Friday, December 19, 2014

American Express Blue Cash Reward Card- Not So Rewarding

I got an American Express Blue Cash reward card a few years ago because my Discover card (at that time) had a limit on how much cash back I could earn.  Subsequently, I got an American Express Cost membership card that also offers cash back. Then, Discover removed the cap on their rewards and I shop a LOT at Costco, so the Blue Card kind of fell off my radar until one day I was on their site and noticed I had accumulated a bunch of "reward dollars" that I had never used. Jackpot I thought. I'll just take it in cash.

Not so fast. Unlike Discover which offers you options of cash, using it to shop at Amazon, a credit towards your statement or shopping on their site (with small discounts), American Express Blue "reward dollars" can't be redeemed for cash.  Since I hardly ever use the card anymore I didn't want to apply it to my statement. So, I decided to shop on their site using my reward dollars to buy things I would buy anyway.  Well, the gift cards for restaurants, etc., etc. are full price. So, there's no real benefit to using them for gift cards.  But, here is the real kicker. The merchandise you can buy in their shop on-line store is not only not discounted, it's marked up. In some cases way up.

For example, the Jawbone UP24 which I recently bought for $90 is $173 reward dollars on their site. Jawbone is selling it for $100 on their site.  That's a 73% markup over and above the retail price.  The Fitbit Flex which is selling for $100 at Costco (with two bonus bands) is $119 at the AmEx store.  That's a 20% markup.

I'm insulted. I'm taking my dollars in Amazon gift cards and shopping there where I can get the full value for them.  And, the AmEx Blue Card goes back to the back of the wallet.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kirkland Cinnamon Streusel Bread

In a word.  Delicious.  I tasted this bread in the store a couple of weeks ago. I kind of wish I hadn't.  I am addicted now.

It is, by far, the best cinnamon bread I've ever had even though it doesn't contain raisins or any icing. It's not sickening sweet like some and it's a dense bread with large slices.  One is enough for breakfast (but I just had two).

It rivals the cinnamon crunch bagel at Panera. At 210 calories per slice it's not diet food by any stretch, but is is yummy.


enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Sugar, water, yeast, palm oil, unsalted butter, brown sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: cinnamon, whole grain oats, nonfat milk, wheat gluten, natural flavors, salt, oat flour, potato flakes, soybean oil, fractionated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, monoglycerides (emulsifier), yellow corn flour, spice oils for color (turmeric, annatto), citric acid, calcium sulfate, calcium propionate (mold inhibitor).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Worst Thing About Costco (The Auto Buying Program)

Entrance in Henderson, Nevada
I have been a loyal Costco customer for I can't even remember how long now.  I evangelize about Costco. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've bragged about Costco.  So, it will come as a shock to some that I have found a service at Costco that has really let me down.  It's the Costco Auto Program.

I am in the market for a new car and thought that since I'm a Costco member I'd take advantage of one of the services I haven't used in the very long time I've been a member.  The Costco Auto Program you might think would be a program where you buy your car through Costco since you see the cars lined up in your local warehouse.  You'd be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program gets you a pre-negotiated price that is the same for every Costco member in the country.  You would be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program would give you a price you can take into the dealership. You would be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program would cover any car as long as Costco has an agreement with a particular dealership.  You would be wrong. 

The Costco Auto Program simply puts you in touch with a dealer who is in the program and the dealer has worked out a price with Costco.  Great, but you don't know the price until you go visit the dealer.  My first stab at the program was to try to get a price for a 2015 Kia Optima.  I could not find the car on the website. I thought I must be missing something.  Other 2015 Kia's were on the site. 2014 Kia Optimas were on the site.  But, no 2015 Kia Optima. I called the program and was told it was probably too new.  They didn't know when it would be on the site/in the program, just keep checking back. It's normally 30-60 days.  Or so they guessed.  They really didn't seem to know.

I am also considering a 2015 Mazda 6.  I thought I'd try my luck with that car.  I live just outside of Cincinnati, OH and there are many Mazda dealerships fairly close.  I was surprised when the dealership it came back with is in Columbus, OH- about two hours away from me.  I called the program again. They said it was probably because the car is too new. We tried the 2014 Mazda 6. The same dealer came up- Columbus, OH.  I asked if they expected me to drive two hours to get a price on a car.  The agent told me the dealership might give me a price on the car over the phone, but some dealerships require you to come in to get a price.

