Gadling Gear Review: Justin Case Rechargeable iPad Battery Case

A few weeks back we reviewed the Props Power case for the iPad, which features a built-in battery that can greatly extend the life of your tablet while on the road. At the time, I thought that it was a unique product that delivered on its promise with the trade-off of also adding a considerable amount of thickness and weight. It turns out that case wasn’t quite as unique as I had originally thought, as there is another option available that offers similar performance in a slightly less bulky package and at a considerable savings. Two things that are difficult to argue against.

The Justin Case Rechargeable Power Case from Innovative Technology is designed to fit the iPad 2 and the iPad with Retina Display. It holds the tablet snugly while providing very good protection from accidental drops or the usual wear and tear that comes along with travel. Made from soft faux leather, the case has a nice feel to it, although no one is likely to ever mistake it for real leather. As you would expect, when seated properly inside the case, the iPad’s various buttons and cameras are unobstructed, allowing full access to all of the tablet’s features. A durable flap covers the screen and is cleverly held in place by a pair of strategically placed magnets. This is a nice touch that provides a little extra protection to the fragile display. A fold out stand on the back of the case also allows you to prop up your device, which comes in very handy when watching videos or making a Facetime call.

One of my main knocks against the Props Power case was that it added a lot of thickness to the otherwise thin and sleek iPad. That is somewhat unavoidable for any case that has a bulky battery built into its form factor and this model is no different. I will say, however, that the Justin Case is thinner than the competition; this makes it a bit easier to compromise portability for extended battery life. This isn’t a product that would ever be described as thin and light, but considering the fact that its target audience is likely to know this ahead of time, I’d say it does a fine job of balancing expectations on all fronts.At the heart of this case is an 11,600-mAh battery, which is slightly smaller than the one found in the Props Power case, but still manages to perform on a similar level. The battery includes a micro-USB port for recharging and a standard USB port for passing that charge on to other devices. Innovative Technologies says that the battery is capable of providing a full recharge to a third generation iPad, the model that I was testing it on. I didn’t find that it was quite capable of putting out that much juice, however, delivering something closer to a 75-percent recharge level. Still, that’s not bad at all and should add an additional seven hours to the life of your tablet.

Since the battery has a standard USB port it can be used to recharge just about any modern device. That means while you’re traveling you can use the case to juice up your smartphone, a camera, iPod or a variety of other gadgets. Most will charge about as quickly as they will when plugged into a wall outlet, but higher capacity devices such as the 3rd and 4th generation iPad or similar tablets charge at a much slower rate, which can be disappointing when you really want your iPad fully charged and ready to hit the road.

The Justin Case has its competition beat in a couple of other areas as well. For instance, the Props Power case comes with a charging cable but no power adapter. That means you have to provide your own AC adapter or charge directly from your computer. This case comes with a nice USB wall plug that looks strikingly like Apple’s own iPhone charger only in black. I appreciate the fact that Innovative Technologies saw fit to include it in the box, eliminating the hurdle of finding a way to keep their product charged at all times.

The other area in which the Justin Case has a hands-down advantage is price. While it performs at a very similar level with its competition, it costs $50 less. Innovative Technology has priced their product at $70, which feels like a very fair price for a case that offers the ability to not only charge the tablet that it protects but just about any other device as well. That is a nice convenience to have when you own a smartphone whose battery doesn’t quite make it completely through the day when there isn’t a free outlet anywhere in sight.

While the Justin Case does come with a micro-USB cable that is capable of charging not only its batteries, but also other devices that use that format, if you’re an Apple-fan you’ll need to supply your own 30-pin or lightning cable. That is a small quibble for an otherwise solid product but one that buyers should be aware of before they plunk down their hard-earned cash.

If you’re a frequent traveler who spends a lot of time searching for a power outlet at the airport, the Justin Case may be the answer to your prayers. While it is just an average case on its own, the inclusion of the built-in battery gives it a unique quality that few other products can match. The fact that it does so at an affordable price truly sets it out from the crowd. An iPad equipped with this case could survive a full flight across the Pacific with power to spare, which is a pretty impressive feat really. This case will let you load up your device with all of the movies, music and games you’d like without worrying about running out of power at an inopportune time.

