Gadling gear review: DODOcase for iPad 2

iPads, tablets, Kindles and other tablet devises are making it easier to carry around hundreds of books and the entire internet in slim, lightweight devices. That technology needs to be protected, and, with the DODOcase, you can do it while nostalgically remembering what it was like to carry around an actual notebook. Remember those halcyon days? But a good iPad case is defined by more than its aesthetics. It needs to be durable, useful for all types of everyday use and slim. I’ve had both generations of the iPad and tried out several cases. Is the DODOcase a winner or just a pretty face? I put it to the test.The DODOcase is made to look like a notebook. Specifically, it resembles the lovechild of a Moleskin and a hardcover book. A faux leather exterior is wrapped around hard-but-lightweight bamboo to create a hollow binding that houses the iPad 2. The tablet fits snugly – and more importantly, securely – thanks to small rubber pads in the corners and the cover is kept shut with an elastic band.

At eight ounces, the DODOcase is incredibly light and, at 10″ x 8″ x 1″, preserves the portability of the iPad.

So far, I’ve simply described a handsome, portable iPad case. Theoretically, that’s what any case should do. However, besides looking attractive, the DODOcase is functional. It’s resemblance to a notebook is about more than just looks. It keeps your iPad disguised from would-be thieves who are likely less interested in your journal than they would be in your expensive gadget. While you should never leave your iPad unattended, if it’s cloaked in the DODOcase, most passers-by (or, perhaps, people cleaning your empty hotel room) will have no idea that you’re toting around anything more than your sketches.

A useful case will also act as a stand, and the DODOcase does allow for that. However, this is the one area where the DODOcase struggles slightly. The binding on the case cam be folded backwards to operate as a stand in landscape mode, but the faux leather exterior has trouble gripping some smooth surfaces. By staying true to the aesthetic of a notebook, the makers of the DODOcase sacrificed functionality in this respect. I was able to get the DODOcase to stand on wood, marble and plastic surfaces, but, on a handful of occasions, it took me several minutes to do so.

The DODOcase is completely unable to act as a stand when in portrait mode.

Lastly, the DODOcase does block the back camera, but, quite frankly, I do not see that as a major concern. So long as the front camera is available – which, of course, it is – I can use FaceTime, my primary camera need when it comes to the iPad.

The price tag for the DODOcase will raise some eyebrows. $60 is not cheap for a case, but it’s durable, very sleek and made in the United States (specifically in San Francisco). The inability to efficiently work as a stand on all surfaces is a negative that cannot be ignored, however, it is not a deal-breaker.

The DODOcase is an excellent case for the iPad if you are looking for a fashionable exterior that is well-built and discreet. The issues with its ability to act as a stand are mitigated with minimal effort. If you’re looking for a case that doesn’t proclaim to the world that you’re a techie, the DODOcase is right for you.

The DODOcase is $59.95 and is available directly from the manufacturer and on Amazon (where you can often find it on sale).

Moleskine City Notebooks turn you into your own guidebook

We’ve mentioned Moleskine City Notebooks in the past here on Gadling, but this line of Notebooks deserve another mention. With a Moleskine City Notebook, you essentially turn yourself into your own guidebook. Instead of relying on tips from others, you create your own guide as you wander through a city.

Inside each Moleskine City Notebook is everything you need to find your way around – maps, a street index, public transit map, important phone numbers, transport information and room to write down your itinerary.

Of course, the notebook also has plenty of room to write down your own content, along with a section where you can write your own reviews and rate locations. This “city file” section is split into food, drinks, sleep, people, places and books. Handy tabs let you quickly browse to the right section.

In the back of the notebook is a page containing adhesive-tab tracing paper, which make it easy to overlay on a map and trace your steps.

The Moleskine City Notebooks are available for 14 North American cities, 24 European cities and 4 Asian cities. The guides retail for $17.95 each, but can be found for around $12.50 at many online retailers.

In sticking with the principle of going back to basics, leaving your high tech gadgets at home, and relying on good old paper to create your trip report can be a fun experience, it may not be for everyone, but without the distraction of mobile apps, you do have a better chance at seeing more of your destination. Of course, if you lack a sense of direction, you also have a better chance of becoming horribly lost – and everyone should experience the joy of being lost in Tokyo at least once.

To find retailers, or learn more about Moleskine city notebooks, head on over to their product page.

Moleskine City Guides

When I visited Amsterdam, I bought a sketchbook, and while I was in the city, I shoved everything in there, from ticket stubs, to brochures, to notes about destinations. Although it wasn’t a moleskin — and wasn’t anywhere near as pretty as some moleskins I’ve seen — it served its purpose, and it’s fun to look at now.

Moleskine, makers of the ubiquitous travel journals, recently introduced City Guides. Sort of a make-yer-own guidebook, Moleskine’s City Guides are an excellent, stylish way of organizing a trip — before or after you go. Each 3½” x 5½” book comes with numerous maps of the city; an alphabetical street index; 228 pages (76 of which are blank); 32 removable sheets for exchanging email addresses with wild-eyed hostelers; 12 translucent sticky sheets, to overlay and re-position, so you can trace your route; an inside accordion pocket; and three ribbon place-markers.

Currently, the series includes Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Prague, Rome, and Wien. During 2007, the series will expand to include Boston, New York, San Fran, D.C., Chicago, LA, Montreal, and Seattle. With one of these $17 City Guides, all you need is a translator, some coffee, and a sharp pencil, and you’ll have your own, customized travel guide in no time.