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Review: Waterfield Designs Ultimate SleeveCase for iPad

[Waterfield Designs Ultimate SleeveCase for iPad]( "Waterfield Designs iPad Case")

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m more than slightly biased towards Apple products. It’s not some blind, religious cult kind of devotion, mind you. I just happen to like companies that make great products.

So when the iPad was announced, I was on board immediately. And I knew that this new device was going to require a new carrying case. It just didn’t seem right, tossing a beautiful, small aluminum slate into an old backpack designed for a 17-inch notebook. And unlike a laptop, the iPad has a screen that will be exposed inside any case. It may be made of tough glass, but why take chances with keys and other sharp objects?

My requirements were simple. I would settle for nothing less than excellent. It had to be a perfect fit for the new device, which meant small and lightweight. It needed to be built to last. And it had to provide adequate protection. Finally, it needed to be designed and crafted with attention to detail.

That’s when I decided to check out Waterfield Designs. For those of you who are unfamiliar with, just think of them as the Apple of laptop bags. Gary and his team design bags and other accessory cases with the same attention to detail that you would expect from Jonathan Ive.

I signed up on Waterfield’s site to be informed when iPad cases would be announced. I expected that, as is usual with other sites, I’d receive the announcement email days after the bags went on sale on the web site. (Why companies always seem to send these email notices out late to the very people who ask to be notified early is beyond me.)

To my surprise, a few days later I received an email informing me that I should check out the site later that evening (wink,wink) to be the first to get a chance to preorder. Imagine that: a company that values its customers enough to let them know EARLY that an announcement was forthcoming.

So I checked the site a few hours later, and sure enough, there was the Ultimate SleeveCase for iPad. It was a variation of Waterfield’s well-known sleeve cases for laptops, sized to iPad dimensions, and with the added twist of an optional leather trim on the bottom. It came in both vertical and horizontal orientations, of course. (I always prefer vertical for better weight distribution.) And, they expected to be shipping “within a week of iPad’s release.” Which meant I’d likely have the case by the time I got my iPad.

Considering that Apple wasn’t exactly passing around iPads to small business owners prior to launch, I thought this a particularly brave move on Gary’s part. Sure, he had Apple’s official measurements to go by, but without having an actual iPad to test in the case, he was risking a lot of returns.

Confirming this, Gary sent me a personal email after my case shipped, asking me to try it out when my iPad arrived, and to please let him know if it didn’t fit perfectly. He went a step further and offered to send me a new case in the event it didn’t fit. How often do you find customer service like that anymore?

Fortunately, the iPad does fit perfectly. It’s snug, but after a few times getting used to it, I can now slide the iPad in and out of the sleeve with ease.

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The Ultimate SleeveCase consists of a ballistic nylon shell combined with a protective layer of neoprene inside. The front inside panel is lined with Ultrasuede, creating a scratch-free environment for the screen. “For extra oomph,” Gary informs me, they added a layer of impact plastic between the outer shell and the central layer of neoprene. This further protects the screen from damage from pokes by pens or other sharp objects.

With all that protection, you’d expect the SleeveCase to be bulky, but it isn’t. It’s actually quite light, and because it’s designed to fit the iPad snugly, it’s not very large, either. You can go over the entire case with a fine-tooth comb, as I have, and you still won’t find a loose stitch, or any other evidence of laziness on the manufacturing side. These cases are made here in San Francisco, by real humans earning a decent living wage. And it shows. It may sound cheesy of me to say this, but you can actually sense the love in this case. This was designed and manufactured by people who take great pride in their work.

With the optional D rings and strap, the Ultimate SleeveCase works well as a standalone case, if all you want to carry is the iPad itself. There’s a pocket on the back side of the case, but there isn’t much room in there for anything of substantial size.

My plan is to use it as an inner sleeve inside Waterfield’s portable Muzetto bag. I’ve ordered the Muzetto, but since it’s a new size made specifically for use with the iPad Ultimate Sleeve Case, it hasn’t shipped yet. I expect to write up a full review of that bag as well, once I’ve received it.

In the meantime, standalone mode is working out well. Not bad at all, for about $73, including tax and shipping.If you care about good design, as most Apple fans do, and you want to protect your iPad investment, you would do well to give Waterfield some serious consideration. They make a variety of iPad cases in addition to the Ultimate SleeveCase, as well as several other bags and pouches for various laptops and other gadgets. And, as I keep mentioning here on my blog, they provide amazing customer service.

This is not a cheapskate’s case. But you’re an Apple customer, so you’re not a cheapskate, anyway. Right?

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