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Old Jan 27, 2013, 03:27 PM   #1
Rankin Johnson
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Portland, OR
Got my new Portenzo case

I just received my Portenzo Alano, a book-style leather case for my 4th Gen iPad. It's a very nice case, and I'm happy with my purchase, but it has some disadvantages driven by its basic design.

Positives: Itís really, really pretty. The cover is a single piece of thick leather. The leather is decorated with a pattern that looks like an old star atlas; Portenzo calls it the ĎGazetteí pattern. I donít know how they did the design, but itís probably laser engraving. Itís not just color on the surface, itís formed with very shallow impressions with sharp edges. Iím not sure if the texture will show up in pictures. They also laser engraved my name on the inner cover, and the engraving looks very nice. They could have made a custom die and stamped my design in, and then they could have colored it as well, but that was a lot more expensive and, to my eye, the stamping didnít look as nice as the engraving. They sent me pictures when I was e-mailing with the sales folks. The plywood frame is also attractive, with dark coloring in between the sheets of wood giving the impression of pages in a book.

Within the limitations of the design, it is well-designed. All the ports and buttons are accessible. The power button is covered but can still be activated, more or less, by pinching the case and iPad at the right spot. Itís a little fiddly, but it hardly matters because the magnetic sleep/wake feature works perfectly. The case fits well and holds the iPad very securely. I have the Ďintellistandí design, which holds the iPad in portrait mode. I could have had a hole cut for the camera in the back, but I didnít; I rarely use the camera.

Itís well-made. The leather is high-quality and thick, about the thickness of two quarters. The wood is well-shaped and Ėfinshed. The outside edges are perfectly smooth, with sharp, clean edges. The surfaces where the wood is cut away to reveal ports is a little rougher, but not rough. It feels nice in the hand. It is possible that the frame will warp over time, but I doubt it; the wood is a good-quality plywood, and itís not just a frame made by four strips of wood; it has some thin sheets of wood in the back adding strength.

The customer service was fine. Since nothing went wrong, they didnít have a chance to show me how good or bad the service could be, but they responded to my numerous petty e-mailed questions, sent pictures when helpful, and shipped 14 days after I placed the order.

Negatives. Itís expensive, and thick and heavy.

It doesnít have a good typing angle when set flat on a table. The spine of the book, maybe three-quarters of an inch thick, raises the iPad to a slight angle, but a couple more inches would help. It might be possible to bend it back farther while using the intellistand mode, but that might not work, might damage or crease the leather, and would probably be bouncy if it worked, and I donít plan to try. For similar reasons, when the cover is folded back behind the iPad, it is a little bit in the way and annoying.

The spine looks like a weak point that will wear first. Some spot needs to wear first, I guess. The spine is made by cutting away half the thickness of the leather in two long strips on the inside of the case, forming the spine in between them. Those strips bend easily, and might wear through easily. The leather there feels rough and dry, it does not have the smooth finish of the rest of the case. Iíve rubbed some leather conditioner into those grooves, in the hopes that keeping them supple will also keep them from wearing out. There are also cuts in the leather in the middle of the back, so it will bend easily in intellistand mode, but those spots have less stress on them and will surely last longer than the spine. The elastic band holding it shut could easily wear out or break, as well, and Iím not sure how hard it would be to replace. The rubber corners on the inside of the wooden frame also might wear out of the iPad were taken in and out of the case often, but I donít plan to do that.

Iím worried about smearing the design if I use leather conditioner on the outside. Thereís white detail work over a grey base, with some deliberate gradations in the grey color. The lovely detailing might be fragile, and there isnít really an inconspicuous spot to test. Also, there are a few missed spots along the edges that didnít get colored.

The wooden frame is the right size for a 3rd generation iPad, so the hole for the lightning cable is too wide. That spot is probably a weakness in the wooden frame, but it does not look like a significant problem. Thereís also an ugly plug, a little smaller than a dime, on the inside of the front cover. Presumably the plug is to install a magnet for the sleep/wake feature, so I donít know how they could avoid that. There is one visible flaw in the leather. It looks fine with this design, but if I had chosen the unadorned leather cover, I would not be happy with the flaw.

I looked at a lot of cases before picking this one. There are similar book-style cases by Dodocase, Pad and Quill, Xhibt, Twelve South, Germanmade, and Iím probably missing a few. Any of those would probably have been fine. I thought that fabric was likely to look dirty and be hard to clean after a few months, especially the bright colors that I would have preferred, and I donít like fake leather. Of the real leather options, I liked the look of the Portenzo best. I also gave serious thought to Grovemade, which is both lovely and local to me, but doesnít have a good stand function. Mapi Orion was a little more practical (it stands in both orientations and at many angles) but it was kind of dull. I wanted something in the space between wacky bright colors and muted professionalism.

I'm trying to upload pictures, but I'm not sure if it will work.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:49 AM   #2
kikima
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Boston
Thanks for your review. I ordered a leather BookCase for my new iPad since I just love the way it looks and the reviews were better than Dodocase, P&Q, etc. Since you've had it for a week or so now, have your impressions changed at all? Any new wearing spots?
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