Protecting Your iPad: A Quick Overview of Cases


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Not long ago, I posted an article about Apple’s iPad case, which I purchased along with my iPad.  To summarize my comments, I hated it.  It offered minimal protection, was not comfortable to use, looked terrible, and at $40 was grossly overpriced.  This experience set me on a trek from one end of the Internet to the other looking for better solutions to protect my iPad.  Fortunately, some of my favorite case manufacturers were more than happy to oblige, and I found some amazing solutions from Noreve, Sena Cases, Otterbox, CaseMate, and Waterfield.  So, before you blindly hand your $40 over to Apple, check out some of these cases.

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Otterbox: Let’s face it, if you want the ultimate protection for your device, you are going to turn to Otterbox.  These may not be the prettiest cases ever made, but they are functional to the extreme.  Some of you may have noticed that the iPad is not exactly what a lot of people call “grippy”, meaning it can be prone to drops…which are not what we would call a good thing.  If you are like me, and have a propensity for dropping your device, especially when you are standing on hard surfaces, then Otterbox is going to be your first stop for protecting your device.  Otterbox offers two lines of cases for the iPad: the Commuter series and the Defender series.  They were nice enough to send both along for me to check out.

One of the things I love about Otterbox is that they offer such complete protection.  They are the only case manufacturer I tested which includes a screen protector with every case.  Now, I will say that I have always had problems getting screen protectors properly applied on my mobile devices.  So, that giant iPad screen offered some unique challenges when applying this screen protector.

 

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I have used the Commuter Series case on several devices in the past, including the HTC Hero.  With the exception of the WebOS-based devices, where a case like this interfered with the Touchstone charger, the Commuter series has been one of my favorite cases.  In addition to the screen protector, the cases consists of two components.  First is a silicone shell, which wraps around the iPad.  This creates a cushion for your device, and works well with the hard plastic shell which will fit over this layer.  This dual layered approach makes the commuter series a fantastic option to protect against the ordinary dings, drops, and scrapes of every day use, without adding a lot of additional bulk or weight to the device.  As an added bonus, the silicone layer also includes covers for all of your ports and controls, while allowing you to access them at will.

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Of course, if you want the ultimate protection against drops…or even hurling your device off the side of a building (which is not recommended), then you will want to check out the Defender series case.  This one is made of an extremely thick plastic shell, which splits in half in order to insert your device.  I did find that once your iPad is nestled in this case, it is almost too snug.  I had trouble actually sliding the device out of there, which although a bit inconvenient, speaks volumes of the protection you are getting here.  On top of the plastic shell, there is a silicone rubber outer layer, which snaps in place, enveloping the whole thing.  What I really liked here was that the plastic could be a bit slippery.  The silicone rubber gives it some extra grip, including textured zones which help ensure this will not slip out of your hands (though your iPad will be well protected if it should do so).

Finally, the Defender series features a viewing stand (shown at the top of this section), which folds up and snaps onto the back of the case.  Not only does this allow you to easily use the iPad to view photos or even a video.  When not in use, the stand will snap onto the back of the case, creating yet another layer of protection.

I really wanted to love the Defender series case.  It offers absolutely the highest level of protection available, while leaving all of the ports and controls completely accessible.  Additionally, the stand is a fantastic added bonus.  The only problem I had with this case is the significant weight it adds to the iPad.  This case easily weighed at least as much as the iPad itself.  For a device which prides itself on its slim, light design, this can be a high price for many users to pay, despite the significant added protection.  The Commuter series, on the other hand, offers a much better compromise between protection, durability, size, and weight.

The Commuter series case is available from Otterbox for $64.95.

The Defender series case is available from Otterbox for $ 89.95.

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Noreve: Noreve features a traditional, book-style leather case with two distinct option.  In the traditional case, your iPad is held in the case by wrapping the case up the side and gripping the iPad.  This is what they sent me to review.  The alternate style wraps the edges of the face in leather.  Regardless of which style you choose, you can be assured you are using a quality leather case with Noreve, which has been among my favorite case manufacturers since I reviewed their leather case for my Dell Axim.

Noreve cloaks your iPad in a high quality leather, in a myriad of styles and colors.  This ensures that the case will match your needs and personality. 

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One of the first things that drew me to this case is that, like the iPad case, the spine is double hinged, meaning it can be used to hold the iPad at an angle for typing or viewing the screen.  This is absolutely perfect, making it a far more effective and comfortable version of the Apple-made case.  I did find, however, that over time the hinges on this design weakened, causing the viewing angle to slip, and making this feature far less effective.

Additionally, a leather stand snaps off of the back of the case, allowing it to stand freely on your desk as a digital picture frame or video monitor.

On the inside of the cover are several slots which can be used to hold notes, business cards, credit cards, or pretty much any other flat objects which you can think to slide in there.  The only thing missing from this one was a loop for a pen (or stylus).

The Noreve Traditional leather case is available from NoreveUSA for 69 Euros (approximately $83.69)

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Sena Cases: Ever since I started using mobile devices, many moons ago, Sena has been my first (and usually last) stop for cases.  For the iPad, they offer seven absolutely unique cases, of which they sent two my way: the Folio (pictured above)and the Sarach Dockable.