I was really hoping this program would make buying a car easy.  It certainly hasn't so far.  And, from what I've read the Costco price is pretty good, but not great.  It varies depending on where you are in the country.   I don't like the fact that you go into the dealer not knowing what the price will be.  You'll still need to do your homework because the negotiated prices are reported to be around $500 more than the "best" price a good negotiator can get.  So, while it may be a good price if you don't know how to deal or don't want to deal, you can probably get that price or your own by doing a little research and playing one dealer against another.  I would not recommend just taking the Costco price without seeing if you can do better first.

So, back to the drawing board for me.  I'm using to get a price to start with instead of the Costco price, which I may never know. gives you a certificate with a price on it, so you know what you're dealing with before you go into the dealership.

Sorry Costco, you let me down this time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anker MFI (made for iPhone) Battery Case

Anker MFI Battery Case Review

  • Relatively small and light. Basically doubles thickness of iPhone 5S
  • Adds less than 3 ounces to the weight of the iPhone 5S
  • Feels great in hand. Good tackiness. Rubberized feel
  • Micro USB connection- can use cheap, readily available micro USB cables instead of expensive Lightning cables
  • Simple to operate- one button to start charging and stop charging your phone from the case
  • Anker thought of everything box includes
    • 2 frames for phone (front of case)
    • extension cord for audio jack access
    • micro usb cord for charging


  • Micro USB connection- if you have an iPhone 5S, it’s likely you’ve also invested in Lightning connection cables
  • Makes audio port nearly inaccessible for most 3.5 mm jacks- the Apple headphones will fit into the jack- they are straight in and narrow. (but it comes with an extension, you just have to carry that around with you)
  • Makes phone bulky (every battery case does and many normal cases do). But, I like a thin, lightweight phone.

As smart phones have gotten smarter, they’ve gotten thinner and lighter, something I really appreciate, but the challenge has been the things we do with them require more and more battery power. Battery capacity is not growing at the pace where we get longer battery lives now than we did years ago. In fact, in many instances they’ve gotten shorter. We no longer just talk on our “phones’ (Why do we still call them phones anyway?). As I watch videos, listen to music play games, etc. while I’m traveling I often find my phone won’t last half a day- let alone the whole day without needing another charge. I could carry an adapter with me and I often do and can find somewhere to plug it in, but there are those times when you just can’t plug your phone in. That’s when you need the Anker MFI Battery case which doubles the battery life of your iPhone 5S.

There are two battery extension alternatives for when you’re on the go. There are external batteries that you charge and carry separately. I’ve reviewed several of those. They work fine. The advantage of using those is they keep the form factor of your iPhone itself exactly the asme. I’m a minimalist when it comes to cases for my phone, I want the case to “go away”. If you’ve got a bag you can throw an external battery into, they work great. However, if you don’t want to carry them and their cable separately, the Anker Battery Case is the way to go.

The case has a great feel- feeling slightly rubberized. The finish is pleasant. It’s slightly tacky in your hands, which I like. It gives you a good grip on your phone and feels kind of “soft”. It basically doubles the thickness of your phone and adds less than 3 ounces in weight, not even doubling the weight of the phone. The frame (it ships with two in the box) protects the front edges of your phone and the battery on the back protects the back. You might see a smoked frame and a clear frame (both translucent) in some pictures of the device. Mine came with two jet black opaque frames. Others have also mention a kick stand. I guess that has been removed. Mine did not come with a kick stand (which I wouldn’t want). It has speaker ports, so the sound from the iPhones speakers (located at the bottom of the phone) is not muffled. In fact the ports direct the sound to the front of the phone instead of coming out of the bottom, maybe making it even better.

The battery pack is simple to use. There is a single button in the back and four LED lights that display the remaining power. It came fully charged. You simply slide the Lightning connector into the bottom of your phone and snap the frame around the front. Be sure to snap it down all the way around. I didn't at first and it was kind of loose. But, once I installed it properly it was secure. To remove it, I had to use a small screwdriver to pry it apart at the bottom. It charges through a micro USB cable (included). You can charge both the phone and the case together (so you never really have to remove the case). The cable plugs into the side of the case and charges the phone first, the battery pack second. To use the battery to charge the phone, you just hold the power button down for 3 seconds to begin charging your phone and hit it again for 3 seconds to stop charging. The LED lights show you how much of a charge you have left on the battery pack.

