Review: KAVAJ iPad Air 2 Leather Case

 

Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)
Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)

 

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first iPad Air 2 case I’ve reviewed at Words on the Word. As with iPad Mini cases, there are a lot on the market–so many that one could easily get lost in the three-hour rabbit hole of trying to find just the right one.

I’m not sure I have found just the right one for the iPad Air 2. There are a couple that are close–I’ll share about those in due course.

In this post I review the KAVAJ iPad Air 2 “Hamburg” leather case in cognac/brown.

 

What’s Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

This is an ephemeral satisfaction, but the packaging in which KAVAJ sent the case was as classy as the case itself:

 

2_Packaging

 

I really like the leather look and feel (and, of course, smell) of the case. (Current WordPress technology does not yet permit me to upload the smell to the blog.)

The stand system is secure and allows you to put the iPad at just about any angle you want. This is the best part about the case, as some others give you just two options, neither of which is quite the right angle. Here are some of the ways you can angle your iPad in the case:

 

1_Side View

 

1_Case at Other Angle

 

There’s also room to set up an iPhone there, in case you want to toggle between iOS devices. That’s a nice bonus.

The case is light–when folded back and reading in portrait mode, it actually makes the device easier and more enjoyable to hold than on its own. Cases that combine usability in both keyboard/orientation mode and reading/portrait mode seem to be rare.

The stitching is good, too. It looks like it’s not coming loose any time soon. And the inside flannel is nice and soft–no worries about it scratching your screen.

 

What’s Not-So-Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

There is an auto sleep/wake feature with the magnetic closure, which is good, but it’s really hard to get at the sleep/wake button itself when the case completely covers it. What if you want to leave your iPad set up on the stand all morning and turn it off when you’re not using it? When the iPad is in the KAVAJ case, it is very hard, if not impossible, to do.

This next assessment may be picky on my part, but I think anyone looking for a good case for an iPad Air 2 is warranted in that: the casing is not 100% centered when placed around the iPad.

It covers the home button just a tad, so that any time you go to press the home button, you’re competing the case. This is not an insignificant hassle, especially considering the use of Touch ID.

Here are some images showing what I mean:

 

2_Open with iPad in

 

1_Close-Up Home Button

 

Also, the snugness and slight off-centeredness of the case makes sliding in or up from the edges of the screen almost impossible. I’m not sure how else they could have circumvented this with this kind of case, but it feels like a design flaw, or at least something that leads to unusability.

That said, leather stretches out over time. A good week in the case didn’t make a difference on this front, but maybe it would improve over a longer period of time.

Finally, the case leaves just a little bit of exposure to the edges of the iPad. This may be necessary for the slide-in feature to work, but it leaves iPad exposed at a couple key spots–you’re likely to get a dent if you drop it. (And the leather isn’t all that protective anyway–a trade-off for the aesthetic.)

Where to Get It

 

2_Open and Empty

 

You can learn more about the KAVAJ case at their Website here. And it’s available on Amazon here.

 


 

KAVAJ provided me the case for the review, without expectation as to my review’s content.

Review of WaterField’s Spike Wallet

I’m increasingly finding myself drawn to the high-quality goods of manufacturers in New York (here and here) and San Francisco.

WaterField Designs is based in SF. They make an excellent keyboard slip case, which I covered here. For the last few weeks I’ve been carrying around their super-slim and stylish Spike Wallet.

It looks like this:

 

Spike Wallet by Pen

 

The best thing about it is its size–it’s small! It’s about the size of an iPhone 5, so it actually fits really comfortably into a front pocket, right next to a phone. Actual dimensions: 4.3″ x 3″.

This can’t be your hold-everything wallet, of course. I’ve been able to easily fit into it: two debit cards, some cash, an insurance card, and my driver’s license. This is what I need most days. However, the kids’ insurance cards or any gift cards I have still have to go in another, larger wallet. (Or just in my satchel somewhere.)

Getting things in an out was a bit tough at first, but the full-grain leather continues to soften with use. Here’s what it looks like filled:

 

Spike Wallet Filled

 

The closure mechanism is minimalist and slides right into place, easily and snugly. It’s perfectly executed.

 

Spike Wallet Open Empty

 

There’s only a little bit of branding, and it’s on the back. I probably would have preferred something more subtle, like on the inside flap of the wallet, for example.

 

Spike Wallet Back

 

The leather feels great in the hands, the stitching is secure, and the size is right for daily use. This piece of gear has been truly enjoyable to use.