Gadling Gear Review: Props Power Case For iPad

One of the best features of the iPad has always been its outstanding battery life. Depending on how you use the device, it is not uncommon to get 8-10 hours of use between charges. That is generally plenty for typical day-to-day use, but when traveling that may not even be enough to get you to your destination. Considering how difficult it can be to find an unused power outlet in an airport, having a different source of juice is always a nice option. External battery packs are a viable alternative, but they can also be bulky and cumbersome. Digital Treasures, a company that specializes in accessories for tablets and smartphones, believes they’ve come up with the perfect compromise. They’ve integrated a secondary battery for charging an iPad directly into a protective case, providing a product that addresses two issues at the same time.

The Props Power Case is available in both an 8000 mAh and 12,000 mAh version. I tested the higher capacity case and found that it worked as advertised, offering an easy and convenient way to extend the life your tablet’s battery. The large, flat power cell is integrated directly into the case and must be charged via USB ahead of time. That can actually take a surprisingly long time depending on whether you plug the included charging cable into your laptop or a wall outlet. Digital Treasures doesn’t ship the case with an AC adapter, however, so if you want to charge from an outlet you’ll need to provide your own USB adapter. A charge indicator on the side of the battery lights up in blue, keeping you well informed of just how close to capacity the Power Case has at any given time.Having to charge two devices (the iPad and the case) can be a bit cumbersome when traveling, but if battery life is a concern, the system works quite well. Digital Treasures says that the case can more than double the battery life of an iPad 2 and extend the life of the iPad with Retina Display by 70 percent. In real world use, I found it fell a bit short of that number, but not by much. A fully charged Props Power Case gave my iPad 3 an extra 6.5 hours of power, which is a considerable extension, to say the least. All of that extra power doesn’t just have to go to the iPad, however, as the battery is also more than capable of charging a smartphone or any other USB device. That adds a nice level of versatility for when you’re on the go.

Of course, adding a battery to your protective case doesn’t come without a few compromises. I found the Props Power Case to be rather bulky, especially since my iPad usually only sports an Apple Smart Cover. The battery also adds extra weight that is a bit off-putting at first too. If battery life is your primary concern, however, you’ll probably find these compromises are well worth it – after all, we are talking about considerably longer usage time. But if you’re an iPad owner who is quite happy with the performance of the device right out of the box, the case is likely to feel like a massive step backwards in terms of portability.

To make matters worse, when the charging cable is plugged into both the battery and the iPad, the system gets even more convoluted. The addition of the cable sticking out of the side of both devices just adds to the feeling of bulk. While this is obviously necessary to take advantage of the extended battery life, there was a point where I began to wonder just how my lovely thin and light tablet became so unwieldy.

The overall quality of the case is actually quite impressive. Digital Treasures has put together a solid product that is both attractive and functional. The Power Case is made of very durable faux-leather, which is extremely resistant to the wear and tear that comes with travel. It also does a fine job of protecting the iPad contained within. While testing the case, I never once felt like my device was ever in danger while ensconced in this protective layer, and after using it for several weeks, the case still looks like it just came out of the box. It may be bulky and heavy, but the Props Power Case does deliver on its promise of providing both extra battery power while also keeping your iPad safe from harm.

In another nice touch, Digital Treasures designed the front cover of the case to fold back, converting its form factor into an easel. This comes in handy when watching movies, reading a book or even playing a game. The easel form factor is particularly useful while on a plane, although I found it to be rather stable even when sitting on your lap at the airport. Plenty of other cases offer this same functionality of course, but with the weight of the battery serving as an anchor of sorts, the Power Case wasn’t quite so apt to shift about.

As mentioned above, Digital Treasures offers this case in both an 8000 mAh and 12,000 mAh version. The lower capacity model will save you a little cash ($89.95 vs $119.95) but for the most part it doesn’t affect the case itself in any really noticeable ways. If you’ve been looking for a way to extend the life of the battery on your iPad even further, then this is definitely solid option to choose. The case will indeed allow you to work longer, watch more movies, read more books and listen to more music. In doing so though, you’ll also be giving up some of the portability that comes along with a thin and light tablet, as the Props Power Case negates those characteristics completely. For some of us, the trade-off is well worth it, but I suspect for most the loss of portability could be a major factor.

