Tech21 Impact Mesh for iPad mini
Apple offers very few third-party cases for the iPad and iPad mini in its stores, but it has started to slowly expand its collection over the past few months, and Tech 21 is one of the companies currently represented. Much like its Impact Band for iPhone 5, Impact Mesh for iPad mini ($40) relies on the company's "D3O" material as the differentiating feature of an otherwise simple soft plastic case. The color selection includes the clear model we received, along with translucent pink, grey, and blue options. Like most of the cases Apple sells, Impact Mesh is made to be used with an iPad Smart Cover.
Tech 21’s case is a one-piece, semi-rigid soft plastic protector that easily fits around the tablet’s body. “Mesh” in the title comes from the dotted pattern on the back, which runs all the way from the top to the bottom, and from side to side. It’s a nice effect, but it doesn’t change the feel of the case at all because the depressions are all on the inside. There are stripes of D3O along the edge, broken up by buttons and ports. This material is designed to help prevent damage from impacts, with the molecules locking together to absorb energy and then disperse it, in the event of a drop.
For the most part, Impact Mesh offers the right mixture of protective coverage and access to ports. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are under rubber, which only slightly dampens their feel. Access to the ports, side switch, and speakers is provided through the appropriate holes, although on our review unit, the opening for the Lightning port was askew enough that the only thing that fit was a small Lightning to USB Cable plug from Apple. There are two additional gaps: a tall one along the left edge, to attach a Smart Cover, and a smaller, finger-sized divot on the other side to make the lid easier to lift. The former is larger than it has to be, as it leaves metal above, below, and to the left of the magnetic spine exposed. Without the Smart Cover, you’ll be out of luck for side scratch protection.
Compared to other $40 options we’ve tested, including SwitchEasy’s fantastic Canvas, Impact Mesh isn’t totally impressive. It’s a unique looking case, though, and the D3O may reduce dings and dents better than other options might—assuming the iPad mini isn’t hit on its substantially exposed side, or that you’re willing to spring for the extra cost of a Smart Cover to fill the gap. As it is, the case earns our limited recommendation. Some tweaks, including tightening the space around the Smart Cover’s attach point, and properly aligning the Lightning port opening, would likely bump it up to a higher rating.