Review: Speck HandyShell for iPad 2/iPad (3rd-Gen)
It has to be said up front: Speck's price for the HandyShell for iPad 2 ($55) is crazy. A plastic shell -- in only one odd gray and red color combination, no less -- with a flip out stand on the back, sold for that much without any screen protection? It's a little nuts. But after using HandyShell and cases like it, we've found it almost impossible to consider going back to cases without an integrated stand, and Speck's formula here would have been almost perfect at a lower price point.
The great idea behind HandyShell is to pair three different parts together almost seamlessly into a frame that holds the iPad 2 inside and provides optional vertical or horizontal reclining support as needed. Soft matte plastic is used around the tablet’s edges, providing perfectly-cut holes for the rear camera, mic, speaker, and accessory ports, while offering complete coverage for the iPad 2’s top and side buttons. HandyShell’s back is otherwise almost entirely glossy hard plastic, joined so perfectly with the soft edging that you wouldn’t know they were separate pieces.
And then there’s the stand. A U-shaped ridge in the center of the back elevates the rear shell to almost the same level as a pill-shaped, two-toned stand that flips outwards, providing an extremely sturdy support for the iPad 2 in any orientation. Since the stand tilts on one axis and the iPad 2 can be lifted up and manually rotated on two, there’s plenty of room for adjustment for everything except keyboard typing positions. As an offset for this feature’s absence, HandyShell’s stand is shaped like a handle, enabling you to carry the iPad like a vertical handbag or hang it from a hook—not supplied—if you want to do so.
Speck’s stand works so well for video and FaceTime purposes that it’s worth forgiving for that which it doesn’t do, namely rotate on its own, or nestle unobtrusively into HandyShell’s back. It’s a singular failing of this design that the stand juts out enough from the iPad 2’s back to equal the thickness of an additional encased iPad 2—added bulk that may not endear HandyShell to every iPad 2 user. This turns out to be a major contrast between Speck’s implementation and earlier iPad 2 case stands from Incipio (a href=“http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/reviews/entry/incipio-silicrylic-for-ipad-2/”>Silicrylic) and Macally (Dualstand 2, the latter two each possessing less versatile but also considerably less bulky pop-out rear stands.
As between the currently available options, there are reasons that smart people might prefer each company’s design over the others. Silicrylic offers the greatest degree of iPad 2 protection, the widest variety of colors—plus the most neutral color of the bunch—and a price that’s in the middle, though its use of silicone rubber makes for a little less front edge stability, and its twin layers can be a small challenge for installation and removal. Dualstand 2 has the wackiest color scheme, but also the lowest price by a wide margin, a stand with video and typing support, plus the thinnest, easiest to use implementation of this concept. HandyShell’s case feels the most stable and has the most adjustable stand, but falls markedly short on protection for the dollar. If it was less expensive and/or packaged with screen film, it would stand shoulder to shoulder with the other options, but as-is, it’s a small step below them for the price.
Consider HandyShell a top option if you don’t need screen protection and are willing to cough up extra cash for a particularly adjustable but also thick rear stand. Even if this isn’t the perfect design, it’s great to see developers such as Speck getting closer to the right track for integrated iPad stand cases.
Updated June 12, 2012: Speck has released an updated version of HandyShell specifically designed to fit the third-generation iPad. Other than color tweaks, it’s identical. Pictures of the new case are above.