Gadling Gear Review: Pelican Elite Tablet Backpack

When you see the baggage handlers hurling your suitcase on the car or you watch a fellow passenger trying to crush their carry-on to the already packed overhead bin, you start to ask yourself: is it time to switch to hard-sided luggage? Pelican makes super rugged packs that are something of a compromise. Your heart won’t lurch in your throat as you remember that you left your tablet in your pack at the same moment that the bus driver hurls it up on to the luggage rack, but there are some tradeoffs.

The U140 Urban Elite Tablet backpack is built around hauling your tablet from A to B and getting in there in one piece. It’s got a hard-shell, a plastic case built right in. There’s a divider to keep it separate from your keyboard, if you’ve got one – it’s removable or you can keep it as a little extra padding. The compartment clamps shut – it is not going to fall open, but you could add a cable tie or a padlock, if you’re feeling extra security conscious. Your iPad or netbook will be well secured; that’s for sure.

The rest of the pack has your typical daypack features. The front pocket has lots of compartments and sleeves for your phone, your business cards, the kind of stuff we all carry around. There’s a sleeve-like middle pocket where you could stow any paperwork or a sweater, but it’s a little shallow – you’re not going to get a lot of bulky stuff in there. If you pack carefully, you might be able to stow a change of clothes, but it’s going to be tight and you’ll have to be a master folder. You can strap your jacket (or beach towel) on to the bottom of the pack and there are lash hooks on the side that do not feature a water-bottle pocket.When you flip the pack over, there’s another compartment at the back. You could absolutely stow a minimal photography kit in here. There are no dividers provided, so you’ll have to figure out your own system, but I was able to get my DSLR with the 300 lens in there, no problem. You will have to take off the pack to access that pocket, but it’s a great place for things you’d like to secure and don’t need ready access too.

The back of the pack (where that lumbar pocket is) and the straps all have comfortable padding on them. Everything is adjustable for fit. There’s a chest strap, but no waist strap – I’m a little surprised by that given that you could be carrying quite a bit of weight.

The weight is the thing you’ll sacrifice on with the Tablet Elite pack. It’s heavy. The built-in case, the plastic handles and grips … it weighs just short of seven pounds. There are scenarios where it’s worth making the trade off around weight. Any traveler who’s mentally inventoried the contents of their pack while watching it sail off a roof or hearing it slide around in the bus hold or… let’s just say it’s not a good feeling. I watched the backpack holding my camera drop to the floor from a coat hook once. There was a sickening crunch and later, I unpacked a shattered telephoto. That would not have happened with a hard side extreme conditions pack.

The pack retails for about $250, though I’ve seen it for about $100 less, so shop around. When you add up the potential replacement value of the gear inside it, you may find that spending the money on the pack gives you peace of mind. The gist? Pricey. Heavy. Your sanity could be worth it.

Related – I rather liked the Gregory Border day pack, gear guy Kraig Becker had favorable things to say about ECBC’s Javelin day pack.

[Images courtesy of Pelican]

Gadling Gear Review: Pelican 1065 HardBack iPad Case

The iPad is a perfect travel companion, providing hours of entertainment and keeping us in communication while on the go. But Apple’s device can be fragile and it’s not always easy to safely carry it with us when we hit the road. Fortunately, there are a variety of good cases to help protect the tablet, although few provide the same level of security as the new 1065 HardBack Case from Pelican.

For years military personnel, explorers and travelers have depended on Pelican cases to keep their gear safe and secure under the most demanding of conditions. The company has built a reputation for providing products that are tough, dependable and impenetrable and their line of cases, designed for everything from laptops to firearms, are amongst the best in the business. They’re so good in fact that the company stands by all of their products with a lifetime guarantee, something that has become increasingly rare these days.