It’s been reported it can take more than two hours to fully charge the phone from the battery and some have complained the phone never reached 100% charge. Neither of those things matters because you can use your phone while it’s charging from the battery. BTW, my phone did go up to 100% charge from the battery case.

The micro USB connector that is used for the case is both a positive and a negative. I realize that Apple’s Lightning adapter is proprietary and micro USB is more prevalent (and cheaper), but I’ve invested in Lightning cables in my car, all over the house on my computer, etc. When I go to plug my phone in, I’m much more likely to find a Lightning connector than a micro USB. I’ll have to keep up with the micro USB cable to charge the case. You can charge the case separately by removing your phone, or you can charge your phone while in the case. It charges the phone first, then the battery in the case.

The second slight drawback to using the case is the thickness at the bottom means you’re probably not going to be able to plug much into the 3.5 mm headphone jack on your phone without using an adapter. The good news is Anker thought of that and thoughtfully includes an extension cord that allows you to plug your headphones in. The Apple headphones (that ship with the iPhone) have a narrow, straight in plug, so they will actually work with the case. Most of my headphones have a 90ยบ bend on them and will not work without the extension.

I was pleasantly surprised by the cost of this case. It’s not much more (not any more) than you would pay for some cases alone. Given that it both protects your phone and doubles the battery life, it’s well worth it. I’m a minimalist when it comes to cases though. I’m not a fan of the cases that ruin the form factor of my phone. I carry the lightest thinnest case (transparent) that I could find. I will use the Anker for those occasions when I need a battery boost, but won’t use it for daily use. That’s just me though. If you don’t mind the extra thickness and weight, this is a great case.

p.s.- the manufacturer provided this case to me in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are purely my own. I received no compensation for this review.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Harman Kardon Onyx Wireless Speaker System Review

The Harman Kardon Onyx Wireless Speaker System is a thing of beauty. You can sense the quality from the moment you begin to open the packaging. I love the design with the brushed stainless steel loop that forms both the single foot for the speaker and the handle.  The round shape looks very organic and the black cloth grill and black leather back make it look rich and at home in any decor.  All of the buttons (touchpoints really- not buttons) are flush with the  unit  and backlit.  They run around the top of the speaker system making them easy to access but invisible until you want to see them.

The sound quality of the system is exceptional for the size and considering that you can't get true stereo separation with all of the components in one cabinet.  This is a trade off you make for portability.   For a place where I am going to have the system set up permanently and where I have the space- like in my office attached to my computer, I still prefer my Harman Kardon Soundsticks at less than half the price of this speaker system.   But, for the combination of portability and sound, this system is going to be hard to beat. 

The Harman Kardon Onyx Wireless Speaker System has a ridiculous number of ways to connect it to your music source- most of them being wireless- And that  is really the point of buying this system, its wireless connectivity. 

One of my pet peeves is buying a $500 or 600 device and having the manufacturer skimp on the manual, but H-K definitely did just that. It comes with a worthless "Important Safety Instructions" booklet and an almost equally worthless sheet of hieroglyphics that are supposed to show you how to set it up.  I've bought my share of IKEA furniture in my time and the pictures in this thing are harder to understand than IKEA instructions.  The good news is there is a link to the full manual on H-K's website and the full manual is quite useful. It also comes with 30 days free technical support so you can call for help.  I doubt you'll need that though. Just save yourself the aggravation of trying to reac the sheet it comes with and download the full manual.  Getting it to work with my iPhone was a piece of cake.  I downloaded the H-K Remote App as the manual suggested, but I'm not sure that was necessary. It instructed me to connect via Bluetooth which was quick and painless.  You can also connect it via WiFi, WPS, NFC, DLNA and other ways including a plain old 3.5 mm wired connection if you like.

  • Connectivity- A plethora of ways to connect.  Frankly, you'll probably only need one, but the options are there for future ensuring it doesn't become obsolete any time soon.  I've just retired a speaker system bought for my iPhone/iPod back in the day of 30 pin connectors. I don't have to worry about a form factor change with this system.
  • Design- this will look great in your house.  It looks like a piece of art.
  • Portability- while it's a little large and doesn't come with a carrying case, the fact that it has a six hour battery life and is an all-in-one unit makes it easy to move from room-to-room in the house or to take with you on the road.
  • Sound- Great sound for an all-in-one- I have a pair of Paradigm speakers mounted in the ceiling in my kitchen. This sounds just as good as they do.  Rich bass, nice tight treble.  The volume is all you'll need for a small to medium sized space.
  • Convenience- The speakers in my kitchen are connected to the stereo system in my family room.  It's much easier to just connect my phone to it (via Bluetooth) and start playing music than to have to go to the other room, turn on the stereo and select the speakers in the kitchen.

