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Pad & Quill's cases: Classy covers for iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air

Pad & Quill has been making book-bound iPad and iPhone cases for a couple of years. By book-bound, I mean that the cases made using traditional book-binding materials and techniques. Like DODOcase, the cases have evolved a bit over the years to meet the requirements of new devices; unlike DODOcase, Pad & Quill has created a complete line of cases to protect many of your Apple mobile devices. In this review, I'll take a look at Pad & Quill's Little Black Book for iPhone, the Contega and Octavo iPad cases, and the new Cartella case for the MacBook Air.

Little Black Book for iPhone 4/4S

Let's start with the smallest member of the Pad & Quill family, the Little Black Book case for iPhone 4/4S (US$44.99). A number of small book-type and wallet cases have been announced for the iPhone 4S in the last few months, but of those I've reviewed, I feel that the LBB is the best made product out there.

Like all of the Pad & Quill cases, the device sits nestled in a CNC-machined wood frame with small pads in the corners that make sure that your iPhone isn't going to plop out. Unlike the DODOcase products (which don't include an iPhone case), you don't have to send off for additional pads -- Pad & Quill includes extra material for cutting your own pads.

The case also has the standard Moleskine-like elastic cord for securing the cover when you're on the move, as well as a unique feature -- a red ribbon "bookmark" that is used to help pop out the iPhone when you want it in your hand.

You probably want to use that lovely 8 MP camera on the iPhone 4S, so the Little Black Book includes a port for the camera to look out of. That's not the case with the Twelve South BookBook ($59.99) or Hex Code Wallet ($49.95), where you need to remove the iPhone from the case to take a picture.

Using the Little Black Book as a wallet really means that you're only going to be carrying a minimal amount of stuff, like a driver's license and a credit card or two. These items slide into a little "envelope" in the front inside cover of the LBB.

The Little Black Book is well-built, less expensive than its competitors, and just plain cool. Now let's take a look at its bigger brothers.

Octavo iPad 2 Case

The Octavo iPad 2 case ($59.99) is extremely similar to the DODOcase, even priced the same as the San Francisco treat. However, like the Little Black Book it has the "bookmark" to make removing the iPad from the case fast and easy, adds a hole for the iPad 2 rear camera, and includes a folder on the inside front cover of the case for important papers.

Doing a side-by-side comparison with the DODOcase, I have to say that I think the Pad & Quill Octavo shows much more expertise in construction. While the DODOcase is basically wide open on the top and bottom, the Octavo provides more protection by just providing openings where needed. For the top microphone of the iPad, there's a sound-conducting channel. For the speakers on the bottom, there's a nicely-machined slot that directs sounds to the front. The wood frame extends more into the back of the Octavo, giving the case a bit more stiffness.

I've placed some comparison photos in the gallery that show the DODOcase and Octavo side by side. I think the pictures tell the story of just how well-made the Pad & Quill cases are.

Contega iPad 2 Case

Pad & Quill's Contega iPad 2 case ($89.99) is a hybrid of a standard iPad folio case with a built-in stand and the Octavo. Think of the Octavo with a cover that folds into a handy landscape-mode stand, and you've got the Contega.

Since the front cover is used for helping prop up the stand, there's no folder pocket as there is on the Octavo. Still, I'd much rather have the convenience of the stand than a folder pocket that I'd stuff with old receipts and product brochures. As with the other cases, the Contega features Italian bonded leather on the exterior and that nicely-machined wood frame on the inside.

Check out the gallery for images of the Contega in all of its stand-up glory.

Cartella MacBook Air case

The Pad & Quill line wouldn't be complete without the Cartella ($79.99 for the 11" model, $89.99 for the 13"), their MacBook Air case. Pad & Quill sent an 11" model for testing with my 11" MacBook Air, and once again the design is excellent. The bottom of the MacBook Air is placed into the Cartella's wood frame with the trackpad pointing "out". The back of the wood frame is carefully sculpted to allow the hinged display to have free movement and there are cutouts on either side for the various ports.

Twelve South also sells a book-like MacBook Air case -- the BookBook ($79.99). It has one feature that is missing from the Cartella case, that being a pair of elastic bands that hold the cover onto the display on the MacBook Air. The BookBook uses a zipper to close up the case; I felt that the Cartella's elastic band made it much easier to open and close the case.

Conclusion

If you have a hankering for a book-like cover for your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad (either first-generation or iPad 2), or MacBook Air, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the Pad & Quill line. The quality of these cases is outstanding, the prices are reasonable, and if being made in the good ol' USA means something to you, they're a product of the grand state of Minnesota.

All of the Pad & Quill cases used in the review will be part of the giveaways at the TUAW Meetup at Macworld | iWorld 2012 next Thursday night, so be sure to drop by if you're in San Francisco to have a chance at winning one of these classy protectors.

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