The 1065 HardBack Case puts all of Pelican’s years of experience into a compact shell specifically designed to protect an iPad or other 10-inch tablet device. Built from ruggedized, impact resistant plastic, this case is unlike any other. Not only is it crush proof, but it is also waterproof up to a depth of three feet and protects against a drop onto a hard surface from the same distance. The case’s airtight seal also prevents dust from getting into the electronics, while a built-in purge valve maintains internal air pressure making it easy to open at any altitude. To further protect our tablets, Pelican has lined the interior of the case with a foam liner that is designed to absorb impact without scratching the delicate screen.While testing this case I was continually impressed not only with its overall build quality but also its ability to stay tightly sealed even while absorbing a major impact. Pelican uses a durable latch that is easy to open when you want to gain access to the interior but still stays firmly shut while protecting its contents. This helps to prevent unintentional openings that can further lead to accidental damage to the iPad.

As you can no doubt tell, I am impressed with Pelican’s fantastic tablet case, but the HardBack does come with a few compromises. For starters, its rugged construction makes this case heavier than most as it tips the scales at 1.25 pounds. That’s more than the iPad itself and adds considerable bulk to a device that is specifically designed to help us travel lighter. Additionally, the 1065 is relatively small and thin with just enough room for a tablet inside. That means there is no space to conveniently carry an AC adapter, although most power supplies don’t require the same level of protection as the actual devices they power. Still, it would be nice to be able to carry both the iPad and its power supply in a single case.

Those few nit picks aside, the HardBack Case is one of the best options for travelers looking to safely carry their tablet to even the most remote and rugged places on Earth. Whether trekking through the Alps, sailing the Caribbean or simply trying to survive the perils of the modern airport, this is the case to have along on your next adventure. True, it does add a bit of weight to your pack, but if your travels frequently take you to demanding environments, the protection this case provides is worth the extra ounces. With a list price of $49.99 the HardBack won’t break the bank either, and considering the level of protection it provides, that seems like a real bargain compared to lesser cases that are on the market.

Gadling Gear Review: Poüch iPad Case From Tabü

Let’s face it – iPad cases are a dime a dozen these days and owners of Apple’s tablet have more options to choose from than they ever thought possible. Most of those cases are fairly generic looking and bring very little to the table beyond providing very basic protection to the device. But occasionally a case comes along that does stand out from the crowd and offers some unique options that make it noteworthy. The Poüch case from Tabü happens to be just such an option, paring simplicity of design with some handy features.

The first thing that struck me about the Poüch was just how thin it is. The case uses a special anti-shock memory foam that manages to both provide protection for its contents and remain rather svelte at the same time. The iPad is a thin device, which is part of what makes it such an attractive option for travel, but when you slide it into a bulky case it loses some of that appeal. The Poüch manages to not only keep your tablet safe from harm, but it does so without adding undue weight or thickness. That is much appreciated by those of us who like to travel light.

Unlike some cases I’ve tested, the spacious interior pocket of the Poüch provides plenty of room for the iPad even if it is outfitted with an Apple Smart Cover. Similar products from other manufacturers sometimes have a too-snug fit, which makes it a challenge to actually get the tablet inside, but I was pleasantly surprised at the ease at which I was able to get my tablet in and out of this case. The pocket is also nicely lined with a very soft micro-fiber liner that both protects and buffs the iPad’s screen.In another nice touch, the designers of this case eschewed the use of a zipper on the main compartment so as to provide yet more protection to the device inside. They chose instead to incorporate a series of surprisingly strong magnets into the fabric, which seal the case very nicely. This approach means we don’t have to worry about our devices getting scratched by the zipper when taking them in and out. It also makes it far easier to quickly access the pocket as needed.

There is, however, a single zipper that runs down the front of the case, which is used to seal a second pocket on the exterior of the Poüch. This pocket is designed to carry cables, earbuds, a cellphone, mp3 player or any other small items you want to take with you on the go. I found this extra storage space to be a nice addition and very helpful for staying organized.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the Poüch. It is made from durable, yet soft, fabrics and its construction is solid on all fronts. It feels like a product that will hold up to the rigors of the road and keep its contents safe and secure at the same time. This is an excellent case that does exactly what you would want – namely, provide protection for your iPad and add convenience when traveling.

When it officially becomes available, Tabü will be selling the Poüch for $39.95, which makes it more than competitive with similar iPad cases on the market. But in order to fund the initial design and production run, the company organized a Kickstarter campaign. That campaign continues through Monday and if you contribute to the cause before then you’ll be able to pick up a single case for as low as $25. Not a bad deal at all.