Review: Picaso Lab leather sleeve—pack your 2018 iPad Pro with confidence

Given that the latest iPad Pro models are very thin and prone to bending, investing in something to protect your pricey Apple tablet sounds like a very reasonable thing to do.

Enter Picaso Lab

Picaso Lab has made a name for itself by creating special-edition MacBook sleeves which are autographed and endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The family-run business has since been producing beautiful leather cases for your Apple products.

Picaso Lab’s sleeves are all hand-made in the United States out of high-quality Napa leather using the advanced crafting skills that founder Alex learned from his grandfather.

The California-based company has recently updated their iPad sleeve lineup with two new products specifically designed for Apple’s 11 and 12.9-inch models that released in 2018.

I’ve been testing and using their pre-production sleeve prototype designed for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but both the 11 and 12.9-inch versions are designed to fit not only the tablet itself but also Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio and the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Unmatched craftsmanship

I immediately appreciated the craftsmanship.

This handmade sleeve takes on a more traditional look than the ones I’ve seen and tested so far. This is mostly due to a visible grain on the gorgeous texture matte leather that, along with the premium coral-red polyester thread that stitches the seams together, looks beautiful.

This results in a stunning contrasting combination that doesn’t just feel soft and light but gives the whole thing a professional look and feel to it. The stitching isn’t just a visual treat, it gives the sleeve solid edges which in turn provide greater protection for your iPad Pro.

Unlike Apple’s own leather sleeves, Picaso Lab’s are open on the long side to make putting them on a tad easier. There are other notable innovations in the design department, too.

Instead of a zipper, for instance, the case sports an elegantly designed snap-on closure. Also, the closure is in red and has a press-stud on both sides so you can take it off easily although I wouldn’t recommend doing so because it keeps your pricey tablet secured in the case.

On the inside

The lip of the sleeve’s interior is basically two inches of a coral red-colored leather. This is then followed by a color-matched felt material that protects your precious iPad Pro from hazards that spell out scratches or dents in its aluminum finish.

I especially liked the reinforced inside edges that provide the tablet with added protection.

Don’t let the tight fit discourage you because, over time, the leather will form to the shape of your iPad Pro. This can take anywhere from a few hours or days to a week or two. You’re advised to leave your tablet in the sleeve overnight so this break-in process can take place.

Picaso Lab detailed its hand-made process, called Solid Edge:

The outer edge is treated, glued, sewn, painted, then cured for 24-48 hours before the case goes in the mail to its owner. Solid-Edge application is tedious and time consuming.

The major benefit of Solid Edge is hardened edges of your case to maximize impact protection up. The edges became 5x more rigid when your device is inserted. This allows the case to absorb drops and bumps no other sleeve can.

I immediately fell in love with the lack of branding on this sleeve (or other Picaso Lab products, for that matter). This is for the better because Picaso Labs offers free personalized engraving, in ether Mistral or Myriad Pro typefaces, to give your sleeve some ownership.

That’s something we’d love to see offered as an option by other accessory makers.

Just one more thing before I wrap up this review: If you’re going to order your sleeve with the engraving, first add the item to your cart and then put your engraving instruction in the box labeled “Special Instruction for Seller”.

Engravings are limited to 20 characters.

In conclusion: no cons at all

Picaso Labs is behind some of the cleanest, most elegant protective cases I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. This particular sleeve is no exception. Not only is it nice to look at, but is elegant to tote your iPad around in it. Napa leather looks awesome and feels soft in the hands.

Most importantly, it seems to hold up well to everyday abuse.

Even though the sleeve is available in black only, its strong red thread along with the red snap-on closure and the red interior makes it really pop. And as I mentioned earlier, it accommodates not only your iPad Pro but also the Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil 2.

Pricing and availability

You can buy a sleeve for your iPad from the Picaso Lab website—the 11-inch version retails for $92 while the 12.9-inch edition of the case will run you $108.

Picaso Lab also has leather sleeves for iPad mini 3 or 4 ($62), iPad Air and iPad Air 2 ($68), 9.7-inch iPad Pro ($72), 10.5-inch iPad Pro ($75) and the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($84).

Last but not least, Picaso Lab offers a 10% discount to iDownloadBlog readers on all its products with the coupon code idownload10 at checkout.

Your two cents

What do you think about this sleeve? Have you used Picaso Lab accessories before and if so, what did you think of them? And while we’re at it, what kind of protection do you prefer for the 2018 iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard Folio + Apple Pencil 2 combo?

Let guys know by leaving a comment below.