Dan: A few weeks ago I wrote a roundup of several iPad cases and my experiences with ordering them. Shortly thereafter I received an email from Tom at a small company called Aligata. He told me about his cases and offered to send a review sample. A few days later one of his cases in Espresso Black was coming to me, and a Nude Beauty was on its way to Judie. I spend some time with mine and then sent it to Travis for him to use. Here are our collective thoughts on these 100% leather cases.
Understated elegance for home and office
If you worry about your iPad falling off your coffee table and landing on its corner, then this is the case for you.
This case features our exclusive leather suspension system. It creates an elastic barrier which cradles your iPad away from the edge of the case. This case is made of softer leather and the device fits a little more loosely in the case such that friction and the natural flexing of the leather will more readily absorb sharp but lighter impacts such as a minor fall common in home and business environments.
This case is a shield for your iPad offering near total scratch protection for business or home use. It is soft to the touch and very visually appealing.
The more pliable nature of this case permits (on a carpeted surface) the front of the case to be folded behind and used as a stand for viewing movies and the like It’s design protects both the screen as well as the edges and back of the device.
The finish of this case is durable bovine leather and will last for years. Not even coffee stains will appear on it. It is free from straps, magnets, velcro and anything that could interfere with the proper operation of your iPad. It features an ascetic, simple and logo-free design which corresponds to general Apple design guidelines and allows access to all ports, light sensor and controls.
Plastic, silicon and vinyl look cheap and unprofessional. Other leather cases look nice — but leave your device exposed to incredible risk. This case combines solid protection with a stunning elegance and a quality you will treasure to years to come.
Judie: From the moment I noticed the Aligata Nude Beauty’s uncanny resemblance the raw full-grain leather used on many Louis Vuitton items, my burning question was whether the Aligata Nude Beauty could be made to match. Due to his close relationship with the manufacturing process of each case, Tom was able to accommodate my request for custom stitching, and he sent me exactly what I had hoped for — essentially a raw vachetta case with yellow contrasting stitching — instead of Aligata’s usual white.
My first impression upon opening the package was of how thick the naked leather was! I’m used to saddle leather, and this appears to be exactly the same type of heavy full-grain leather used to create a western-style saddle. In other words — it is raw, naked leather that will show the hide’s every flaw, every smudge made by you or anyone else who touches it immediately after it’s been made, every rain drop it encounters … and I do not consider this to be a bad thing! It is only after being used that full-grain leather, or vachetta will take on the most amazing color transformations: from raw, nearly white leather to a warm honey patina, then to an even warmer light brown, and eventually to a deep mahogany after many, many years.
In case you haven’t yet caught on, I am a huge fan of full-grain or vachetta leather! 🙂
Dan: We should note that, by design the cases have no magnets for holding the case closed. Instead, the leather “cover” simply folds over the front of the iPad. This might not seem ideal, but on the Aligata site Tom explains why he made this choice:
There are no magnets in Aligata cases. This is, in my opinion, very important. I had replaced my iPhone 4 times (!) in 2009 until I stopped using magnet case (actually, I used BlackBerry case to carry my iPhone – very convenient, but with magnet). And since I replaced the “magnetted” case with silicone sleeve, my iPhone hasn’t hang up even once. There are many articles and discussions on the Web regarding iPhones and magnets. Please, take a look here. And iPad is similar to iPhone in many ways (hardware, the same OS).
Dan: There is no question that these are more “rugged” and less “refined” than some other leather cases that are currently available. It creates a nice offset in fact — the smooth hi-tech iPad and the simple, rugged case.
Travis: I am a simple country boy and do not care for flashy cases. The hand-made nature makes for some imperfections, but it is also what drives me to love this case. I love the feel and smell of the leather and the rugged nature it represents.
Judie: I grew up loving the look and smell of saddles, from the newest to the oldest and most broken in. The Nude Beauty to me is neither rugged nor is it less refined, it is simply full-grain, thick leather: in its pure, naked “full-of-promise-please-start-using-me-now!” natural state. How dark and how uniquely beautiful the case will become depends upon how often you use it and how you care for it.
Dan: The first cases did not come with a cutout for the light sensor. This was added just prior to our samples being shipped, and it reflects the hands-on nature and responsiveness of the company.
Judie: The stitching inside my case is straight and even, which is a good thing considering how well it’s contrasted by the naked leather.
Dan: The lower part of the case dips just enough to make accessing the Home button simple.
Dan: By design the edges are unfinished. That doesn’t translate to poorly built. Not by a long shot. The cases are thoughtfully designed and intentionally have this look. The result is that within seconds of using the iPad in the case it feels like a well-worn, well-loved book.
Travis: I love the design and use of the leather. The case has a wonderful, hand-made feel that is not perfect, but well made and stylish. The case reminds me of a great baseball glove. The leather slowly breaks in and molds to a perfect fit. Dan’s comparison to a well-worn book is spot on. It just feels great in your hands and while carrying.
Judie: A baseball glove is a good comparison. 🙂
Dan: To get the iPad into the case you simple slide it inside.
Judie: My case fit quite snugly, but I liked that because it helps ensure that the iPad will stay where it is supposed to.