  • Durability- I'm not sure of the durability of this from a cosmetics standpoint.  If you take it with you, you'll want to be careful transporting it and the cloth grill and leather back seem a bit fragile to me for a speaker you're going to be hauling around.  Something like the Jawbone seems a bit more durable.
  • Price- at $500-600 dollars, there are a lot of lower cost alternatives. Some are better in some ways and not as good in others.  As mentioned above, for my desktop I prefer my Soundsticks with two separate satellite speakers and a subwoofer.  I think the sound is superior and they cost less than half the price of this device. But, they aren't at all portable.

If you're looking for a great looking, portable speaker that sounds really good, I do recommend this speaker system. It's amazing looking and the sound and battery life make it worthwhile for listening to at home or to take with you.

Link to the Product on Amazon

I received this speaker system in exchange for my honest review. I receive no compensation from the manufacturer.  The opinions expressed are my own, frank assessment of the product.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Explosion Fitness Solutions Review

Explosion Fitness Solutions has been a great experience for my 14 year old daughter who developed a severe case of "Jumper's Knee" which kept her sidelined from basketball.  After a few sessions with Explosion Fitness Solutions she is back on the court after an almost two year absence.

My daughter is 14 year old basketball player. When she was 12 she tore her ACL in an AAU game.  After trying to rehab it for several months, it was determined that she needed surgery.  She had the surgery in January 2013 and began physical therapy shortly after that at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati.  The physical therapist at Children's did a great job getting her surgically repaired knee back in shape.  The problem is during rehab, she developed Jumper's Knee in the opposite knee.  We were assured Jumper's Knee was something she could overcome.  But the rehabilitation was dragging out for months.  Finally in the fall of 2013 after doing all kinds of treatments, including electrophoresis anti-inflammatory drug treatments, we decided to give Explosion Fitness Solutions a try.

After just a few minutes assessing her, Brad her trainer, came over and told us he could tell the problem was stress being placed on her knee by overly tight hamstrings and quads.  He stretched her out and the pain reduced just in those few minutes.  He assured us that, with therapy, he could have her back quickly.  This was more information that we had gotten from Children's Hospital and really lifted her spirits.  Explosion Fitness Solutions worked with us and our insurance to come up with a plan that was affordable. They even gave us the evaluation sessions at no charge.  Between the training sessions with Brad and the exercises he gave her to do at home, it wasn't long before she was practicing and then playing again.

When it comes to sports training or rehabilitating a sports injury, I would definitely trust the people at Explosion Fitness Solutions.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Hydor Koralia Nano 240 Aquarium Circulation Pump 240 GPH- Review

This is my first experience with a powerhead. After an outbreak of ich in my tank, I've got the heat cranked up to kill the ich and wanted to provide some extra aeration for the fish.  I had heard good things about these powerheads and decided to give this one a try.  I have a freshwater tank.  So, I wasn't looking for a whole lot of circulation, just something to break up the dead spot in the corner opposite my HOB filter and disturb the surface of the water.

The instructions that come with it are minimal, but there is a video on Hydor's website that helps.  It's actually pretty self-explanatory.  The instruction sheet shows "assembly, but it comes fully assembled except you have to snap the ball into the ball and socket joint made between the pump and the suction cup/magnet that holds it.  The suction cup/magnet assembly is ingenious.  Trying to get suction cups to stick can sometimes be a pain and then once you get them on, it's hard to move them.  The second piece on the outside of the tank gives you a handle that you can use to maneuver the device into place.  Just get it on the wall you want it on, then grab the outside handle and slide it into place.  Also, should the suction cups wear out, the magnet will last forever.

I like that it's timer compatible.  I've set mine to come on with the lights and go off after the lights go off so the fish are assured of being undisturbed during sleeping times.  I have used air pumps for increased aeration on other tanks.  This is more quiet than the quietest air pump I've found (I've tried two brands) and does a nice job of disturbing the surface of the water and creating flow at the same time.

According to the recommendations this pump is undersized for my 40 gallon tank, but since it's a freshwater tank I don't think I need or would want any more flow.