WaterField makes a lot of other great-looking gear, which you can learn more about here. Find the Spike Wallet here. Retailing at $25, it comes in “Wallet”/large size (which I’ve featured here) as well as “Business Card”/small size.

 


 

Thanks very much to WaterField for the product review sample, given to me for purposes of review, but with no expectations or influence on the review’s content.

Toy Review: 2015 Hess Fire Truck And Ladder Rescue

Actually *two* trucks! (Image via Hess)
2015 Hess Fire Truck and Ladder Rescue (Image via Hess)

 

Only the Hess toy trucks at the babysitting room at our local Y have convinced our two boys to accept a drop-off there. They’re much better built and way cooler to play with than one might otherwise expect from a toy made by a gasoline station.

Hess, it turns out, has been producing its Toy Truck line since 1964. The first make was a tanker trailer, modeled after the ones that brought gas to the stations. For $1.29 (including batteries!) you could put the tanker trailer under the Christmas tree for your little one.

2015’s model is especially awesome:

This year’s Hess Toy is a red Fire Truck with oversized tires, swiveling chrome-detailed fire hose nozzles, LED lights including a high-powered pivoting LED searchlight, a slide-out ramp and 4 realistic sound effects. The accompanying Ladder Rescue features a rotating extension ladder with a movable nozzle and push-activated friction motor.         (source)

Here it is (click on any image in this post to enlarge):

 

Hess Box

 

Hess Box Open

 

You’re really getting two trucks for the price of one. Which is good, because the toy is $30.99. That’s more than most parents I know would want to spend on a truck for their kid, but it also includes free shipping and batteries. Given its high-quality construction, the truck looks like it will last a long time, so I don’t think it’s an unfair–if high–price, especially considering all its features.

Here’s what the trucks look like with lights on:

 

Both Trucks Lit Up

 

I got quite a start when I pulled out the ramp at the back of the larger truck–it makes a robust sound that you’d expect from a real-life mechanical ramp. It’s not the kind of annoying sound that will bug you when on repeat, but this might be a toy for kids to take out of their brother’s bedroom and into the living room when they wake up at 6:30 a.m. to play. The ramp makes for an easy entrance/exit for the Ladder Rescue truck to go do its own thing.

The Fire Truck has more sounds than the ramp. There is also an Ignition button (very realistic), a Horn, and a Siren. Each sound plays for about 10 seconds and is–this is worth repeating–not something to play with while baby sister is napping. But that makes the toy all the more fun and awesome. The horn sounds like there’s a real emergency at your house. (Not to mention the siren!) If need be, you don’t have to wait 10 seconds for it to stop; you can just push the button again to silence it. (That’s a thoughtful feature!) So long as your neighbors know it’s just the Hess Toy Truck and don’t go calling 9-1-1 on you, you’ll be fine.

You can turn just the lights on via the switch under the truck. There are two options: you can have the lights solidly on, or turn them on in flasher mode. Regardless of what you do at the bottom of the truck, turning on any sounds causes the lights to flash. There’s also a button on top of the truck that turns just the spotlight on.

The wheels are on both trucks really securely, so you can run them across the kitchen floor at full speed and not worry about it running into the fridge. It’s a smooth ride.

The smaller Ladder Rescue truck is fun in its own right. It’s got a fully extendable plastic ladder with a small water spout (not real!) on the end. Both trucks are sturdy and made of hard, solid plastic. The trim pieces (mirrors, ladder hose, front visors) feel a little flimsier than one might hope, but it would take a child’s deliberate act to break anything here. (Not outside the realm of possibility.) The ladder swivels a full 360 degrees and can be snapped into place when not extended.

 

Ladder Rescue Lit Up Extended Ladder

 

The Ladder Rescue truck also lights up via an on/off switch on the bottom of the truck. What this means for parents is that your child will turn off all the lights and find the darkest place in the house right away, so as to test the truck properly. 🙂 Parents will also want to make sure to turn the toy off at night so as to not let the batteries drain.

You can’t open the doors to either truck, so your LEGO minifigures will have to latch on somewhere else, but there is plenty of room for them to hop on and go fight fires.

This is really an awesome toy, and the more I played with it (yes, I played with it), the more I enjoyed it. Hours of countless fun for children are inevitable. Both trucks are thoughtfully designed and excellently executed. And the Fire Truck is pretty giant as far as children’s toy vehicles go, so you could do well to make this the “big” present you’re getting your child(ren) this Christmas.

