Incipio NGP Matte for iPad 2
Sometimes, simpler is better when it comes to case designs, a principle that underlies two recent cases for the iPad 2: Incipio's NGP Matte ($35) and Simplism's Semi Hard Case Set ($30). Both are flexible soft plastic shells that wrap around the back and sides of the tablet, covering just a bit of the front edge. The differences between the two come down to material used and total amount of coverage.
Incipio’s NGP Matte line has been around for several generations of Apple products, evolving with each iteration. NGP stands for Next Generation Polymer, referring to the kind of semi-rigid TPU-like material it is composed of. While it does have some give, the case is rather sturdy. Unlike many flexible shells, it does not accidentally pull away from the sides with a light touch. All of the openings are lined up perfectly—as properly centered as we have seen on any case.
Both the Sleep/Wake button and volume rocker are protected and need just a bit of extra pressure to be activated. The headphone port, microphone, rear camera, side switch, speaker, and Dock Connector port are all totally exposed. Incipio offers NGP Matte in five colors, and includes two screen protector films—one glossy, one anti-glare—as well as an applicator card and cleaning cloth. We really like the smooth finish that the case has, and the choice of screen protectors is very much welcome, particularly for the price.
At first glance, Semi Hard Case Set may look rather similar to NGP Matte, but there are certainly some differences. Simplism uses TPU for its case; unlike NGP Matte, it is glossy on the outside and feels a bit more rubbery, although it has about the same level of rigidity. The case fits in the same manner and the sides hold just as well. Openings for the side switch, rear camera, and microphone are just a bit more tightly cut and are equally well centered.
Semi Hard Case Set has the same button coverage as NGP Matte—they are actually a bit easier to press—but takes the protection further with a partially covered speaker as well as flip open covers for the headphone and Dock Connector ports. These certainly provide more defense against the elements, but the openings are so tight and the flaps so close that they may interfere with certain larger accessories—mostly on the Dock Connector side, as even Apple’s Dock Connector Cable presses up against the frame. Headphone plugs we tested were not a problem. Simplism makes green, black and white versions available; each comes with a screen protector film, bubble removing tool, dust removing tape, microfiber cleaning cloth, and portable stand.
For fans of this style of playthrough case, it’s hard to go wrong with either NGP Matte or the Semi Hard Case Set. Both offer thorough coverage, including screen protection, and look very nice. Simplism’s case has a lower price and superior iPad 2 protection, while Incipio’s is a little more expensive but includes anti-glare screen film and a body finish that we preferred. Each case has one or two small issues, but they’re both cool choices with considerably more protection than the simple hard plastic back shells that are widely available these days. They’re both worthy of our high recommendation.