick Fishing HD

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Date: Monday, April 12th, 2010, 04:38
Category: iPhone, Review, Software

Those kooky game guys from Manhattan N.Y., Freeverse, released four apps for iPad just in time for the April 3rd debut. Two apps, Warpgate and CastleCraft, are exclusively for iPad. The other two are popular iPhone/Pod touch favorites, NBA Hotshot HD and Flick Fishing HD. I got to play with Flick Fishing HD just minutes after my iPad arrived via UPS.

Flick Fishing has become a very popular angling game at the iTunes App Store. First developed for the iPhone, the game features real motion casting. The new HD edition for the iPad includes all the extras from the iPhone version including the Fishing Pro pack and a MegaGuide. Freeverse has done a nice job with the game’s graphics and music. It’s obvious Flick Fishing HD has been tailored for iPad and it looks – and sounds – spectacular

Don’t know a Plaice from a Pike? Don’t worry, Flick Fishing HD has lots of help while you fish. Tap the game’s colorful icon and you’re presented with four options on an animated background – New Game, Help & Options, Photo Album and Village Shop. Select New Game and you’ll see three game play modes: Go Fishing, Tournament (play against other fishermen locally), and Fish Net (play with others over the internet). Chose your location to fish from a map, flick the iPad and start fishing. The game prompts you to complete the task at hand while you are serenaded with Carribean-style Island music. Somebody hand me a cold beer!

The experienced fisherman can plunge right in and select a challenging location, select the desired bait from their tackle box and cast away. Actually Flick Fishing offers many challenges and you can really get into the tournaments and Fish Net gameplay modes. The MegaGuide, included free with Flick Fishing HD, goes in to the details of the Island, suggesting different bait for each variety of fish, explaining the various locations and even some cheats if you like. Since the game is continually expanded with new content you can look forward to some exciting playtime.

If I had to pick nits with Freeverse I’d ask for more variety to the music – the steel drums get boring after a while. Thankfully you can turn off the music when you tire of it. And I’d like to have a way to search the MegaGuide. As great as the graphics are on this game I found a minor flaw – a few stray pixels were wandering around at the bottom of my iPad’s screen.

Flick Fishing HD is an graphically-rich and entertaining game for the iPad. For US$2.99 you really can’t afford to pass it up.

Flick Fishing HD requires iPhone OS 3.2 or later to install and run.

Review: Apple iPad Cover

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Date: Thursday, April 8th, 2010, 03:30
Category: Accessory, iPad, Review

By Mike DeWalt

So, you’ve bought your iPad – or are thinking about it – and you’re starting to think about accessorizing. You have several options even at this early stage: You can pick up an extra charger, a dock, an external keyboard, a VGA adapter, a USB connector for your camera, and headphones or ear buds. All are worthy additions that some iPad owners will want.

There is however, what I’d consider a “must have” for all iPad owners … and that’s some kind of cover or case. I’ve had my iPad since Saturday morning and it came to work naked with me on Monday and Tuesday … and that wasn’t good. Without a cover it’s more prone to bumps, scratches, and drops. Also, the screen seems to collect greasy finger smudges and it’s tough to carry it around naked without getting the screen even more smudged up.

So, I was pleased that my official US$39 Apple iPad case arrived late yesterday afternoon. My initial impressions are somewhat mixed. In terms of the form factor, I’m 100% sold. This is absolutely the type of case I need. The iPad slides into the right side, it’s a snug and secure fit, the screen is uncovered and there are cutouts for all the do-dads … on/off button, dock connector, speaker, headphone jack, etc. The left side folds over the screen like a book cover. Think legal pad folio.

The material is very slightly padded, but not so much that it makes the sleek iPad bulky. The cover is mostly rigid and offers decent protection. The surface of the material is matt with a very fine texture. The cover can fold backward and clip into a flap on the back of the case to make it a nifty little stand that you can use in portrait or landscape mode.

All-in-all a very good form factor and a reasonable value for 39 bucks. So, why did I say my impressions were mixed? Three reasons:

1. The edges are a bit sharp and stiff where the seams are joined (pinched together). It would have been better if they were rounded around the edge.

2. The “stand” feature is a great idea and should work fine on dry land. However, I’m not so sure it’s stable enough to use on a train or plane table without falling over.

3. The iPad itself looks like a million bucks. It feels and looks like a very high quality product … really nice. The Apple iPad cover is a bit more “utilitarian”. It works, it looks OK, and the price is fine. In other words, iPad=Filet Mignon … iPad Case=a good hot dog.

The Bottom Line:
I’ll happily use this case … I’m glad I have it because a naked iPad is a recipe for trouble in my hands. But I’ll keep my eye out for something better down the road once the 3rd party suppliers get cranked up.