 

Back of Ladder Rescue

 

One other cool thing: Hess has made 100 individually numbered Silver Editions of the Fire Truck and Ladder Rescue toy. I got the expected red one and was not disappointed.

You find out more and purchase the truck here. You can find the Hess Toy Truck on social media (#2015HessToyTruck) here: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.

 


 

Many thanks to the fine folks doing PR for Hess who set me up with the free product sample for review, with no expectations as the the review’s content.

Review of Audiosharp AS1130 Earbuds

 

Earbuds 2
Image via Audiosharp

 

After I ran a 5K my sweet three-year old picked off one of my earbud covers and left it who-knows-where. So I’ve been in search of a good replacement. Audiosharp’s AS1130 earbuds (currently on sale for $25 at Amazon) have been an exceptional choice for every-day headphones.

Here are the specs from Audiosharp:

 

  • Perfect design: Solid all-metal construction even down to the plugs, Three size soft silicone ear buds provide a super comfortable, secure fit and One Compact rugged case for safe storage are included.
  • Accurately reproduce clear natural vocals: High intensity listening experience with crisp, clear sound and deep powerful bass, Ultra-fast,accurate speaker design delivers the full details of today’s digital music with extreme clarity and deep bass.
  • Awesome noise reduction: Sealed in-ear design reduces external noise for a better music experience. the voice is still clear over the din of the store so you can enjoy uninterrupted music on the go.
  • High Performance: High Quality Tangle Free Cable.Micro-strand wire and flux tube for clear audio with reduced interference.Innovative, cable design is ultra-flexible and tangle free.
  • Audiosharp Features: Audiosharp is the most professional headset seller, Our products are designed by high-end designers and rigorous professional inspection. All Audiosharp products come with a 1-year warranty.

Most surprising was the packaging in which the earbuds arrived. It’s impressive, if excessive:

 

Image via Audiosharp
Image via Audiosharp

 

The carrying case is especially cool–and useful! It’s easy to wrap the earbuds up and store them in their protective cover:

 

Earbuds in case

 

The construction is high-grade, and these appear to be earbuds that will last a long time. The all-metal design looks cool, too:

 

Earbuds

 

Cable

 

As for the sound, the quality greatly exceeds what I expected for an under-$30 set of earbuds. Bass is fully present (but not overly so), and highs and mids are clear. It’s definitely an upgrade from the standard issue Apple set.

Having the earbuds in really does silence outside noise, too. They’re not noise-cancelling (nor do they claim to be), but noise-reducing, for sure.

They stay in my ears well even when I’ve got them outside on a run–a non-negotiable for me with a set of earbuds, and a feature which seems to be missing in most kinds that I’ve tried.

If you’re looking for greater sound quality than what you get with a $5 pair of earbuds, but for something that won’t break the bank and will last you a long time, Audiosharp’s AS1130 earbuds are an excellent option.

 


 

Thanks to Audiosharp for the review sample, given to me for purposes of review but with no expectation as to the content of this post. Find the earbuds here.

Review of WaterField’s External Keyboard Slip Case

Logitech makes an amazingly good external keyboard, the K811, which I reviewed here. At the time I noted:

It would be nice if the keyboard came with a carrying case or simple sleeve, though–you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.

And, boy, did I figure it out! Turns out a San Francisco manufacturer named WaterField makes just such a product: the Keyboard Slip Case. Here’s their description:

Thin is in. The Keyboard Slip Case offers gentle protection in a slim ballistic nylon case with a lightly padded liner. A piping trimmed edge lets you choose to add a splash of bold color, or to stay under the radar with subdued tones. Pack it up and off you go.

I can at last not worry about whether my keyboard keys will pop off inside my messenger bag, and my neighbors and friends can now avoid the unseemly sight of my walking around with an external keyboard in my hand. (I mean, not literally just walking around with it. But going from point A to point B.)

The dimensions are 12″ x 6″ and 3 ounces, perfect for the Apple wireless keyboard and my Logitech model.

To remind you, here’s what the K811 looks like:

 

Image via Logitech
Image via Logitech

 

And now, in its case:

 

Keyboard in Sleeve

 

Pretty awesome, yeah? I know–I’m too excited about a piece of gear, but I use my K811 a lot, and am glad to protect it well.

The inside is protective yet soft:

 

Soft Inside

 

It’s made in San Francisco, so you’re buying a made-in-the-U.S.A. product with WaterField.

There’s even a nice little piece of trim that gives it a slight pop:

 

Trim

 

Here it is next to an iPad:

 

With iPad Air 2

 

The slip case is well constructed, and looks like it perfectly blends being lightweight with protecting your keyboard.

