Hi all - picked up the Marware C.E.O. Hybrid case for the iPad from the local Apple Store yesterday. This after researching cases for days and days and nearly driving myself mad trying to find the perfect case. Eventually I realized no case had everything I wanted so it was time to settle.
Here are the main features of the case:
* Size, Construction and Asthetics - the outside is some sort of composite material with a weaved material - possibly carbon fiber? In any case its black and reflects highlights at the right angle. The interior is a light grey felt / velvet, similar in texture to the official Apple case. Overall it looks pretty sharp - not as nice as a genuine leather case like the Sena Folio or the Sena Zipbag, but looks professional.
Overall the case is very thin - the panels are a bit thicker than the Apple case, but not much. The panels only extend a few millimeters beyond the edge of the iPad.
The iPad mounts to the interior of one of the case panels via 6 fabric covered metal brackets - four in the corners and two in the middle of the short sides of the iPad. Its a very snug fit, I have no concern that the iPad would ever accidentally detach from the case (except perhaps in a drop but I doubt even then).
A two part clasp, constructed similarly to the mounting brackets, is found on the side of the other panel and allows the case to be clasped shut securely.
* Protection - this is a bit of a compromise with this case. Certainly I think it is a bit more substantial than Apple's case - the exterior of the panels (the "weave" material") is relatively tough (similar to leather) and forms a decent shell. The corners fit into the brackets of the device that hold the iPad, which are covered in a fabric similar to the exterior and seem to have some metal inside. There are also two brackets in the center of the "short" sides of the iPad that are perhaps 1/2 inch wide.
But the remainder of the iPad's edges are not directly protected, they are left exposed. In a drop, the main panels would hit the ground first before the sides of the device, but something pointed etc. in just the right place would contact the sides of the iPad directly. In any case, I think the iPad mounted in the case, when the case is closed, would survive with minimal or no damage 99% of drops of a few feet IF it landed on the front or back. If it lands on the sides or corners, I wouldn't be nearly as confident of a good outcome.
What I wouldn't do is throw the iPad into the trunk of my car mounted in this sort of case. I'd expect the sides of the device to get scratched up.
Bottom line, if you want tank-like protection, look for a different case.
* Functionality - The Hybrid C.E.O. has two main tricks up its sleeve. One isn't that uncommon for a folio style case, but the other is pretty unique.
First, what is not all that uncommon is that this case allows you to prop the iPad up in three different angles in a Landscape orientation. There is a crease in the panel that the iPad mounts to, so that if you remove the iPad from the lower two corner brackets, the case will fold back on itself, allowing you to prop up the iPad in a landscape orientation at one of three angles (there are two grooves on the interior of the other panel that support the iPad at two angles, plus the case's clasp on the other panel acts as a support in a 3rd angel). The three angles are roughly 60 degrees (for watching movies etc), 45 degrees and perhaps 30 degrees for typing.
The second feature which is probably the main selling point of this case is that the case can fold back on itself completely, so that the iPad is face up on top of one panel and the "interior" of the other panel is face down. There is a small "leather" covered elastic strip on the panel that the iPad mounts on, opposite of the clasp on the other panel. This strip can be stretched around the clasp, thus holding the case open in this position. The reason for this? The "interior" of the 2nd panel, which is now exposed beneath the iPad, includes a strap that you can slide your hand under, thus allowing you to support the iPad, face up with one hand, sort of like a waiter's food tray. As a result, this case allows you to support the iPad with one hand and use it that way, fairly easily.
* Durability - so far no complaints, though I only got the case yesterday. My main concers long term would be if the elastic strap described above might give out (dead elastic) or if the crease in the main panel that needs to remain fairly stiff in order to prop up the device might wear out and become looser over time.
* Accessibility - all of the ports, buttons, switches and the connector are completely exposed. There's no problem plugging in the USB cable when the iPad is mounted in the case. I don't think it would be possible to put the iPad in a dock while its mounted in the case, but then I don't have a dock so I can't check. It might be possible that the case panels are thin enough to allow this - but again I sort of doubt it.
* Availability - So far I've only seen this case on Marware's website and in the Apple Stores near where I live. The price at both is $49.95. The case is not (yet?) available at Apple's online store or at major sites like Amazon.
* Overall - The case seems well made and accomplishes what it tries to do pretty successfully. As I mentioned at the start of the review, I couldn't find any case that does *everything* I wanted. To me, the best parts of this case are that it provides at least a decent level of protection from every day use without turning the iPad into a substantially heavier, bulky device like the Otterbox. And, it supports using the iPad at a few different angles, and I think I am going to like the hand strap feature.
Feature-wise, I don't think its coming up short compared to any of the other "folio" type cases out there. That said, I wish it could also prop the iPad up in Portrait mode, and I wish there was some sort of storage pocket to hold the USB cable, A/C adapter and some earbuds. But for that I am thinking of just buying a separate bag, like STM's iPad jacket.
I also wish the case came with a microfiber cloth to place over the screen for a little extra protection, as does Apple's case, but alas it does not.
At $49.95, its a little bit more money than the Apple case ($39.95) but to me its better due to the hand strap, multiple viewing angles and the exterior is quite a bit tougher.
I will try to post some photos tonight.