Review: Booqpad for iPad Air

Is Booq's mix of the paper and tablet worlds worth a try? (April 18th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Booq

Price: $60

The Good


  • - Detachable, portable iPad shell
    - Multiple usable stand modes
    - Space for notepad, other thin objects
    - Compact

The Bad


  • - No automatic sleep/wake functions
    - No pen holder
    - Detachable shell not protective enough
    - Pockets have little space

Before we get rolling, I'll confess: I've never understood the purpose of cases like the Booqpad. If you've got a tablet, surely part of the point is being able to ditch paper entirely. In practice of course, there are times when a pen and paper are handy -- but can that justify building an entire case around the concept? I suppose we'll have to put the Booqpad to the test.

On a fundamental level the Booqpad is a simple offering: just a folio with a slot for a notepad, which comes pre-installed. Your iPad sits in a thick plastic shell. The case as a whole, meanwhile, is held shut with a magnetic flap.

There are a few things setting it apart though, most notably that shell. Unlike similar cases, here the shell is only attached magnetically -- which means you can easily pull it out and wander around your home or office. That in turn makes it possible to read, play games, or shoot photos and video with a better grip, and far less bulk. It also enables one of the case's stand modes, though in my experience that's an incidental benefit.





I should explain. The back side of the Booqpad has a creased hinge segment that bends in either direction. Bend it outward, and using the magnetic flap for support, you get the case's typing mode. Bend it inward and you get a reasonably stable viewing mode. Because you can prop an iPad at multiple angles with the latter option, there's very little reason to use the additional viewing modes, which aren't even illustrated that well in Booq's instructions.





It has to be said that the shell has some design gaps, so don't think you can leave the rest of the folio behind when you travel. For one thing, there's not much to protect an iPad's display in that scenario. Booq does bundle a screen protector, but that can only guard against scratching and smudging, not cracking. You can't even attach a Smart Cover, since there's no space for the hinge.

And for some unknown reason, the lip of the case doesn't rise high enough to completely protect the edges of an Air. A slight bit of the chamfering (and hence the edge of the surface glass) is left exposed. That's a minor offense all told, but adds to the risk that a drop will crack your screen.

As for the notepad itself, what's most interesting is actually the way it's held in place. Slits at the top and the bottom of the folio are used as anchor points. Those slits leave enough room to stuff thin objects underneath, and indeed, there are two more slits on the side that are obviously meant for holding objects like boarding passes or business cards. The Booqpad doesn't have enough pocket space to be a road warrior-level case, but it may be travelworthy for many people, especially since it's (relatively) compact.

There are just two genuinely significant flaws with the case from my perspective. The first: no automatic sleep/wake functions. Those should be de facto on a 2014 product, although it's more understandable here, since the notepad keeps the lid from making direct contact with an iPad. The other flaw is more bizarre though, and that's the absence of a pen loop. You should be able to clip a pen to the hinge segment, but that's not ideal and obviously not intended. It seems ridiculous that a case designed around paper would leave out a convenient place for a writing utensil.

If those are the worst things to say though, Booq can rest easy. I was pleasantly surprised by the Booqpad. I would still argue that most people would be better served by other cases, but for people who still have one foot in the paper world, it's one of the better choices.

by Roger Fingas


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