I just installed it, so of course, I have no idea how durable it will be but it's a simple design.  I expect it'll run just fine for a while.
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OXA 4 port USB Wall Charger Review

We have so many iPhone and iPods in the house it seems someone always needs to charge something.  The OXA 4 Port USB Wall charger is a handy and inexpensive wall unit allows you to charge up to four devices at a time and includes a high capacity port to charge the power-hungry iPad.  The prongs fold in making it great for traveling and it is designed so that if you plug it into the lower outlet, the other outlet remains available for other devices.  I have a similar wall charger from another manufacturer that tries to overcome the problem of blocking the second outlet by putting an electrical outlet on the place which covers the entire wall plate.  I like this design much better.  Keep in mind, this is just a device with 4 USB ports, you will need to provide your own cables specific to the devices you are charging.

The unit looks good and has nice blue LED lights that the packaging says confirms the device is properly connected.  I think the LEDs are unnecessary as they simply tell you the device is plugged into the wall.  You don't need LEDs to confirm that.  I typically leave my wall charger plugged in and even though I know it's a tiny amount of power, I feel like it's wasting power powering those LEDs.  They'd be more useful if they lit up when a device is plugged in and charging.  

OXA makes really convenient devices at great prices.  I recommend this wall charger. It's a nice, simple design and it's a great price.

I received this item from the manufacturer in exchange for giving it a fair review.  I receive no compensation from OXA.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

OXA 5V/5.4A AC 90-240V Quad 4 USB Port Universal Portable Wall Charger Travel Charger Power Adapter, 4-Port Wall Family-Sized Charger for iPad, iPhone, Samsung Tab, Samsung Galaxy, HTC Smart Phones, Amazon Kindle models, Android Devices and most Digital Products (White)

Friday, March 14, 2014

OXA 3000mAh Perfume Ultrathin Mini Stylish Power Bank Review

I received this device in exchange for my honest review. Portable external batteries are almost a necessity now as phones suck up more and more juice and the internal batteries are so small to keep the phones thing and light. The prices of these external batteries have plummeted making them extremely affordable. The OXA Power Banks are a great way to get power on the go.

This device is thin and light. It almost looks as if it could have been designed by Apple. It's simple to use. A red light for when it's charging a blue light for when it's discharging. OXA says their devices support the new Apple iPads and iPhones, but beware even thought they come with a USB cable with multiple interchangeable adapters for mini-USB, 30 pin, etc, they do NOT come with a lightning adapter. You will have to provide your own cable to go from the Power Bank to your device.

At 3000 mAh, this device is powerful enough to charge my iPhone twice. I love it.

I'm giving it four stars because there is no battery gauge on it. At this price, I'm not sure I'd really expect one and I'm not sure it's really necessary. Just fully charge it every three months and whenever you use it. But, a battery gauge would make it perfect.

OXA 3000mAh Perfume Ultrathin Mini Stylish Power Bank with Chain for iPhone 5 5S 5C 4 4S 6, Samsung Galaxy S4 S3 S2 Note3 Note2, Google Nexus 4 5 7 10, Nokia Lumia 520 920 925 928 1520 N8, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, BlackBerry Z10, Motorola Droid, LG Optimus G and More Smartphones (Black)
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Monday, February 24, 2014

OXA 2600 SAFE External Battery Review

As our smart phones get smarter and smarter one thing that doesn't improve is the battery life. My iPhone won't even last a full day if I'm using it heavily and I can't always get to a place to plug it in. External batteries used to be too expensive for me to justify. This one is not. At the price it is selling for on Amazon right now, it's worth the investment.

I own another external battery which only came with a USB to micro usb cable (basically a cable for charging the battery). The OXA comes with a USB cable with multiple adapters to fit micro USB, 30 pin Apple, and more. The only thing you need to be aware of is even though the documentation says it works with iPhone 5s and the new iPads, while it will charge them, it does NOT come with a lightning connector. You will need to use your own cable. For other devices, the end of the USB cable pops off and you can pop on an adapter for them.

Simple to use

No battery meter

The only drawback to this battery is the fact that it lacks a meter. While I might be able to get multiple charges out of it, I don't know if fully charging my iPhone drains it 50% or more or less. Therefore, I would recommend recharging it after each use. At the original list price, I would expect a battery meter. At the price it's selling for now, I can live without the meter.

