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Grove passes on plastics to swaddle your iPad in suede and bamboo

Some people buy iPad cases for protection, others buy them to make their tablet look cool. This case falls in the latter, and if you’re looking to help your iPad survive a big fall, this is not the case for you. If you are feeling a little woody though, step right up because Grove has released its iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 Wooden Smart Case.

Like all its products, the Wooden Smart Case is made with bamboo, but this time around, Grove added Maple to the mix as well. The goal was to create a case that felt less bulky than its iPhone designs, but still have that completely wooden flair, right down to the power and volume buttons. It’s lined with suede on the inside and will shut your iPhone screen off like Apple’s Smart Covers.

Grove’s case is one of the classiest ways to dress your iPad Air or iPad Mini

We’ve been using the case on the iPad Air for a couple weeks now. When we first got it, we were a little weary that it might be too flimsy. Without the iPad it’s incredibly lightweight and feels almost like you could break it with your hands. But once you slip the iPad Air in, it looks and feels more like its $100 price tag.

Once attached, your iPad Air (or Mini) is about half an inch thick, which adds a little bulk to the naked iPad Air and takes up about a third of an inch in depth. The case has cutouts for the camera, charging port, mute switch, and audio jack. There are also a bunch of little holes for the speaker grill on the bottom and a single tiny hole for the microphone up top. We haven’t noticed any diminished sound quality from our iPad since it made its home inside the case. We understand cutouts are necessary for the toggle switch, but our favorite design element is the replacement volume and power buttons. Grove’s buttons pop up out and have a more satisfying click to them than Apple’s own iPad buttons.

The Wood Smart Case’s other special trick is its roll-back cover. Like Apple’s own Smart Cover, the wood cover bends backware and rolls up, allowing you to use it to prop up the iPad so you can watch things on it and set it down. When we first got it, the front cover was a little stiff and was scary to bend back. You have to stretch and pull back the wood a little more than seems right, and we were afraid we’d break it. But, it hasn’t broken yet. Thanks to specially designed grooves in the cover (it’s made of seven different pieces of wood), it bends backward without snapping.

If Grove can figure out a way to make a thin wooden keyboard, we’d never use another case. Until then, for those of you who have an extra $100 lying around and like the look and feel of wood, Grove’s case is one of the classiest ways to dress your iPad Air or iPad Mini – and it happens to be very functional, too. But much like a drop could take out your iPad, we’re pretty sure that a fall could crack or damage this case. Don’t buy it for heavy-duty protection.

Then again, Apple’s own Smart Case for iPad Air won’t provide much protection either, and it will run you about $80, or $20 less than Grove’s case.

If you’d like to learn more about Grove, check out Nick’s writeup on how they design their bamboo cases. He interviewed the company’s co-founders. We also have roundups of our favorite iPad Air Cases and iPad Mini Cases.