Review: iSkin Ballistic Sleeve for iPad + iPad 2
As part of its high-end, fashion-conscious Q.West Collection, iSkin has introduced Ballistic for iPad and iPad 2 ($90). Like its puffy-bodied siblings 3 Degree, Summit, and Sling, the sleeve-styled Ballistic has a camping trip-inspired look and feel. While it appears to be a rather basically designed, no-frills sleeve, iSkin has chosen somewhat novel materials and a water-resistant design that may appeal to a certain group of users.
Ballistic is pretty much a “what you see is what you get” case. Designed as a traditional sleeve with a metal zipper on the top, there is just enough room for an iPad or an iPad 2—with or without Apple’s Smart Cover—in the main cavity. On the front of the pouch is a small zippered opening that’s flat, bulging out if you insert a charger, earphones, or other small accessories. Other than that, the only extra space on this model is an inner pocket that is custom fit for iSkin’s included warranty card and small microfiber cleaning cloth. There’s also what appears to be a completely superfluous elastic strap on the back of Ballistic. Unlike some folio cases which use such a feature to stay shut, this one doesn’t serve an obvious purpose; it’s actually rather loose, and described by iSkin only as an “elastic securing band.” The only possible use we can imagine is that of a hand strap or handle, but it does not seem custom made for either.
What iSkin says is special about this sleeve—and presumably why it charges so much for it—is the combination of materials and build quality. Ballistic’s name is derived from the kind of nylon used in the construction of its body; it’s said to be Italian ballistic nylon and has a particularly fine, soft finish that we really liked. There is not much padding, but the outer shell should at least keep the iPad safe from bumps and scratches. The other key features are the zippers, which are water-sealed “technical” zippers. Between this and the water repellent treatment applied to the nylon, the company is positioning this solution as a way to keep the tablet protected from the elements. There is a very, very small opening at the end of the zipper track—something that is not unusual, but worth noting in light of the water-resistant claims, which aren’t really quantified beyond the phrase “water sealed.” We wouldn’t want to drop an iPad into a pool or tub of water with or without Ballistic on, but for common rain and other small splashes, this case will work a lot better than untreated alternatives—or nothing at all.
Our major issue with Ballistic is that it’s really expensive for what it actually offers. If it were positioned as a simple sleeve at one-third the price, it would be easy to understand and recommend it. But for $90, it offers very limited capacity for accessories, an odd little elastic strap that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and functionality that is rivaled by less expensive alternatives. If you’re looking for something with minimalist design and features at a relatively high price premium—one that’s only modestly justified by solid build quality and a nice ballistic nylon material—this isn’t a bad case; that said, the value it offers isn’t really what it should be.