The Complete Guide to iPad Cases and Protection
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We’re not huge fans of shell-style cases—add-on rear plates for iPads—because they tend to be just as expensive as full play-through cases while offering less protection. But there are some designs that are better than others. Here’s how the current options rank.
#1: SwitchEasy Nude ($30): Arriving later than its rivals, Nude has the advantage of extra development time, which SwitchEasy obviously used to polish its shell to near-perfection. The speaker holes are precisely cut out, as is the microphone hole, and all of the other side controls and ports have U-shaped grooves that are tightly contoured to their exact measurements. If you’re planning to use only Apple headphones and Dock Connector cables, this’ll be no issue, but the accessory holes are going to be tight for larger options—Apple’s Camera Connection Kit just barely connects, without securing entirely. That’s the only major knock on this otherwise side, top, and bottom-protective design, which comes with a ton of pack-ins, including two separate video stands and screen film, and is available in a number of colors. A minor issue: the glossy finish shows scratches.
#2: Incipio Feather ($35): As the first shell out of the gate, Feather has two advantages over some rivals: included screen protection and a variety of different color options. While the soft touch rubber finish is only so-so—it tends to show finger smudges easily, like the screen protector—and neither the top nor the bottom of the case have the sort of added protection found on SwitchEasy’s Nude, the sides of Feather are very protective by current shell standards, and the case’s wide open ports are more accessory-friendly than Nude. Go with this one if colors matter to you.
#3 - Tie: Macally Metrobpad, Metrocpad, Metrompad Covers ($30): These three Macally shells are almost as simple as can be except for differences in color and texture. They offer less side protection than Feather and Nude, merely gripping the iPad by its corners, and therefore are essentially just anti-scratch guards for the iPad’s back. None includes screen protection, making them a markedly weaker value for the dollar than the others, but the clear and black versions have stabilizing dimples to keep the iPad from rocking on a flat surface, and the chrome version is the only such shell of that color we’ve seen. Though it’s scratchable and quite possibly the most dangerous thing a person could attach to an iPad that’s going to be used in a car, it’s the only shell you’d want to have on a desert island, because the mirrored surface is huge enough to flag down passing planes. The black soft touch version shows fewer marks than Incipio’s same-colored Feather.
#3 - Tie: Newer Technology NuGuard Clear + Leather ($25): The NuGuard shells are different from one another—the Leather version is essentially the same as any of Macally’s designs, except with a thin layer of black leather added to the center of the shell for class, albeit picking up dust at a greater rate than the plastic rivals. NuGuard Clear has considerably more side protection, but an odd gap in the left hand side where we’d heard that prototype iPads had second Dock Connector ports; the top and bottom are still basically entirely open. While this isn’t a bad shell, it’s only decent; there are visible molding lines in the plastic that detract from its looks. On balance, Macally’s version looks a little better, has the rear dimples, and protects less of the sides while costing more—they’re essentially tied.
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