Dan: This is my favorite way to hold an iPad in a case. I much prefer it to the corner straps we see on so many other cases. At the same time I should note that it potentially suffers from the same issue as the Sena Folio I reviewed last week- the iPad isn’t held inside the way it is with the Apple case so it can slip out if the case is open and held at just the right (or that should be “wrong) way. This is not a problem but it is something about which you should be aware if you use this case. This was true when I wrote the first draft of this post. Before we ever published the post, Tom from Aligata asked us to hold off. Seems he was not happy with the way in which the iPad could slip out of the case either (I had not mentioned my concerns to him yet) and had come up with a solution.
Judie: I am not sure if the slipping problem was unique to only certain cases or if it was a more widespread issue, but my iPad wouldn’t slip out of the holster unless I held it on its side and shook — something I can assure you that I would never attempt on purpose. It’s possible that over time my leather holster will loosen though, so I appreciate that Tom has already worked out a solution.
Dan: He asked us to wait until he could ship out example of the “fix”. Tom’s openness and communication had impressed me from the start. This only served to seal that perception.
Dan: So what is the fix? It is really quite simple. Tom is now adding a small dot to the interior portion of the case. It has just enough “grippiness” that it holds the iPad in the case until YOU choose to take it out. Even better, Tom wasn’t happy with the first batch of circles so he is making them even larger AND shipping them to everyone who purchased the case already.
Travis: Even before the fix I had learned how to hold the case so that he iPad did not slide out. Since the iPad slides in, it is best to use the device with the button on the left while in landscape mode. It only took me a day to get used to using with the button on the left and even with this fix I’ll keep doing it that way.
Judie: Tom sent the fix to Dan to mail out, and even though I haven’t yet received mine I don’t worry when I am using the case.
Dan: Once inside the iPad looks like it has been there all along.
Dan: The case leaves the dock connector and the speaker open and accessible. Mind you, you won’t be using the dock charger or keyboard dock when the iPad is inside.
Judie: Here’s a shot of my iPad in the case …
Dan: The volume toggle and screen rotation lock also remain accessible albeit a bit recessed.
Judie: Hmmmm … looking at your corner and my corner, I think it’s noticeable that my case fits a bit more snugly than yours; that may explain the sliding thing.
Dan: As you can see if you look closely my iPad is Clear-Coated and it fit inside without a problem. The Sleep button is also accessible.
Judie: Another shot of my case; again, I think it looks more snug than Dan & Travis’ black case.
Dan: Finally, when the iPad is inside and the cover is closed it looks like a nice leather notebook.
Judie: Absolutely, and in fact, it looks like the exterior of the notebooks that we used to carry back in junior high and high school when I was attending in Eldorado. Everybody had a leather notebook from ML Leddy’s made of full-grain saddle leather. Of course, the difference was that our leather notebooks were totally hand-tooled and had our names on them. Actually … if you are skilled at that sort of leather stamping but don’t want to fabricate your own iPad case, then the Aligata might be the perfect canvas for you to consider!
Dan: Before I get to the case itself, let me spend a few minutes on actually dealing with Tom and Aligata. In a word it was… a pleasure. Tom is open, responsive and direct. Emails were responded to within a short period of time and he kept me abreast of the timing on the cases. And it isn’t just because I was doing a review. One look at the comments on the site and you’ll see that this is the norm. This is also reflected in the Q&A on the site. When asked “Is this case perfect?” the FAQ responds
No, it is not. It is handmade of genuine bovine leather, not plastic, not neoprene (like Apple case). Leather has personality, has small glitches, does not fit perfectly.
and when asked, “Can I use your case as a horizontal stand?” the response is
Well, I have tried to do this, but, to be honest, it is not very easy. The leather is rigid, the edges are not sticky, and on smooth surface such a “stand” keeps falling and closing. They can, however, be used as such on some carpeted or sticky surfaces.
I like and appreciate that kind of honestly.
Dan: As to the case itself… I like the look, feel and smell of real leather and that is exactly what this case is. I also like that it secures the iPad inside through a slide-in system that then frames the iPad to keep it from falling “through” the case. Yes the iPad can slip out the side but that is unlikely and merely something about which you should be aware.
Judie: Right; someone who cares more about thin leather, no added weight or bulk, or a more … okay fine, I’ll call it “refined” look will want to go with another case. But if you love leather — real, thick, protective, and lovely full-grain leather — with all the personality, flaws, and the promise of generations of use (longer than the iPad will even be around, for that matter) that this entails, then the Aligata is the case you should be looking at. 🙂
Dan: The bottom like is that this is a 100% leather case without bells and whistles and there is a lot to like here… especially at the current price of under $60. That noted, I prefer a more refined leather case but that is a question of taste, not a statement on the case itself.
Travis: I am not a big fan of cases with a lot of bells and whistles. So far I have not needed extra pockets to hold documents and other items, so the simplicity of the Aligata case is perfect for me. The leather is thick and high quality and really provides a true hand-made luxury feel. Other cases made with synthetic materials will have more colors, fit perfect and contain more features, but they will not provide the rugged, luxurious style of the Aligata cases. Whether a South Texas country boy or a big city executive, these leather cases will protect and hold the iPad safe and secure with subtle style.
The aligata.com genuine leather iPad case has an MSRP of $79.90 but is currently on sale for $59.90. It is available in Black Espresso, Nippon, Nude Beauty and Black Armor.
What We Like: 100% leather, simple design, exactly as described on the site, dealing with Tom is a pleasure to deal with and has already improved the case twice
What Needs Improvement: Less refined than other cases on the market
Best Usage Scenarios: Since the case does not have a built-in stand, it is ideal if you are primarily using your iPad to read books, magazines and other material that usually results in you holding the iPad in your hand.