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TheIntruder

macrumors 68000
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Jul 2, 2008
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Took advantage of Nomad's Black Friday sale to snag a Rugged Folio case for my Pro.

Have been an interested observer of Nomad's products, never a user, but this seemed like a good opportunity to finally give them a try. Since there is little about the case, aside from reviewers who were sent free cases, I'll provide my impressions.

Their iPad case is relatively new, and follows the same formula as their phone cases -- a leather outer veneer over a rubber/poly shell, with exposed rubber perimeter.

While it's not a full leather case (inside and out) like some higher end brands (Vaja, Piel Frama, and the like) it still does enough to look and smell the part, and stand apart a bit from the multitudes of vinyl cases on the market. But is is closer to them than those aforementioned brands, as was Apple's past attempts at leather iPad accessories.

The Nomad can serve as a surrogate of whatever Apple might have produced had it continued, with the common tri-fold cover design, mostly smooth, minimally-grained aniline leather, and slim-fitting form factor. The inside is lined with microfiber that's clearly a step above the linings in cheaper cases, being very suede like in texture and less like fabric, or in the cheapest cases, like sandpaper.

Nomad makes a big deal of the source of their leather, Horween, and anyone who likes leather goods has probably heard of them. But they're not the only purveyor of good leather, and the specific leather and grade used is not specified. It's fine, but not spectacular, and not commensurate with something like Vaja's leather. It is expected to patina, and will, but unlike a good leather which will patina, but do a better job of enduring it. IMO, the marketing is too enthusiastic about it.

Like Apple's cases, the cover's magnets have enough strength to give a satisfying snap when closing the cover, while also serving to trigger sleep/wake, which some cases inexplicably do not. When folded back over, there is a bit of magnetic force, but probably not something that can be boasted about as an intended feature.

As a non-Pencil user, I do wish that it (and many other cases) did fully enclose the iPad, and not leave an exposed edge, but that's the reality of the market, and still allows it to keep a slim profile, while accommodating the Pencil without some clunky appendages like some cases out there.

I have been using a Speck Balance Folio as an initial stopgap, to buy time to search for a more long-term solution. The Speck is a fine case on its own merits, and undoubtedly a better value (especially when on sale), but the Nomad does (and should, at >3x the retail price) have the edge in quality (though perhaps not 3x the edge).

The Speck has a sliver of space (but not any sort of pen/enclosure) carved out to hold a Pencil in place, but I was surprised at how much that affects the feel and handling of the case, vs. the Nomad that does not. Such a slight increase in dimensions makes the it feel bulkier and more unwieldy, and the weight of the Speck (345g, vs. 276g; Pro itself = 510g) doesn't help. Simply put, the Nomad feels more like holding a naked iPad, and less like an iPad wearing a protective suit. The combination of the hard inner shell, and edges of the outer cover also make it less pleasant to hold by the sides. That's not to say the Speck is a bad case, and I don't regret spending $20 for it, but I wouldn't pay the full $40 price.

The same could be said of the Nomad. Its regular price is $150, and occasional sales knock 20-30% off. This BF, there was an extra daily flash sale that made it 40% off. I would not spend $150 on it, or any case for that matter, and TBH I was kind of hoping that I'd dislike it enough to return it, but I'm leaning toward keeping it, also keeping in mind Apple asks $79 for their vinyl folio.

At the full price level, I'd demand a full leather case, but there were no deals to be had (Vaja, in particular, had a rotten BF promo and excluded current product, though the discount on old sale items was good). But, I'll probably end up keeping the Nomad, and an eye out for a deal on a full leather case.

Edit -- sorry folks, had a brain fade -- the original title suggested that this case would be compatible with the Air 4, but it has a fully-enclosed top button, which won't play well with Touch ID, so no go. Also of note, the 11" version has exposed volume buttons, while the 12.9" covers them.
 

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TheIntruder

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 2, 2008
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Looks good, is it heavy though v apples folio?
According to my scale, the 11" Nomad weighs 276 g (9.7 oz), the Speck 345 g (12.2 oz). The iPad 510 g (18 oz), while the official figure is 476 g.

Assuming there is no significant difference with the 2020 version except for the larger camera cutout, one user review from before Apple dumbed down its site places the 2018 11" Apple folio at 175 g, but that is unverified. Other figures are all over the place, and likely unreliable. Amazon, for instance, lists at at ~400 g (14 oz), which I would not trust.

That's more in the range of a keyboard case, or a rugged-style case like the Zugu (12.6 oz). Others like the UAG and Otterbox are in the 10-11 oz range.

Subjectively, I've only handled Apple's folio on its own, but would venture to say that it's more like the Nomad than the Speck, and perhaps lighter, as a minimalist style case.

One last point of comparison -- my Air 1 with Issentiel leather case (I think I posted about it here) weighs 790 g. The Pro with the Nomad 786 g, and Speck 855 g.

Objectively, these are all small amounts, but subjectively, they make a difference in handling, and another reason why I'll likely switch to the Nomad for primary home use, and keep the Speck around for road duty. It's heavier, but has space for a Pencil, and the vinyl is easier to clean. Also less concern about beating up the $20 case, versus the $Benjamin case.
 
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