Review: Speck PixelSkin HD Wrap for iPad 2
We were big fans of Speck's CandyShell Wrap for the original iPad: a dual-layer plastic and rubber case in line with earlier CandyShell designs, Wrap was all but completely unique in using a tri-folding lid and stand -- a feature debuted shortly after Incase's similar lid in the Convertible Magazine Jacket, and months before Apple introduced the magnetized Smart Cover for iPad 2. So we were pleased to see Speck debut PixelSkin HD Wrap for iPad 2 ($50), an amalgamation of the aforementioned Wrap lid with the company's popular PixelSkin HD series of iPhone 4 cases. Speck claims that this riff on the the traditional folio design may be its "best iPad case yet," and we're inclined to agree: it's nearly ideal, missing only a handful of relatively minor features.
Like most folios, the iPad 2 is held in place on the right side of PixelSkin HD Wrap in a precisely cut, semi-flexible shell that’s only a little challenging during initial insertion of the tablet. In one of several signs of this case’s quality, the shell portion alone would still be one of the better iPad 2 cases on the market if it were detached and sold as a separate product. The holes for the headphone port, rear camera, side switch, speaker, and Dock Connector are each precisely cut, and very close to exactly centered. Both the Sleep/Wake button and volume rocker are fully covered—a rarity in folio-style designs—but their use remains unhindered. The majority of the semi-soft back has a glossy finish, overlaid with a matte grid pattern that provides a nice feel and an eye-catching appearance, while the rest of the frame is composed of that same matte plastic material.
While the back shell could adequately function as a standalone case, the front cover significantly enhances the experience of using PixelSkin HD Wrap. Attached by a spine of rubber to the left side of the shell, the cover is firm but segmented, maintaining the same external aesthetic with the grid design and plain border. The three segments can be folded back upon themselves to form a triangular stand, a feature we loved in CandyShell Wrap and found even better here. A small cutout in the center of the connective spine allows the user to tuck in a small plastic tab that holds the stand securely in place. Just like its predecessor, both viewing and typing angles are supported by the triangular stand, and are really sturdy. While CandyShell Wrap allowed the front cover to be removed, this version does not, which might bother some users—not us. From our perspective, it would be nice to be able to pull the cover off, but keeping it permanently attached has led to a thinner design. Additionally, Speck uses a strip of micro-suction material to hold PixelSkin HD Wrap shut, a novel solution that actually works quite well. But between this, the lid’s lack of detachability, and its need for a locking tab, it’s easy to understand how magnets could really improve a sequel to this case in the future.
Our enthusiasm for PixelSkin HD Wrap is strong, as we knew immediately after seeing it that Speck really knew what it was doing. From the nearly-perfectly engineered rear shell to the cool front cover and the rest of the fun design, almost everything in PixelSkin HD Wrap is spot on by conventional folio design standards. It strikes the right balance between modern looks, protection, and functionality, offering iPad 2 owners an almost compromise-free way to keep their devices safe while adding a convenient optional stand whenever it’s necessary. That having been said, the omission of magnets is an obvious if not critically important miss in the post-Smart Cover era, striking us as less of a problem because of Speck’s viable workarounds, but one that will be worthy of addressing in successor products. Overall, we highly recommend PixelSkin HD Wrap as a great folio option for the iPad 2; it’s reasonably priced and certainly worthy of your attention.