I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for wood and Apple products. The wonderful iPad cases from BlackBox and other companies have a great feel, adding a natural counterpoint to the metal and glass of our devices. Now a new company based in Boise, Idaho -- Root Cases --is making and selling beautiful wooden iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro cases, and I had an opportunity to get my hands on several of the cases for review.
Cases for electronic products are all about design -- looking good, yet offering protection for your device at the same time. When you first open up the cardboard box containing your new Root Case, you'll be pleasantly surprised -- it comes in a wooden crate that is a work of art in itself. There's also a business card, printed on 100% recycled stock, that lets you know that you've helped plant a tree in a non-logging location and gives you a 10% discount on your next order.
What's inside the crate? A bit of excelsior and your case. The case is made out of either bamboo, walnut, wenge, or zebrawood, and is felt-lined on the inside. There are cutouts in the appropriate locations, of course. The iPhone 4 case also works with the iPhone 4S, as you'd expect, and weighs only .7 oz (20 grams) using the bamboo material. It's a very nice looking case and really accentuates the design of the iPhone 4/4S. The iPhone 4/4S case retails for US$59, about a buck less than the TwelveSouth BookBook vintage case/wallet.
It's the iPad case that is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, though. The one that appeared here at the TUAW Testing Lab was made out of silky-smooth walnut with a leather-like binding on one side. Unlike the BlackBox cases, which are more of a sleeve design, the Root Case for iPad 2 ($79) is a book-type folio case more like the DODOcase. Just think of a DODOcase made entirely out of beautiful wood and you have the Root Case.
The iPad case has another feature that set it apart from the DODOcase; strong magnets in the corners to keep the cover closed in transit. The magnets are only for that purpose, so don't expect them to turn your iPad 2 on and off like Apple's Smart Cover would.
The iPad Root Case is a little bit heavy (15.3 ounces or 433 grams for the walnut version), but it's well worth the weight for the furniture-like finish and quality of the case. If there's one complaint that I have about the iPad case, it's that getting to the various switches and buttons can be a bit difficult as they're recessed into the case.
Both the iPad 2 and iPhone cases are beautiful, but how well do they protect your device? Well, I'm not going to wreck these lovely pieces of art to figure that out, but with both cases I'd say that they offer as much protection as most cases. There's little or no internal padding in the cases, so a drop could theoretically damage your device as well as the case. If you're more concerned about keeping your iPad from damage than good looks, then you might want to consider something like the LifeProof or OtterBox Defender Series cases.
Christmas will be here sooner than you'd expect, and I'd wholeheartedly recommend buying a Root Case for your favorite iPhone 4/4S or iPad 2 owner. If the recipient isn't enchanted by the painstaking attention to detail in manufacturing or the warmth and solid feel of the wood, then you're going to have a heck of a time finding a good gift for that person.