"Protection Transparente." Two words couldn't more boldly describe the hybrid case + sleeve XtremeMac is hoping to find the niche market for. An iPad sleeve is an iPad companion for those who want the protection of case, but still appreciate the naked qualities of aluminum when in use. A middle ground was met somewhere as a plastic shield was added to reveal the iPad's display, yet the full body coverage of neoprene padding couldn't quite constitute a case. Today, we look at the weird offspring dubbed the Play-Through Sleeve.
A rather untraditional product, I'm not quite sure where XtremeMac is aiming with their iPad accessory. On one hand they've created a Body Glove like product that wraps skin-tight around the iPad with cushy, hexagonal neoprene padding that's topped with a rubbery material at the flap. Two unique features of the sleeve, a see through screen and an audio cover attempt to appeal to audio junkies who want to boombox tunes with weather protection. It's an interesting mix of idea + implementation, but I'm not sure if works with this particular product.
XtremeMac is generally known for their audio and charging solutions for the iPhone, iPad, and other gadgets. The sleeve is a stand-out product from the team, though its selling points fall short in actual use. If you're looking for a comfortable viewing experience, the see through plastic simply blurs the already non-Retina pixels. It's like viewing at your iPad through a frosted window: clearly it's designed for quickly navigating your iTunes library, but not for browsing the web or watching Hulu. I almost wonder if that was a huge missed opportunity -- imagine New York commuters who'd kill for a warm cushion on their iPads with uninhibited access. The thick plastic obscures the display just enough where XtremeMac's stressed selling point, "play-through," becomes undesirable. On the flip side, the plastic is incredibly finger friendly even if crinkly.
My review unit also turned out to be a terrible fit for my iPad. The neoprene sleeve, while incredibly comfortable and good looking, did not want to conform to my iPad without obvious stretching. You can wrangle the iPad into the sleeve, but the top flap (which is secured by velcro at the back of the sleeve) simply feels too short. The "depression" for the power button and the cut-out for the headphone jack did not want to line up, and I found myself accidentally turning the iPad on and off as I struggled to tighten the flap over the top of the iPad once secured in the sleeve. There's a lot of effort required to align the crux design decision of the case: the headphone jack cover.
As expected in a sleeve, the docking port and speakers are covered preventing "in-sleeve" charging. The volume buttons and mute switch are also left unexposed, but if it's a play-through-sleeve, shouldn't the audio needy have access to those controls? I'm not doubting that you probably have a pair of Apple earbuds with volume controls tucked away somewhere, but I suppose that blurry volume slider in the iPod app will do the trick. However, a well-thought indentation is made for the home button behind the plastic mask.
I really want to like the idea behind the sleeve, but it's not executed well here. We'll give you a weather resistant, protective barrier for your iPad in exchange for a way to view media and listen to audio in the elements (I keep thinking cold weather or wet conditions). Unfortunately, the comfiness, style, and ideas behind XtremeMac's Play-Through Sleeve at $34.99 is outdone by its inability to easily fit or form well to the iPad.