As I said two weeks ago in the SubCostume custom case review, both I and likely everyone else on the planet likes customized stuff. In my hunt for accessories I stumbled across another case manufacturer that offers custom cases, this time printed on fabric rather than plastic.
M-Edge is a company that specializes in accessories for ereaders. While that was a clearly defined field a bit over a year ago, it’s become a lot ore complicated these days with tablets that aren’t dedicated ereaders but can function the same way. The custom case that M-Edge offers is therefore not only available for the Kindle and Nook, but also the iPad.
As with SubCostume, M-Edge is going with the app route to allow iPad users to design their case from the device. The whole custom case part of their business is quite young yet though so the app isn’t out yet, which means that for the time being you have to use a computer to design the case. A Flash application is used to design the case and allow you to upload images, add patterns, text, more images etc to your design, as well as crop, move and adjust the look of the case to your liking. This is a much easier process if you just make a single image file beforehand, but if your photo editing skills are limited it’s nice to have the option to do it on the spot. You also have to choose the color of the case’s spine, and then you can add it to the cart.
The case itself is $50, which isn’t bad at all. This case is a lot more complicated than the SubCostume case which cost $30, so I think that both companies have hit the pricing point right on the head. Shipping isn’t free though, and they only offer Fedex shipping to most countries. That’s normally a dealbreaker for people like me who live in a country where courier shipping is ridiculously expensive, but the cost of shipping the case was actually only $20. While normal postal shipping would have been (slightly) cheaper, you can’t argue with the shipping time; It was picked up in Missouri, United States on April 11 and delivered to me on April 15. In comparison, I’m still waiting for the Gelaskins custom skin I ordered that was shipped with USPS on April 5th. As for the time it took to make the case, I placed the order on April 4- so a week from ordering to shipping and a total of 11 days for the entire process. That’s pretty fast if you ask me.
Both the front and back of the case can be customized, and you have quite a lot of real estate to work with. The online design system makes it easy to see what goes where so you can be quite creative if you feel like it. Since this case was for review on the site I went with our logos turned into a pattern, and the result was very nice. While printing on fabric doesn’t exactly produce as high resolution images as photo paper, it looked very nice and smooth, as if it was mass produced. The contrast between the semi transparent logos in the background and the prominent ones in the foreground is excellent as well, and overall I’m very impressed by what they can do this cheap. It’s also important to point out that the printed design extends all the way around the edges, meaning that it was printed on before it was sown together. The case shipped from the US (so I assume it was made there), not China like with SubCostume, which makes the price point even more impressive.
The inside is clad with a micro suede material that feels somewhere in between leather, microfiber and rubber. The case doesn’t touch the screen of the iPad in any way so it doesn’t scratch it (not that it would scratch it by touching the screen either) nor does it “clean” it (referring to Apple’s claim with the Smart Cover). The iPad is held in place by 4 straps, one in each corner, where the two bottom ones are solid pieces of a leather-like material and the top two are elastic to allow you to insert the iPad. Because of this design, the case is universal and works with both the iPad 1 and the iPad 2. That means you don’t have to worry if you have an iPad 1 now and might upgrade in the future, as you can bring your case with you.
The inside of the case also has a document pocket that is slightly pointless considering the case is smaller than an A4 sized document and so most of what you would put in there is too big. You can fold the documents of course, and there are plenty of smaller things you can put in there. After all, that space isn’t used for anything on most cases so you might as well use it for something!
Since this is stitched after the custom designed is printed, the quality of the seems is worth noting. It all looks very good and solid with no indication that it won’t last. It’s kinda fun to think that someone was sitting in a factory in the US only a week or so ago and stitching our logo to an iPad case. Maybe something to keep in mind if any of you were thinking of printing nude photos on a case ;)
On the outside you have the spine which you picked one of two colors for during the design process. This spine helps break up the design (for better or worse) and make the case look more like a book. I’m not qualified to say whether it’s leather or not but I think it’s artifical, not that it matters in my opitnion. While it’s hard to see in the picture, M-Edge’s logo is also imprinted on the spine. Maybe they should allow people to imprint their own text on the spine in exchange for a small extra fee? Would be awesome to have your name or something like that on the spine.
The other long side of the case is exposed, though the iPad is protected by the fact that the case is wider and taller than the iPad, creating a cushioning edge should anything happen. There is no elastic strap to secure the cover though, so it might flap around or become misaligned, exposing the iPad’s edges. An elastic strap would definitely be my #1 item on a list of improvements for this case.
Another issue is that (on the iPad 2 at least) the strap that secures the iPad in place also covers up the mute/orientation lock switch. All other controls are accessible (though slightly hard to get at because of the curves of the iPad 2, porbably not an issue on the iPad 1) but the switch thing needs to be addressed.
Since this case works with both iPads, there will naturally be some extra room when used with the iPad 2. When you combine this with the above mute switch issue and the fact that there is no magnets in the lid to automatically wake and put to sleep the iPad 2, it seems as though a dedicated iPad 2 version wouldn’t be a bad idea. One which is ever so slightly thinner, fixes the switch issue and has those magical magnets.
A lot of the thickness of the case comes from the sides being padded. Both the back and front is padded like a pillow, giving the case a very nice soft feel. While I use my iPad 2 without a case around my home, I quite like the paddedness of the M-Edge case when out and about as it protects the iPad much better.
On a personal note, this padded design means that I can leave it on slanted rocks when out geocaching without having it slide off like a hard case would. Rocks aren’t exactly the cleanest place to leave your case though, so making it mainly white might not have been a great idea, but hindsight is 20/20.
One thing that I know will put off a lot of people is the lack of any stand feature. While the spine does raise one side a little bit when folded over, it really can’t be called a stand. Whether you can live without that functionality is up to you and there are certainly other options if you do want a combined case and stand, but I think the made the right decision with this one. Having a cover the folds, locks and whatnot would make the case much harder to sow together, increasing cost and production time, and just end up blocking the custom look anyways. My way of doing cases right now is that I use my iPad naked at home, bring it with the Smart Cover on in my Tuff Luv pull tab case to school and use the Smart Cover as a stand, and use this case when I’m out and about doing other things- like geocaching. Jokes about me having more cases than a fancy lady has clothes aside, I don’t think that one case is perfect for every situation.
I just love custom products, and when they’re this well made it just makes it so much better. The world of custom products has come a long way since t-shirt transfer film for inkjet printers where the design would literally peel off in a week, and the detail that goes into these cases with stitching them together after printing the design is just astonishing. It’s impossible to pick a winner between this and the SubCostume case as they’re completely different cases that are suited for different uses, and they’re both awesome. I think that if there was ever a situation where a custom case of any kind was required, it would be with gifted iPads (or other devices). Assuming you have the money, what would be a greater gift to your parents/grandparents than a 64GB iPad filled with thousands of family photos, packed into a custom M-Edge jacket that had been designed to look like a photo album? Or a Kindle for the friend who likes to read, with a custom Kindle case designed to look like his/her favorite book. Or, of course, just a custom case for yourself.
Overall I like this case a lot both as a case and as a custom product, though the form factor doesn’t fit everyone. In many ways this case reminds me of the Dodo case; It’s not precision made in batches of 24 billion like many cases out there, instead it has a lot of personality and direct labor behind the final product. At $50 it’s priced right up there with most other book style cases, but none of the others will give you a custom design for that price, so in my opinion it’s a steal. Until the app pops up, you can order one from their website.