Product review: Contour Designs iSee for iPad Soft Touch Hardshell

December 27, 2010

Filed under: General — Tags: , — Dennis Wurster @ 11:15 am

Years ago, I was the proud owner of a brand new 5G iPod, and I was shopping for a case. After listening to recommendations from other CIDER members, I decided on the Contour Designs iSee. It’s been a fabulous case, which allowed the iPod to still look like an iPod, but added some protection, and a removable belt clip. Over the years, I was happy to discover that the belt clip was a replacable item, and that I could order another for $3 shipped. So when I took delivery of my iPad recently and wanted a case, Contour was the first company that came to mind.

The iSee Soft Touch Hardshell is an all-new product for Contour Designs for the iPad and iPad+3G. The case protects your iPad and the included multi-mode stand lets you display your iPad like a picture frame or at a gentle tilt which is more comfortable for typing. I’ve found the iSee to be a great addition to my iPad environment.

My review unit arrived in its retail packaging, which was slim and well thought-out. I found that these descriptions would carry over to the shell as well. Product photos on the box clearly outlined the main features of the shell, and served as the main documentation for the product.

There was only minor assembly required, and it was completed in less than one minute. Once the shell was removed from its packaging, I merely needed to sandwich the iPad between the front and rear panels, and pinch at the edges to click the pieces together — no tools required. The pieces aligned perfectly, and didn’t require an undue amount of pressure to join.

According to Contour Designs, the shell is made of a “Soft Touch” plastic. I found the translucent shell to be silky-smooth to touch, but offered additional grip than the aluminum and glass would otherwise. Even though I didn’t start dropping my iPad once I had it installed, I felt that it would offer significant protection for drops on hard surfaces like tile or cement.

The stand is really the star of the show. It came as two pieces which assemble to make an X shape. Depending upon the orientation of the X, you could choose between two angles to display the iPad. You can set the iPad into it in landscape mode to watch movies or slideshows, or let it stand tall in portrait mode. There is enough clearance for the iPad to remain connected via its dock connector in every orientation. There are small grippy rubber feet on the bottom of the stand, which are welcome on the otherwise smooth plastic legs.

Contour calls the color of the procuct clear, but I found it to be more of a translucent ‘frost’ than clear. It fits the iPad very well, and offers some amount of protection, without getting in the way. The shape is very pleasant to hold in the hand, and there are no sharp corners or edges, even at the seam. All of the iPad’s buttons, ports, and screen remain fully accessible.

On the off chance that you’d want to remove the shell, that’s easy too. A coin placed into a recess can be twisted to pop apart the two halves.

The iSee is backed by a 1 year warranty against manufacturing defects.

I can truly recommend this product as being a good value at the list price of $39.95, but I’ve found it for as low as $25 shipped when I followed CIDER’s Amazon link for the iSee shell.

Book Review: My New iPad – A User's Guide

December 13, 2010

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — Dennis Wurster @ 1:21 pm

Cover of My New iPad bookWith most of life, I tend to follow the “keep it simple” strategy. Invest in high-quality goods when possible, but always be looking for ways to reduce the amount of stuff in your house.

Lately, Apple has been on the same Thoreau-esque mission to simplify items down to their very essence. They’ve removed as much as they can from their boxes — including the manual.

So what you’re left with is a shiny new product in your hands, and you attempt to figure out as much of it as you can by exploration. You don’t really know what you’re doing, because you are only interacting with the device at a superficial level. For single-purpose devices like a vegetable peeler, that’s just fine. For things like Apple’s iPad though, you’re limiting yourself to what you feel comfortable investigating.

That’s where Wang’s “My New iPad” comes in.

Wang leads you through all the features of Apple’s stable of applications on the iPad, from the user-centered approach of someone who wants to get something done, rather than the all-too-typical feature-centered approach of a developer praising his own work. Wang’s structure is more like a recipe than a description. He starts off with a statement like “Setting the Date and Time”, then focuses on “What You’ll Be Using” where he lists what apps you’ll need to find, and finally leads you through a numbered series of steps to accomplish the task. Wang’s tone is very matter-of-fact, and perhaps not as friendly as David Pogue’s “Missing Manual” titles. Considering that the iPad is a relatively new product, this book has come out at just the right time, because we’re all newbies at this point.

The 368-page book is a straightforward introduction to the capabilities of the iPad, from soup to nuts. I was able to skim through the topics that I was comfortable with, and look more closely at topics I hadn’t investigated before, like editing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and using the Maps app to view Google Street View photographs for a given address. More than once I was surprised to find additional detail on the general concepts I thought I had mastered.

The trouble with tech books in general is that they are not unlike fresh produce– the moment they are picked, they begin to wither. While this book is a fantastic reference, it doesn’t cover recent enhancements to Apple’s free iBooks app that allow you to open PDF files that you email to yourself, for example. It is also limited to iOS 3.2, so it won’t cover iOS 4, due out this fall. There is a website for the book at No Starch Press’s website, but it didn’t have updates listed as of this writing.

In summary, I found this book to be a handy reference and a straightforward guide to everything I needed to know about my new iPad.

My New iPad: a user’s guide, copyright June 2010 from No Starch Press. This title is available in a printed version or an electronic version in the PDF, Mobi, and ePub format. The cover price of the printed version is $24.95, but you can get it for much less (and support your user group) by following this CIDER amazon referral link. The electronic editions are available directly from No Starch Press for $12.95.