If 2011 is the year of the iPad 2, then DODOcase versus Portenzo is the fight of the year.
I orderd an iPad 2 DODOcase on 3/9/2011 for $59.95 and it arrived on 4/19/2011. I ordered a Portenzo Notebook Style case on 4/1/2011 for $59.95 (plush $4.95 for a camera access opening) and it arrived on 5/12/2011. Both cases cost equivalent money and each took approximately six weeks from order to delivery to my door.
Having had the DODOcase for a little over a month and the Portenzo for just a few days, I've decided to put the DODOcase away until the Portenzo wears out and then use it until my next Portenzo arrives. This review will compare the two cases and tell you why I think the Portenzo is the best deal in notebook style cases.
For the uninitiated, notebook style iPad cases are popular because of the current trend and revival of Moleskine notebooks that were popular in the 19th and 20th century with artists and creative individuals who used them to capture thoughts, drawings, and musings thoroughout the day. These larger hard, cover notebooks have an elastic band to hold them closed and are useful in keeping thoughts collected in a single place our for journaling and other written pursuits. The use of this style for iPad cases is also a bit of a nostalgic tribute to traditional book binding processes used to provide traveling protection for tablet style devices that threaten to eliminate the need for books. Notebook style iPad cases have become a stylish way of carrying your iPad while also not attacting as much attention to the device given the low, profile style of these popular notebooks.
Physical dimensions of each case as provided by the manufacturers: DODOcase — 10" x 8" x 1". Portenzo — 10" x 7.7" x .76" (or up to .82" depending on the cover material). The cases are almost identical in their physical dimensions with the Portenzo being a bit narrower in width and not quite as thick. My Portenzo case is also an eighth of an inch shorter than my DODOcase. The Portenzo definitely seems more tailored to fit the iPad 2.
The cover material used for both is a similar faux leather book textured material that is used on most hard-bound books. The interior cloth is well contstructed and durable. I ordered both cases with navy-blue interior as the color choice and each offers a nice rich contract to the wooden frames with the DODOcase being a slightly darker color that I prefer over the lighter Portenzo color. The DODOcase frame is made of bamboo while the Portenzo case is made from American Maple. Earlier DODOcases seemed to have a bit more character in the finishing of the bamboo while my new case offers more of a plain, clean look. The Portenzo has a bit more flair in the wood finishing that doesn't quite look like pages but might pass for that kind of a look on a first glance.
Both case feature a bit of embossed branding on their backs. The Portenzo embossing isn't as distinct at the DODOcase version which may be preferred by some. It doesn't make a difference to me. The elastic closure band on the Portenzo is placed so that it covers the camera opening (an optional feature) as an additional measure of protection beyond the dust-proof access port.
The Portenzo frame design is a bit more robust and offers greater all around protection for your iPad 2. In the pictures below, you can see how the DODOcase frame is a bit more open than the Portenzo frame which only offers access to button and ports with cutaway openings in the frame. You'll also get a sense of the way the frames have been finished and the overall look when the case is sitting on a table. Both are smoothly sanded and well-contoured. The Portenzo wood is slightly thicker.
Frame quality, adherance to the cover, quality of elastic and binding all seem equal. Where the cases really differ is in the way the iPad is secured in the case and the way the case fits the iPad once the device is secured in place.
In the pictures above, you can see that the DODOcase uses rubber tabs to secure the iPad in the case where the rubber pads overlap the case and rest inside the case corners to secure the iPad via friction. Once of the early complaints about the DODOcase was the extent to which this friction would be maintained over time and some early users complained that their iPads fell out of the case upon first use. This seems to have been corrected as the frame design incorporates small lips in each corner that are actually built into the contours of the wood. When you place your iPad 2 in the DODOcase, you must press it beyond the lips that are covered by the rubber taps until it lightly snaps into place. Hopefully the tabs won't become unglued from the frame where they overlap the corners which was also a big complaint with users (myself included) having to request new tabs to replace the unglued, worn-out tabs that did not wear well with repeated removal and reattachment of the iPad in the case. I'm still not crazy about the over-the-corner-look of these tabs.
The Portenzo uses rubber tabs to secure the iPad in place with friction but instead of an over-the-corner design, contours have been cut into each of the corners of the wooden frame at the outside edges where the iPad will sit in place without the corners as visible when looking at the iPad in the case. There is a similar need to push the iPad into the case where it lightly locks into place and many customers have reported that they have had no issues with the iPad falling out upon first use or over an extended period of time. My cover is secure but the top right corner is not holding the device as tightly as the other three corners and sometime the device is seems easily separated from this loose corner. I've removed and reinserted the device a few times with some greater confidence that it will stay put, but I'm still concerned about how things will fare longer term and whether the rubber seal for that corner is a problem.
Earlier I mentioned that the Portenzo seems more tailored to fit the iPad 2. This is definitely the case when you compare the way the two covers fit the wooden frames on each case. Aside from the DODOcase being wider and thicker than the Portenzo, the way the case closes over the device to provide a gapless fit is far more impressive on the Portenzo than the DODOcase and makes me wonder if the DODOcase design was more a matter of putting an old case on a new frame rather then redesigning the entire case. Ironically, the original iPad DODOcase cover seems to exactly match the dimensions of the new case as I compared my old original iPad DODOcase side by side with my new iPad 2 DODOcase. Portenzo got it right as you can see in the pictures below.
Notice the gap between the DODOcase frame and the cover spine versus the lack of a gap with the Portenzo. The gap is more obvious in this picture.
There is almost a fourth of an inch of space between the wooden frame and the spine. You can also see how the paper along the spine is rumpled because of this gap. There was also space that didn't quite allow the cover to sit on top of the frame but over time, this has been reduced as the top cover has shifted and bowed. It's workable but seems sloppy and not as precise as Portenzo's approach which was to make a properly fitting cover for a new frame where both cover and frame fit the iPad 2 perfectly.
Although DODOcase offers some interior customization in eight color choices (depending on choice, you may have to pay an additional five dollars), Portenzo offers ten interior colors, at no additional charge and every cover comes with the ability to take advangtage of the sleep/wake feature of the iPad 2. If you want to spend more money you can choose a Manga-grip cover in addition to or instead of the elastic strap, a dust-proof camera hole opening, personal embossing, and/or a frame with a stylus holder contouring and loop.
A sound chamber is built into each frame with a feature that ensures that sound is directed outward into the contoured exit channel. They also throw in a micro-fiber cloth and ship your case to you in shock-proof packaging for good measure.
For overall value, quality of design, attention to detail, and customization options, Portenzo is the best value in the notebook style iPad cover market. I'll see how well the case performs with extended use and what its wear quality is like over the next few months to determine if they will remain king of the cases. Both companies need to work on reducing their time from order to delivery if they truly want to keep their fans delighted and attract new customers.
- Name recognition as first notebook style iPad case provider using traditional book binding techniques
- Quality reputation
- Loyal customers
- Customer service
- Design limitations
- Lack of additional customization versus competitors
- Delivery time
- Solid, Detailed Design
- Quality reputation
- Increasing customer base
- Customer Service
- Customization Options
- Additional Features (sound chamber, camera hole, smart-cover wake/sleep)
- Delivery time