Review: Speck CandyShell + CandyShell Grip for iPad mini
As challenging as it is to review what feels like the tenth or twentieth iteration of the same case designs, trying to find something new to say about concepts that were pretty well-established years ago, excellence -- even evolutionary excellence -- deserves to be spotlighted. In a nutshell, that's the story with Speck's iPad mini versions of CandyShell ($45) and CandyShell Grip ($45), cases that debuted long ago for iPhones and iPod touches before arriving for subsequent devices, and now Apple's smallest tablets. Both are glossy hard plastic cases lined with soft rubber on the inside, using a Speck-pioneered material bonding technique that offers great protection, while making installation and removal super-simple. These "new" models are exactly what we've seen in older ones, just reshaped to fit the 7.9"-screened iPad.
The standard CandyShell is as close to minimalist as a dual-layered, dual-material case can get without losing all sense of style. Speck deliberately chooses different colors for the inner and outer materials, carrying the rubber through holes in the hard plastic to form button covers, corner accents, and a front protective lip. CandyShell Grip goes one step further, with parallel and perpendicular rubber stripes running across its sides and back, adding modern-looking hand grips to every part of the mini. If the idea of holding a glossy-backed tablet in your hands with CandyShell seems too risky, Grip provides one of the most secure alternatives you’ll find without adding much bulk.
Beyond perfectly tactile button covers, Speck’s port holes and speaker vents feature nice tailoring, and enough space for both slightly oversized headphone and Lightning plugs to work without issues. The side switch and camera hole are also nicely cut, while the tiny microphone hole is adequate on CandyShell, with more polish on Grip. Despite the obvious similarities to past models, virtually every design element appears to have received thorough polishing in the transition to the iPad mini.
In fact, if there’s anything striking about both of these iPad mini CandyShells, it’s how thin and solid they feel. Older CandyShells for full-sized iPads have added just a bit of weight and thickness—not enough to change their carrying comfort, but enough to notice. These feel like they’ve been engineered to be as trim and unobtrusive as possible given the materials. In addition to loving the way they look, we love the way they feel.
The only problems with both of these cases are ones that carry over from prior generations. Neither ships with screen protection, so the only front coverage they offer is the rubber lip, useful for limiting damage from drops, but not scratches. Once again, the rubber lip remains scuffable and does get a little shaggy over weeks of use, and the glossy rear plastic begins to develop a patina of scratches quickly after installation. Matte alternatives would be preferable.
Overall, CandyShell and CandyShell Grip for the iPad mini are equally worthy of our high recommendation and A- rating. While there are some tweaks that would make them even better, they’re amongst the very best playthrough-style cases on the market today, and very difficult to fault on quality or overall design. The addition of an integrated stand and some screen film would make for a perfect CandyShell, but even as-is, these should be high on your list of iPad mini cases unless you strongly prefer a folio-style design.