I’ve tried out my share of iPad cases, and I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t offer good protection to the tablet. My guess is that most tablet manufacturers produce something that they themselves would use. This means that that most iPad owners who choose to invest in a case are more than likely to get something reliable that can offer their iPad at least a bit more protection either from drops or dings or scratches. That said, many folks tend to think of cases as being all alike… a case is a case is a case. And while I’ve found this to be true with most cases, every now and then I find one that offers something different or unique and warrants a closer look.
I’ve just spent a week using the new RokLock v3 from RokForm. If you’ve not visited rockform.com, go ahead and check it out because they’ve got some of the most unique-looking products you’ve probably seen for iPhones, iPads, and other devices. One of the first things I noticed about their products was how they used separate pieces that would snap or slide together around a device — it looks cool, but the real question is how well it actually protects. The RokLock v3 has three pieces (four if you count the screen protector sheet). The primary shell consists of two pieces that snap together to form a tight shield around the iPad. The secondary piece is a strong magnet that locks into the back of the shell with a 25 degree twist. You can see these pieces in the first image here.
The first step is to get your iPad into the shell. If you have a New iPad (iPad 3), all that’s required is to simply insert the iPad into the lower portion of the shell; this is extremely easy because the shell has a groove that makes it impossible to insert the iPad into the shell incorrectly. The last quarter inch or so requires a little bit of a push to firmly seat it, but not enough that you won’t be able to get it back out or break anything.
Next, the top part of the shell slides over the iPad using a similar groove. Two small clips snap together to lock the iPad in. And once it’s snapped together, the shell is rock solid. It doesn’t bend, twist, or rattle — the two halves feel like one piece. To remove the iPad requires a little trick but is easy to do once you’ve mastered it — you pull up on one tab with the finger of one hand and lift the other tab with the finger on your other hand and then pull the halves apart. It takes a couple of times doing it to get the trick, but once the halves have unlatched, the iPad comes out easily.
Let me talk about the completed shell for a moment. If you hold your iPad (sans case) for reading, you know just how slippery it can sometimes feel. I don’t know how many times I’ve held my naked iPad in my hands while reading and almost had it drop because my focus slipped. Even if the iPad would have fallen on the couch cushion, it’s still a fall… and gives you a small moment of panic. Not with the RokLock. This thing is as close to using the iPad without a case as you’ll get, BUT… the back of the case has six small rubber hexagons that are extremely grippy-feeling. There’s a row on top and a row on bottom, so it doesn’t matter if you pick up the iPad upside down (with the Home button at the top, not bottom)… you’ve got a line of hexagons wherever your holding hand falls, top or bottom.
Another nice feature of the RokLock is the thin lip that goes around the front of the iPad. I’ve used some cases that cover too much of the front (I don’t like that) and I’ve used cases that cover pretty much none of it. The RokLock is somewhere in between, with about an eighth of an inch or raised material surrounding the entire front surface. At first, I didn’t think I’d like it, but holding the iPad with the rubber hexagons and the small raised lip actually feels better… my thumb presses up against the lip (right or left handed) and allows me to put just the right amount of pressure on the front screen… without that lip, my thumb would actually slip off (and has). I am very impressed with the slight bevel on the lip and how it adds to the feeling of a secure hold.
The charging port and headphone port are both exposed and easy to access and the volume/orientation lock/mute switch are also exposed enough that you can find it with your finger without having to look. A very small opening makes the microphone on top visible and holes are in the rear of the case where the speaker sits. And finally, another hole is large enough to expose the camera but not too much of the iPad’s back real estate.
Now for the magnetic lock/mounting system. The small piece has four teeth that match openings on the back of the shell. This allows you to connect the mounting piece to the iPad in either portrait or landscape view. The magnet is strong but not so strong that it will affect the internal electronics of the iPad, and I’ve seen no distortion or discoloring of the screen from its use, and it makes matching up the rear of the shell to the mounting piece easy. Once the shell is matched to the mounting piece, you rotate it right 25 degrees and you’ll hear a slight pop sound to indicate it’s locked in. And once it’s locked in, it is NOT coming off until you firmly hold the sides of the iPad and rotate it left 25 degrees to release it.
The adhesive on one side of the mounting piece is super-strong… the documentation says it’s one of the strongest adhesives (meant for later removal). It takes 72 hours to cure 100% and once it does, the mounting piece isn’t going anywhere until you decide to remove it. (The documentation does state that it will damage paint when removed, so be warned.) I chose to mount it in my kitchen on a tile back-splash because I do occasionally use my iPad in the kitchen with a displayed recipe and this is a perfect way to keep it off the kitchen counters (and possibly falling or getting spilled on). I also thought about mounting it in my workshop because I’ve scanned all my tool manuals into PDFs that are stored on my iPad… but I find I reference my iPad more often for cooking than tinkering, so the kitchen won.
All in all, the RokLock is a great design for an iPad case. I hate screen protectors, so I chose not to add it to my RokLock-protected iPad, but it’s there if you want it. The kit also comes with three small foam pads for iPad 2 owners… they are very thin and are stuck to the two separate shell pieces prior to inserting an iPad 2. I believe they serve a padding function due to the iPad 2 being just a bit thinner than the iPad 3 and these probably fill the space between shell and iPad 2 just enough to make it a nice tight fit.
My iPad 3 feels sturdier and I feel like I’ve got a much better grip on it when I’m holding it while reading. There’s almost no weight increase, just an increased awareness that the iPad has a strong shell around it and a much grippier feel. I give it a solid A for how well it works and feels.
Note: I’d like to thank RokForm for providing a RokLock v3 case for me to test. My test was using the black version, but there are six other colors available. Made in the USA, too!