Every case maker uses a specific approach or two. It might be low weight, a high level of protection, attractive, artistic design, or the ability to be used in multiple orientations to name a few. Chil has taken its own approach for the iPad Air which is novel and effective, but it may not suit everyone.
Chil's own press release says it well when states that this case bucks tradition. The essential part of the design is a fold out notch at the bottom, along the hinge line, that allows the user's hand to slide up and get a better grip on the iPad. Chil uses the term "nestle" around the iPad.
Here's a close look at the notch (flap) that I've pulled from around the back. When you're done and close the case, the notch slides into place very nicely. When stowed, it simply looks like a seam in the leather and doesn't look at all untidy or affect the aesthetics of the closed case. (See the image further below of the front and back views.)
Notch folded forward.
While this notch allows the user to get a really good grip on the iPad Air, there is one issue that may concern some users. In a standard folio case, one usually folds the cover around the back. That's convenient, but it also covers the camera aperture. With this case, the cover must necessarily hang out into space. That's best shown in the following image from Chil.
Intended usage. (Color is "teal")
That could be unbalanced or uncomfortable for some. (It was for me.) While this kind of case didn't suit me personally, I can see how in specific circumstances, holding the iPad Air in this fashion could be desirable. For example, it caters to those who might need extra privacy, say, on an airliner. It lessens the possibility of dropping the iPad Air. It also keeps the camera aperture clear.
- Padded, high-grade leather exterior in five different colors
- Microsuede interior
- Notch (as described above)
- Magnetic sleep/wake operation
- All ports accessible
- iPad Air swivels 360 degrees and can be stood up in portrait or landscape mode at two different angles
Front and back. Shown in "merlot" color.
This is not the lightest of cases for the iPad Air and doesn't pretend to be so at 11.67 ounces (331 grams). Cases that preserve the iPad Air's sense of lightness have to be about 8 ounces or less in my experience. However, the advantage of this design is really good protection. This real leather case felt as if it could protect the iPad better than any of the other case I've tested, even the Macally Clear Case. If I were headed for a really rugged environment, I would probably switch to this Notchbook Case.
The iPad rests on top of a really thick bed, held with elastic straps, that's on a swivel embedded into the outer back. That makes for a really thick case, but has the unique feature, seldom seen in iPad cases, of being able to prop up the iPad Air in Portrait mode. As a result of these two pads and the swivel, the total thickness, with iPad Air, is about 7/8-inch (22 mm).
Swiveled to portrait mode.
Unlike some of the other modern cases that have an acoustic scoop to redirect the sound, this case doesn't allow for that because it's focused on other areas: the swivel, great protection and a leather design. So I'll just note that in passing.
Packaging and Warranty
The packaging is a minimal design that lets the texture, design, and the notch show through. The fact that the iPad can swivel in the case is shown clearly.
Notable is the Chil lifetime warranty. "Your Chil products will outlast the life of your mobile device, or we will replace them."
That goes a long way towards addressing any fear that the straps that hold the iPad Air in place might fail.
The Notchbook comes in five attractive colors that can be seen on the Chil product page: black, violet, English tan, teal and merlot. (The merlot color is shown above.)
I can see how a customer who travels a lot, needs excellent protection for the iPad Air, isn't too fussy about minimizing weight and maintaining that "airy" feeling, needs some privacy from onlookers, needs to keep the camera port clear, needs a firm grip on the iPad Air in, perhaps, a crowded area, wants a handsome, professional looking leather exterior, and might need to do some presentations in both portrait and landscape mode would find this Chil Notchbook to be the perfect case.
One of two landscape angles.
On the other hand, if you're just working in a fairly safe office or home environment, only need modest protection and want to keep the weight down, there are other cases for that — whether they're just shell cases or folio cases that fold all the way around.
Making the Case
I respect what Chil is trying to do here. While it's not the case I would normally use in my office, I can fully see how it would fit the bill nicely for certain people. The leather feels good in the hands, it's very well made, the stitching looks really good, and it has that awesome lifetime warranty. Independent of any feelings about the notch, the price, features and quality of this case earn it a great rating.
Just make sure that all the features of this case are right for you. Especially that notch.