Bottom line: With luxurious tanned leather straight from Chicago, any fan of leather is going to love blanketing their iPad Pro in this.
Cutaway for Apple Pencil
Sides raise above the screen
Magnet placement doesn't work backside
Sleep/Wake button is mushy
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We're big fans of Nomad around here. So when the company announced its first-ever Horween leather iPad case, I jumped out of my seat. The Rugged Folio has a polycarbonate frame with a flexible rubber bumper to absorb the shock from drops and give your iPad a little extra protection without a lot of extra bulk. The entire thing is wrapped in Horween leather that produces a nice patina over time. I've had plenty of experience with Nomad's Horween leather and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've purposefully held my iPhone way more often than needed just to try to get that worn-in look faster. The front cover of this folio folds into a pyramid similar to Apple's Smart Folio.
It's designed for the latest-genration iPad Pro, so it has the "squarcle" cutout on back, but it fits perfectly with the first-generation iPad Pro, as well. The camera cutout is just bigger.
With so many folios on the market these days, what makes Nomad's Rugged Folio so special? Let's find out.
Nomad Rugged Folio: What I like
The thing I like the most about this rugged folio is the quality tanned leather that's wrapped around it. I love seeing what it looks like after 30, 60, and then 100 days. The leather gets darker and worn-in in some areas. There's usually some kind of pattern that develops, depending on where I hold the case. It's just beautiful.
Less noticeable, but still just as important, is that the magnet system that supports Apple's Sleep/Wake function for the iPad Pro. When you flip the folio over to cover the screen, your iPad Pro automatically goes to sleep. When you unfold the cover, your iPad wakes back up.
Overall, the Rugged Folio has a design aesthetic every Apple fan can appreciate. For one, the tri-fold front cover is very similar to Apple's Smart Folio, so you're in good company. The case that the iPad Pro snaps into is also built to protect, but not hinder your usage. The charging port and camera have cutaways for easy access, and the side that the Apple Pencil attaches to is cut away all the way to the edge, leaving the side buttons open and free. The lining is made from microfiber cloth and has Nomad's name embossed on the inside, hidden from everyone but you.
Nomad Rugged Folio: What I don't like
The case is set up with 52 rare-earth magnets to help keep the cover snapped shut, and in theory, should allow the cover to attach itself to the back when it's folded over. The magnets are laid out with a focus across the left and right side of the cover. It does a great job keeping the cover closed across the iPad's front, but when you fold it into the "kickstand" style triangle on the back side, it attaches to itself but not the back side of the case. If you lift up your iPad, the triangle unfolds, whether you're in typing mode or watching mode.
The only button that's covered by the case's protective rubber bumper is the Sleep/Wake button. The case has a slightly raised bump where the button lives, but it isn't an actual machined button. It's just a tiny raised bump with extra flexibility around the button's shape. So when you press it, it feels ... mushy. I would have preferred a cutaway, or even better; a machined button that presses in and out.
The most obvious competitor for this particular style of folio is Apple's own Smart Folio, which comes in five different colors, but there is no leather option.
There are also plenty of budget options available on Amazon that range from $10 to $30 but again, none of them have leather material. Check out our list of the best cases for the 11-inch iPad Pro and the best cases for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro if you want to see which ones are our favorites.
Nomad Rugged Folio: Should you buy?
You should buy this if ...
You who want a protective case but not a rugged one
The Nomad Rugged Folio is a rugged case. it has a solid fitted case with rubber edges and extra padding at the corners for added protection. But it's not thick and it doesn't look like a rugged case.
You love leather
If you're the kind of person who walks into the accessory department and takes a deep breath because you love the smell of tanned leather, you're going to appreciate how beautifully this Horween leather patinas over time.
You are a fan of the trifold case design
Though the style of case existed many years ago, Apple made the trifold folio popular with its Smart Folio, and it's been a fan favorite of iPad users ever since. Nomad's design takes its influence from Apple's iconic triple fold folio flap.
You should not buy this if ...
You want an Apple brand case
This may look similar to Apple's Smart Folio, but it is not. If you only and always buy Apple branded cases, you'll have to wait for Apple to make a leather version of the Smart Folio.
You are against wearing or using leather
This is not a "pleather" or vegan leather case. It is made from real cowhide. So if you don't go in for leather, for whatever your reason, you should check out Apple's Smart Folio instead. It's made from soft silicon.
You are a frugal shopper
Nomad's Rugged Folio is not an inexpensive investment. It is about $70 more than Apple's silicon version. You're paying a premium price for this premium product. What it ultimately comes down to is style and preference. There are hundreds of trifold style iPad cases on the market. You can even get an elegant silicone version from Apple for less than Nomad's case, but it doesn't come in leather and there isn't anything protecting the edges at all.
This rugged leather folio from Nomad is quality craftsmanship with a beautiful look and solid usability, but you're definitely paying for this premium product. Overall, I definitely recommend it for fans of crafted leather and a trifold folio design.
Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).