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Booqpad mini combines paper and iPad mini into an effective package

A paperless office is king or should be as fellow TUAW editor Steve Sande would say. But in a word where you're as likely to find iPads in a classroom or office as you would printed materials, many people prefer to jot down handwritten notes. Count me among them. I handwrite about half of my comic scripts in a Moleskine notebook before transcribing them into Scrivener.

Case makers and software developers are latching onto this hybrid. Last fall, Evernote introduced a smart notebook with special lines and tags that help integrate the handwritten pages with its service once they're captured by Evernote's page camera in iOS. You don't even need to shell out the money for one of the smart notebooks. It works just as well with a regular one.

Now, Booq has introduced its hybrid solution, the US$39.95 Booqpad mini case for iPad mini. I've been testing it for the past couple of weeks, and for the most part, I do like it.

Design

Available in black and grey, the Booqpad mini combines an iPad mini case with a thin notepad so you can have the best of both worlds. On the left side is the iPad mini, and the case fits the mini securely. A pen loop next to it can hold a pen or stylus. The right side has a lined notepad and pockets to store business cards. It's about the size of an average day planner and looks very swank in any office setting.

The exterior is made from jute, a natural fiber that's mainly produced and sold in Bangladesh and India. The case had that "new car" smell for several days once I got the review sample, and it took a day before I could even handle the case for more than a few minutes. I'm hoping this isn't the issue with most of the other cases and assume I got one of the initial production batches.

Functionality

This is where the Booqpad mini faltered for me. I use my iPad mini either as a second screen while working with my laptop or a primary screen when writing in my Moleskine and use my built-in stand constantly on my normal case.

However, with the Booqpad mini, because you have the writing pad, there's no real way to have the case also function as a stand. If you don't use your iPad in this manner, the Booqpad mini is great to use. I had no issues writing when I folded the case just to show the writing side, and it was great to use at meetings when I had the iPad mini laying on the table.

The case is billed for left-handed or right-handed use, just flip the case and reposition the iPad and notepad to suit your needs. All of the ports on the iPad mini are easily accessible. It's not much thicker in my bag as my standard Belkin case is.

The included lined notepad has 50 pages, and three-pack refills are $9.99. Booq has a variety of notepads to fit certain situations. Some might find the price a bit steep for 150 sheets of paper, but the pads are at least 30 percent recycled material and are printed with soy ink.

Conclusion

The Booqpad mini does a good job at combining the best of the iPad mini world with a basic notepad. The price is extremely good as well, especially given the environmentally friendly materials that have gone into the Booqpad mini. If you're in a business setting and don't need a stand, I'd suggest looking at the Booqpad mini before going for the overpriced Apple Smart Cover.

We'll be giving away the Booqpad mini during our TUAW meetup at Macworld/iWorld next week. We'll share the details as soon as we finalize them!

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