Thursday, February 11, 2016

Surface Pro 4 Urban Armor Gear case review

I've had this case for a few weeks now and I have been testing it out. I must say that this is, probably, one of the most rugged cases you can get for your Surface Pro devices. UAG makes them for multiple devices, including phones and other computers and tablets, but sadly I have only tried this for the Surface Pro 4.

You can get it in a few different colors. Check out their website.

UAG got this case out to me to test out on my review SP4, but in the end I ended up buying myself a SP4 because I love this darn thing so much. The last thing I'd want is to have it fall or get scratched. Usually I don't mind the body, but the screen is so important.

The first thing you'll notice is how nice and well built it is. It certainly feels like a premium product, and it is! Especially for the price, you should be expecting something that feels good in the hand, feels solid while using, and feels like it'll outlast your device. I got a UAG Cobalt colored case, and it is indeed very nice.

On my SP4 I keep a screen protector, not a glass one, but rather a plastic one. But I don't know if it will be 100% necessary anymore because there is a lip on this UAG case that raises the SP4 up from the ground. So you can place this on the table and there could be little specks here and there, but since it is raised, the screen won't physically touch the table. This is very good news of course, but you must always be careful because a large enough piece of sand or something sharp could reach the screen, and this goes the same for any case or device - so just be careful. 

This case is quite easy to put on, and very difficult to take off. The best way I've found to do this is by using the bottom right or bottom left to wedge it out first, and then go to the opposite side of the bottom, and then after that you can practically slide it out. I did have some trouble while figuring this out and felt like I was going to break the Surface while trying to get it out of the UAG case. This is both good and bad, good because it means it won't fall out or come out accidentally; and bad because it's not a case you'll slap on like your phone in 2 seconds.

Let's talk about the angles: The UAG doesn't have as wide of range as the original kickstand, see images. As you can see in the pictures there are multiple angles with the mechanism. They are not like the SP4 stand, which you can put anywhere between the minimum and the maximum. Here are there are little pegs that ride up and down - this means you can put it on any one of the little pegs and have it stand there without any issue - it's a very firm stand. Keep in mind though that you won't be able to hit the lowest angle like we do with the SP4 (for example, for writing or taking hand written notes in class or in meetings). Here is a picture of the lowest angle:

And here are some images of the kick stand compared to the SP4's original in the minimum and maximum. As we know and love, the SP4 kickstand doesn't have a minimum - you just unfold it and you can place it in any angle, but I put it in this angle which is one of the lowest I could put my SP4 standing up (of course I wouldn't leave it at this height just in case, if I were to touch the screen it would probably fall over.

The stability of the kick stand is very good! I mean, very, very good! The kickstand is very firm, held in place by plastic pieces that snap into place. Neat mechanism, but isn't as good as the original SP4 stand mechanism of course. It won't be switching angles on its own any time while pressing down. The actual stand is made of a kind of metal which is very cool to the touch. I'd be worried about scratching the table if you have a very easily scratched surface (meaning table, not device haha). The bottom of the stand isn't actually sharp by any means, but it feels ultra-sturdy, which is a great feeling to have. But I'd rather air on the side of caution and not let it sit on any dark IKEA furniture.

If you were to place your device closed and case down on the table, would it slide? The case itself is rubbery plastic, but the kick stand, being made of metal, could slide. But it's a lot less slippery than if the Surface Pro 4 were on the table without a case; in that situation the SP4 would slide without any doubt since it's so slippery. So it's great to know that you could place this, case side down of course, on the table or glass and not have it slide away. The texture and design really help the case grab on to the surface of the table.

Let's talk about some specifics:
Can you fold the keyboard back all the way? No… You can't sadly. What happens is this - the keyboard detaches. This is due to the thickness of the case, and there are some trade-offs of course to having such a rugged case. This is fine. Most of the time I have my bag with me and if I need to disconnect the keyboard, I just throw it in my bag and continue with what I was doing. I know this isn't the ideal situation for most people though.
The inside of the case is a textured honeycomb design, and I'm sure there's a reason for it. You can't see it from the outside, so it's not for design purposes. The inside of the case is made from a rubbery, hard plastic material. So it'll cushion and hold tight - too tight sometimes (I'm mentioning this again because there are no instructions on how to put it on or take it off in the box, but when removing, take off a lower corner by bending it a little bit. If you try and take it off the entire case at once by bending both corners, for instance, you might hear a crack or two! Not good! So go slow, and do one lower corner at a time. After you get the two bottom corners off you can slide the device out very easily).