OXA 2600mAh SAFE External Battery 18M WTY Premium Samsung Cells Key Chain charger external portable power supply (Check Amp for tablets) for Smartphones and other electronic devices

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vtech DS6522 Cordless Handset Review

I was thrilled with this system, while it worked. It was inexpensive- I paid less $40.00 for it at Costco.  The call quality was good.  The Bluetooth connection to my cell phone was a nice bonus.  When someone called my cell phone, the home line would ring so I didn't have to be in the same room with my phone to answer.  In fact, you can use this system to replace your landline and exclusively use your cellphone and make and receive calls from three points in the house.  What's not to love?

Well, after 9 months, the system failed. But, not only did it fail, it failed in a weird way that could have cost me a fair amount of money.  One night we noticed the notice on the phone that the line was busy while there was no one was on the telephone.  When I picked up the receiver, I heard the signal you hear when a receiver is left off the hook for a while.  I tried going to all the handsets and resetting them.  No luck. I unplugged the base and plugged it back in.  Still no luck. The line was open no matter what I did.  I called my telephone service provider and they said the line was open.  They had me unplug the lines from the telephone modem and as soon as I plugged them back in- again the line was open. That's when they suggested it was probably a wiring problem and wanted me to call an electrician to check our house wiring.

That didn't seem right to me.  So, I tried one more troubleshooting step and disconnected the unit from the phone line.  When I did that, the line was available again.  Somehow this had failed such that it was holding the line open.  When I plugged it back in, it would say "no line" but it was still holding the line open.

This is probably just an anomaly. While the system worked, I really liked it and it was inexpensive. I'm only writing this negative review because of the WAY it broke, very unexpected.  By breaking in such a way to hold the line open, I could have spent money having an electrician out to troubleshoot my home phone wiring which is fine.  I also spent a couple of hours on the phone with my telephone service provider and my home security system service provider eliminating those as the source of the problem.

I would have gotten another one, but when I returned it to Costco they were no longer selling this system or any Vtech systems.  I ended up going with a more expensive AT&T option.

p.s.- big shout out to Costco again.  Even though the system was under warranty, I didn't really want the hassle of dealing with the manufacturer, having to go through their troubleshooting, mail the system back, wait days for a new phone, etc.  I called Costco and told them the phone system I bought there in March had broken. They said to box it up and bring it in.  No hassles.  They gave me the full price I paid for it which I applied toward the new system that cost about $30 more.
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Acase Case for iPad Air Is Skinny and Smart

I now own three iPad Air cases.  I was given two, including this one, in exchange for my honest review.  I previously owned the iPad 2- second generation iPad and appreciate the smaller, lighter and thinner iPad Air that I recently stepped up to. The last thing I want is a case that detracts from all of the engineering Apple has put into making the iPad Air feel so great in your hand.  This case does not disappoint.

The outside of the case is a nice faux leather that feels and looks high quality.  The front flap on the interior is a microfiber material that feels like a smooth suede.  Your iPad snaps into a polycarbonate shell that provides full protection for the back and around all four sides.  Unlike a previous case I purchased from another manufacturer, the stand functionality is completely intuitive and easy to use. Even though the iPad is protected on all four sides, you do not need to snap it out of any of the four sides to use the stand.  The back cover is hinged.  What becomes the base of the iPad (as pictured in the product image) sits into a groove on the front cover giving you five viewing angles.  Frankly, the grooves are kind of shallow due to the extreme thinness of the front of the case making them slightly more difficult to engage than the other case I had previously.  Still, I think I like this case a bit better because it is extremely thin and light.  I cannot imagine a case being significantly more thin and light without being completely worthless.  My iPad is protected from scratches and I get the on/off functionality from the magnet in the front cover.  This is not a case that provides a ton of drop protection and I have no problem with that.  I'm looking for something that protects my screen, keeps my iPad from getting scratched up, turns the iPad off and on and makes it feel good in my hand.  The Acase hits all of those points.  To get drop protection  you're going to need to do go to a heavy, thick case and I don't want to do that.

Pricing on this case is higher than the one I paid for myself. However, the fit and finish is probably a little better.  The other case I have includes a holder for the stylus which is nice.  Also the front cover on the other case, in addition to the magnets clips around the iPad itself when you close it for a more secure closure.  Compared to Apple's case though, this one is an incredible bargain.  Of the three I have (the other two area also reviewed here on Amazon), pricing aside, I would recommend this one over the other two by a slim margin.  Taking pricing into consideration any of them are far better bargains than the Apple branded case or the Smart Cover which provides zero protection for the back of your device and at a higher price than any of the other cases I own.
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