The keyboard fits snugly, so the lack of a closure is no loss. I’d initially wondered about this, but it’s not a problem. And it’s still easy to slide the keyboard in and out. (But if you’re worried, you can get this model.)

My only critique is that the nylon exterior is a little slippery. When carrying around an iPad and notebook and keyboard-in-its-case today, I felt the iPad slip against the keyboard case. So be aware of that so you don’t drop something!

Otherwise, the K811 has found its perfect match. Or as I put it in a six-word review on WaterField’s site:

Just what my external keyboard needed.

WaterField makes a lot of other really cool-looking gear, which you can learn more about here. Find the Keyboard Slip Case here.

 


 

Thanks to WaterField for the product review sample, given to me for purposes of review, but with no expectations or influence on the review’s content.

Review of SHARKK® 15W Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

 

I’ve been jamming to some sweet tunes with SHARKK’s 15W Bluetooh Wireless Speaker recently. I’ve used it around the house for some organizing projects, as well as took it on a trip with me.

Here are the full specs from SHARKK:

◦ Rock the House with this Powerful 15 Watt Bluetooth Speaker with 2200Ah Lithium Battery which supports up to 10 consecutive hours of playing time.

◦ Subwoofer + high-performance amplifier combine for incredible volume and high quality sound.

◦ Can also be used to charge your phone or other rechargeable USB devices with its built in Power Bank.

◦ Supports AUX, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC with Siri/S Voice Functionality. Make and receive phone calls with the built-in Mic.

◦ Includes Charger, Carrying Pouch, and a 3.5mm audio cable.

Here is what it looks like out of the box (images via SHARKK):

 

 

Sharkk Speaker: What’s Awesome

Battery percentage indicator

 

You can see the battery level right next to the phone battery percentage—it’s always visible from the device from which you are streaming music. There’s no real battery life indicator on the speaker itself, so being able to see it from your device is neat.

 

Sound decent for cost

 

The sound is good for the cost. Not stellar, but solid. The bass is noticeable, if not wholly sufficient, and the highs and the mids come out, though perhaps not as crisply as one might want for a speaker at $80. Still, the sound is decent.

 

It remembers your device

 

Once you connect a device to the speaker via Bluetooth, the SHARKK speaker remembers it, so you don’t have to keep setting it up each time. I really appreciated this.

 

Totally portable

 

The speaker fits on a towel rack in the shower room. It’s easy to hold in one hand and move around the house to follow you from room to room. Highly portable and light enough to carry around, if you want.

 

What’s Not Awesome

The speaker died one night

 

One night, for no reason that I can discern, the speaker died. I charged it overnight. It still didn’t work. I charged it a second night. Still nothing. Then on the third day (I don’t mean this to be a religious parallel), it sprang back to life and has been working fine since.

Support was responsive throughout the issue, but I never could figure out why the speaker stopped responding like that.

 

No remote control

 

Lacking is a remote way to control the speaker. You cannot do it via remote control or from your phone. I know it’s not a huge deal to get out of your chair to turn it on or off, but a speaker in this price range should support remote control.

 

Play/pause button flashes

 

The play/pause button flashes blue when the speaker is on. I noticed this one night in the middle of the night from across the room, when I had forgotten to turn the speaker off. A minor nuisance, and certainly not a deal-breaker. But an auto-off feature would be nice.

 

Cloth carrying case

 

The speaker comes with a cloth carrying case, which is handy, but doesn’t do much to protect the speaker. On a recent trip where I wanted to take the speaker (it is very portable), I just packed the speaker up in its original box, which was a much better solution.

 

+ and – buttons

 

It’s awesome that you can play and pause your iTunes or even Spotify app from the speaker itself. One tricky thing, though, is that the “+” button fast forwards the track. Only holding the button turns the volume up (the expected result from a button like that). So, too, with the “-” button. It turns the volume down, but only if you hold it. Otherwise it rewinds the track. I found this less than intuitive, and still think it’s an odd design decision, but I got used to it over time (mostly). It is nice to be able to change tracks from the speaker itself.

 

Concluding Evaluation

I can recommend the speaker, but only with the reservations above. I’m not sure it would be my first choice for a sub-$100 speaker, but it does have some nice features that make it an attractive option worth considering.

Find the speaker here (SHARKK) or here (Amazon).

 

Thanks to SHARKK for the review sample, given to me for purposes of review but with no expectation as to the content of this post.