STM Skinny for iPad 2
When Apple introduced the iPad 2's Smart Cover, it played up the virtues of a thin, light, unobtrusive case with cool features like embedded magnets. While it succeeded on most counts, the Smart Cover was completely lacking in protection for everything but the front of the tablet, and overpriced to boot. Luckily, other companies haven't shied away from the challenge of producing even smarter designs, and STM is a prime example. Having made nice bags for years now, STM has entered the iPad 2 case market with Skinny ($40), which combines a precision-fit hard plastic back shell with an articulating front cover and magnets for screen activation. Skinny isn't perfect, but shows that low-profile options don't have to lack in protection or features at or below Apple's Smart Cover price point.
Skinny begins with a pretty standard folio design that happens to benefit from STM’s use of a really sharp-looking black nylon material covering the exterior. To hold the iPad 2 in place, there is a hard plastic shell on the right hand side. The corners on the right of the tablet fit in under extended plastic corners, snapping into the frame on the left, and soft cloth lines the inside of the case. It is quite easy to get the iPad 2 in place, and once it’s in, it’s quite secure. With the exception of the top and bottom edges, the back and sides of the device are very well-protected. The camera is precisely centered in the cutout on the back, and the side switch and volume rocker are both fully accessible. Because the top and bottom are fully open, the headphone port, microphone, Sleep/Wake button, speaker, and Dock Connector are exposed. Ideally, STM would have extended the plastic backing while leaving these usable; some companies are even developing soft plastic button protectors that integrate right into shells of this sort. The unnecessary over-exposure of the iPad 2’s top and bottom is the only reason Skinny falls short of our high recommendation.
Built into the right side of the front flap are magnets. Not only do they activate the automatic screen lock feature on the iPad 2, they also hold the case securely shut by connecting to correlating magnets in the extended plastic corners. The nylon exterior of Skinny extends to a tab on the right side of the front cover and the corresponding loop on the back of the case. That tab further holds the case closed, but also tucks in the back to turn Skinny into a stand. In all three stand orientations—video viewing, typing, and portrait—the case feels quite steady, although the typing angle is a little bit higher than we prefer. STM’s use of the magnets in the front flap arguably reduces the need for a tab of any sort on Skinny’s side; if it had fully followed Apple’s example, it could have found a way to make the video and typing stand benefit from magnets, too.
Apart from a few little issues, STM really got most of Skinny’s design right. The company created a thin, light case that offers respectable protection of the iPad 2 while incorporating useful features like the folding stand and magnets, and on top of it all, the design looks really nice. While we would like to see improvements in the coverage of the top and bottom portions of the tablet, we were otherwise quite impressed. Skinny is certainly worth considering if you’re in the market for a folio-style design, particularly given the $40 asking price, which is the same as what Apple’s asking for the basic polyurethane model of the Smart Cover. You get a lot more protection here for the dollar, and needn’t compromise at all on style, either.