Review: Basecase Layers + LayersLite for iPad mini
Here's a genuinely new idea: Basecase's Layers for iPad mini ($45) is a protective option consisting of a hard plastic shell with a detachable, replaceable cover. One cover comes in the $45 package, while others can be purchased separately as LayersLite for $25 each, enabling you to separately choose the look of the front and back pieces. While this isn't empirically the best folio option around, it's a cool concept that will likely appeal to those who value fashion and the ability to change their cases like outfits.
The rear shell offers better-than-average protection, running all the way to the iPad’s four edges rather than stopping short. Each of the openings for the ports is large enough to accommodate any sort of accessories you might be using, and it’s easy to access the buttons as well, although they’re not protected in any way. On its own, it’s a good shell. Flip it over to the back and you’ll find four raised posts—the female end of the snap system that holds the connects the lid.
LayersLite itself consists of two pieces: a flat panel the same dimensions as the iPad mini’s display, and a spine that snaps onto the back of the shell. The two are connected with Velcro; a strip runs the entire height of each. Panels range from plain, suede-like covers to fabric with printed designs, while the spines include denim, faux leather, and faux carbon fiber options. None are superb, and one of the faux leather spines was downright cheap-feeling, but they’re all interesting visually. Note that the LayersLite cover does not stay on the iPad mini without the rest of the Layers case, even though it does have magnets to wake and sleep the tablet.
A foldout piece of plastic on the back of the shell is used in conjunction with the lid to hold Layers in a standing position. When functioning properly, it works as expected, but the plastic actually snapped off during normal use on three of our review units, two of them on the first time we opened the stand; the pegs on the stand’s sides are just too small. This is a clear problem—one that reduced our overall rating—and one that Basecase will hopefully address in a future production run.
Layers is a fun, playful case that could be a success, but has big caveats. The stand issue is the most obvious one; while it’s likely easy to address, it’s a serious design flaw in the current state. Pieces of a case should never fall off, especially not the first time they’re used. The other major issue is the price. While Layers is a little expensive, it’s not unreasonable for an iPad mini folio; it’s the cost of actually buying replacement covers that seems restrictive. If potential customers don’t find the covers to be appealingly priced, what’s left is just another folio that happens to have a removable cover. As such, Layers warrants a C+ rating. The concept is solid, but the execution and pricing need some serious fine tuning.