I love my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but there were two things that disappointed me: Apple doesn’t offer a Smart Cover for it, and its Smart Folio case isn’t available in leather.
No third-party company yet offers an equivalent product, but if you’re looking for a high-quality leather case or sleeve for your iPad, there are options out there – and I tried two of them …
Brydge is best known for its anodised aluminum keyboard for iPad. Slot your iPad into the rubber-coated prongs, and your iPad instantly turns into something which looks remarkably like a MacBook – and which is now very usable as a writing tool.
I’ve long been a fan of Brydge keyboards – they have always struck me as the ones Apple should have made – and I’m waiting impatiently for a model for the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The company hasn’t yet announced a date for this, but keyboards for both new iPad Pro models are in the works, and we’ve already seen what they look like.
What it does have available now, however, are a series of three leather sleeves/cases for both 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. For simplicity, and because the company is pitching them at other tablets too, it refers to them as 11-inch and 13-inch versions.
There are three options:
- Sleeve ($49.99 for 11-inch, $59.99 for 13-inch)
- Folio ($69.99 for 11-inch, $79.00 for 13-inch)
- Organiser ($99.99 for 11-inch, $109.99 for 13-inch)
The sleeve is exactly what it suggests: a simple slip-in sleeve. The opening is at the short end, so you can charge the iPad while it’s in the sleeve.
The Folio is a case rather than a sleeve, with a zip. The Organiser is designed to hold the iPad with Brydge keyboard (when available). It also has both interior and exterior slots for a few papers, four card slots and storage for the Apple Pencil.
I tested the Folio and Organiser.
These are beautiful-looking cases, available in a choice of black and brown – the latter being a kind of dark tan.
The exterior is handcrafted, full-grain leather with a smooth finish. The color-matched stitching is neat and unobtrusive, and the zip too is an excellent match.
The rear is featureless, while the front of the Folio has just a discreetly embossed BRYDGE logo. The front of the Organiser has the same, plus a slot capable of holding a few sheets of US Letter paper.
The zip opens smoothly, and the interior is lined with soft felt, also color-matched – though a slightly lighter shade. The Folio zip opens on two sides, and has just a corner slot able to hold a few papers or business cards.
The Organiser zip spans three sides, to open fully flat, and is a little more elaborate inside. There’s an elasticated slot for the iPad plus keyboard. This is felt on the inside, leather on the outside.
There’s a flap on the opposite side to hold a few papers, four slots for business cards or credit cards, and an elasticated holder for the Apple Pencil or a pen. (Both models also have enough room for the Apple Pencil to remain magnetically attached to the side of the iPad.)
The quality of both feels fantastic. The leather feels as good as it looks, and the zip action is effortless.
I’d not heard of Picaso Lab before, but the company’s products are endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Woz isn’t known for endorsing lots of products, though one of them did attract complaints.
Picaso Lab started its relationship with Woz in the form of a charity fundraiser, with autographed special edition MacBook sleeves selling for $500 each – with 100% of the sale price going to a charity selected by Wozniak.
Those quickly sold out, and the iPad sleeves sadly lack the autograph. On the plus side, they also don’t cost $500. There are five versions currently on sale:
- iPad mini 3 or 4 ($62)
- iPad Air/Air 2 ($68)
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch ($72)
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch ($75)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (original) ($84)
The 2018 versions are thicker, to accommodate the Apple Keyboard as well as the iPad:
- 11-inch iPad Pro ($92)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($108)
These models are still showing as pre-order, though should now be available for shipping by now. The version I tested was a pre-production prototype for the 12.9-inch iPad.
The Picaso Lab sleeves are all handmade, and have a more traditional look. They are made from California Napa leather – in black only – with a very visible grain. The stitching too is extremely visible, in contrasting red thread.
The stitching uses a unique process which Picaso Lab calls ‘solid edge.’ It’s designed to provide greater protection, while at the same time still feeling soft in the hands.
Inside, there’s no lining – just the back of the hide – but as the leather is very soft it doesn’t feel like there’s any risk of scratching your iPad.
It’s the long side which is open, and Picaso Lab takes a compromise here between a completely open sleeve and a zip. There’s a snap-on closure tab with a press-stud on each side. This secures the iPad in the sleeve, but can be easily removed if desired.
There is no branding anywhere on the sleeve – something the company considers ‘unsightly’ – but personalized engraving is a free option. This can be in ether Mistral or Myriad Pro typefaces.
Finally, the company offers a 10% discount to 9to5Mac readers on all of its products, using the code PicasoDeal10 at checkout.
Both Brydge and Picaso Lab leather iPad Pro cases and sleeves are solid options. Both companies tick all the boxes for high-quality leather and craftsmanship. All the products tested look and feel great, and the prices are reasonable for the quality you’re getting.
I’m an equal opportunist where leather products are concerned. As I noted in my review of luxury leather backpacks, I appreciate both traditional and modern styles, and like both black and brown leathers. If the quality is right, I’m easy to please.
Personally, though, I’m not so much of a fan of red stitching on black leather. It’s a very specific look – and popular with many – but I tend toward a more subtle look. For me, then, I’d opt or the Brydge, and as I’m eagerly awaiting the company’s keyboard, it would be the Organiser version.
But the choice will be a personal one. Do you prefer open sleeve or zipped case? Do you have a keyboard or not? And do you want a choice of color? I don’t think you can go wrong here with either company.
Brydge leather iPad Pro cases and sleeves range from $49.99 for the 11-inch Sleeve to $109.99 for the 12.9-inch Organiser. All are available from the company’s Amazon store.
Picaso Lab iPad Pro sleeve costs $92 for 11-inch and $108 for 12.9-inch, but use code PicasoDeal10 to get 10% off from the company’s website.