The Folio cases is a pretty standard book style case.  As with most Sena cases, it is made out of a high-grade leather.  Inside the cover are pockets for your cards, papers, or ever a cloth to wipe down the iPad’s screen.  The iPad rests on the right hand side of the case.  What makes Sena one of the top case manufacturers, however, are all of the little “extras” they add to their cases.  For example, a small strap snaps across the back of the iPad sleeve, ensuring that your iPad is held snugly in place.  Additionally, the inside of the case is covered with a soft, velvety material, which serves to minimize scratches when sliding the case in and out of the case, and acts as a buffer against minor dings, scratches, and other hazards.  A strap snaps across the cover to hold the case closed (I would have preferred a magnet snap).  This strap continues up the back of the case, unfolding to become a kickstand, which can be used to position the iPad for use as a picture frame or monitor for watching movies and other video content.

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That brings us to the Sarach dockable.  I have probably been anticipating this case more than any other case I have used for the iPad.  I had a similar Sena case for my iPod Touch, and it served perfectly (and is still in use today), so I was disappointed when a case like this was not initially offered.  When Sena announced the Sarach case in their subsequent wave of releases, I jumped all over it. 

Like the Folio, the Sarach is made from a high-quality leather and soft velvet interior.  The case itself is form fitting to the iPad, meaning it creates minimal extra weight or size.  In fact, the case is so skinny that you can connect your iPad to the keyboard or other dock without removing it from the case…hence the name, Sarach dockable.  As an added bonus, check out the two-toned stitching on the sides and back.  This made it feel an awful lot like a baseball, which suited me just perfectly.  Like the other cases, the Sena Sarach also features a stand which snaps out from the back of the case, allowing you to convert the your iPad into a standalone photo or media viewer.   My only real complaint about the Sarach case is that it leaves the screen completely exposed, with no cover or anything to protect it from dings or scratches in while being carried .  It would be nice if the case had included a screen protector like the Otterbox cases did.

The Folio case is available from Sena for $99.99.

The Sarach dockable is available from Sena for $100.

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CaseMate: CaseMate offers a whopping ten different cases, in a vast myriad of styles and colors.  They sent me two cases to check out, ironically at opposite ends of their spectrum.

The first case they sent was the Vertical Nylon Flip Case.  This is CaseMate’s entry level case.  I have to say that it really did not fit my needs well.  I prefer a case which allows me to use my device without removing the case.  So, it is not the case I would necessarily have chosen.  That being said, it is a really nice case at a fantastic price.  Just open the top and your iPad will slip right in there.  A magnet snap holds the flap shut, ensuring your iPad is held snug and sound inside the case.  What is really nice about this one is that the nylon outer shell is water resistant, offering a little extra layer of protection from the elements.

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At the other end of the spectrum is the Venture iPad Stand Case.  This may be the most unique cases I looked at for this article.  at first glance, it looks like a standard book style case.  The cover is made from a durable faux-leather, with green accents which really worked pretty well.  A snap holds the cover in place.  Open it up to reveal a slot into which your ipad will slide.  A strap will velcro across the back of the case to hold your iPad in place.  One thing that disappointed me about CaseMate was how it missed on some of the smaller details.  It used faux leather instead of real leather.  It used snaps and velcro rather than magnet snaps.  I really thought this detracted from the overall impression of the case.

OK, now for the unique part, and the reason I absolutely loved this case.  There is an extra set of snaps in the back of the case, which allow it to open, revealing a second hinge.  Unsnap this and fold it open, and the cover will become a stand.  This is a great feature, as it offers a great way to view your iPad at various angles, without adding significant weight to the case.

The Vertical Nylon Flip Case is available from CaseMate for $34.99.

The Venture case is available from Casemate for $89.99.

 

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Waterfield: Waterfield took a completely different approach with their Exo SleeveCase.  The Exo is a large pouch, in which you can store your iPad for transport.  Like most Waterfield cases, the outer shell is made from a durable ballistic grade nylon.  The interior, however, is soft in order to pad and protect your iPad.   What is great about the Exo is that it is large enough to hold your iPad without removing it from another case.  This is fantastic since the Exo offers protection only while you are transporting the iPad.  It does not do much when the iPad is in use.  So, it is nice to know that you can keep your regular case for style and protection while in use, and just slide the whole thing into the the Waterfield Exo SleeveCase when you are ready to move. 

In addition to the case itself, Waterfield also offers a shoulder strap, allowing you to carry the case on its own, as well as Piggyback Pouch, which adds an external pocket for accessories,such as the Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G modem, or the Apple camera kit.  I will say, however, I was disappointed not to find an interior pocket.  The pouch was nice, but added quite a bit of extra bulk to the case.  Many of the other Waterfield cases which I have reviewed previously did include one or more interior accessory pockets.   It would have been nice to have been able to carry my Overdrive and a sync/charge cable inside the main body of the case, without the extra bulk of the external pouch.  That being said, the Piggyback Pouch was stylish and worked extremely well.

The Waterfield Exo case is available from Waterfield for $49-$54 (depending upon the trim you choose) in either a vertical or horizontal orientation.  Additional options, including the shoulder strap and Piggyback Pouch range from $5 to $30.

 

Many people ask me which is my favorite case, or which case I recommend for their iPad.  I generally tend to avoid answering these questions.  Not because I have no opinions, but because choosing a case for your iPad, or other devices, in an intensely personal decision.  What works for me may not work for you.  So, what I have done instead is present you with several different options (actually eight of them) from some of my favorite case manufacturers.  I will leave the rest to you.  So you let us know.  What cases have worked for your iPad or other mobile devices?  Which companies have served you well when you need to protect a device?  And which have failed you?  Chime in and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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  1. #1 by Steve on August 24, 2010 - 9:50 pm

    This is the most comprehensive and most practical iPad case review I’ve read. Thank you!

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