All the ports are accessible and something that is fantastic this time around is the charging cable - this time you can put it in either direction! So no need to keep it in only one position like previous versions (I can't speak for the SP3 case since I didn't get to review it, but I can speak about the SP4 case and the SP2 case - the latter didn't have that option and could only be placed in one direction). Going back to the ports is the fact that they are all accessible but you must be wary of the headphone jack - it's likely that angled headphones won't fit, but you can go ahead and try! Most straight headphone jacks will.

The pen has a holder at the top, and it is also reversible, but there is a design at the top that "recommends" how to place it. But I've placed it numerous times in both directions and there were no issues. It grabs on to the pen VERY well. Also, the pen is still magnetically able to be locked on to the device, but since the case is so thick, it loses some of its strength. So it's really good that if you're at the desk you can just plop it on the side again all the while if you're going to toss it in your bag or move around a lot with it, you can attach it physically and very strongly to the top of the case.

There is a flap for the keyboard which holds it in place, which is a nice touch. The SP4 doesn't have this by itself and only the bottom (where it attaches to the computer) is magnetically locked in, so it can flap open. Now it can't and won't! It's just a piece of elastic with a thumb with the UAG logo, but believe me, it's great that it's there. 

So in the end, what do I think? I think this is a fantastic case for those who want to take care of their device and don't mind the added weight or thickness. Once again, this isn't a case you'd slap on in 20 seconds, if you put it on, you'll want to keep it on for a while. It's great for drop protection, even though I'm not willing to test it out! But just due to the design and how it's made you can tell that it's VERY well put together and thought out and the corners are thick! So I'd much rather have this case on my device than not if I know I'm going to take it around a lot. So basically, if you're going to keep your SP4 as a desktop, there is no need to get this case (check out the ESR case I reviewed), but if you're going to travel around a lot and take it everywhere you go, then it's a great idea to invest in a good case. 

+Your device is very well protected
+Very portable
+A lot of thought has clearly been put into the device
+Angles are good, but not the greatest
+Great design and very stylish! Surely an eye catcher for many (myself included)

-Heavier than going with no case, obviously
-Less angles on the kickstand
-Hard to take off
-Pricey, but again you're also paying for the brand, R&D and droppability

Check out the UAG website
Cost: around 70 USD

Sunday, February 7, 2016

ESR Case for Surface Pro 4

This case was purchased from Amazon and I believe it to be a very good case. I got it from Amazon Japan for 3,200 yen, or 27 euros. Here in Spain though, on Amazon, the same case was 95 euros - strange, right? There are other colors which were more affordable. So hunt around for the best price!
Now onto the review.

I have been using it for a few weeks now. I must say that I am in love with it. It does take the weight up quite a bit, but it definitely screams quality.  It took me a day's use to learn how to properly open it and get the keyboard to open on right in front of me, but that's it.

To insert the SP4 into the case you must slide it in from the bottom and have the top slide in to the notches on top. Then you open the kick stand a little and snap the kick stand into each of the place holders for it. It's very simple to remove it from the case, unlike the UAG case (review to come, another very nice case). But it was very simple to remove just by reversing the process - unclip the kick stand and then slide the top out through the bottom.

I've been using it for well over a week, and I have been using it 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I use my Surface for about 7-8 hours a day for work reasons and this case has been on it ever since.

It's a case, so it's there to be abused since it's what gets thrown into my bag - that way the case takes the abuse and not my shiny Surface Pro 4.

One of my favorite things is that it uses the already awesome kick stand mechanism of the Surface Pro 4, which means you can get almost every angle that the SP4 does. The keyboard can no longer be folded back though, bummer. But the case actually offers VERY good stability while sitting on a plane, train, bus since it essentially mimics a laptop dynamic, all the while keeping the heat off your lap :). 

It has a magnetic clasp which will help it stay closed, I say help because it won't lock it in place. It'll just give you an idea that it's there and won't open by itself in your bag, but it's VERY simple to open.

The device can still be charged with the case on, even with my custom 3D printed cable protector. It also has a pouch on the inside for business cards or a sheet of paper or something like that. I honestly don't see the use of it.

The pros
+ It's elegant
+ It's stylish
+ It's affordable
+ It's easy to put on and take off
+ Pen is securely locked in at the top.

The cons
- Keyboard can't be folded back
- Easily scratched
- Depending on where you are, it's expensive.

Enjoy the picture gallery!
ESR SP4 Case