Review: SwitchEasy Canvas for iPad mini
SwitchEasy has impressed us with its Canvas iPad case in the past. The model for iPad 2 earned an A- rating, while the iPad 2/third-generation iPad version improved on the few faults the case had and got bumped up to a flat A. Now the company has released an edition for the iPad mini ($40), and rather than resting on its laurels, SwitchEasy kept innovating. This new Canvas has all the features we liked about the previous models -- including a nice set of pack-ins -- plus a few real improvements. It comes in black, grey, red, pink, and tan. Updated December 18, 2013 with Retina iPad mini version details.
This folio-style case uses the same combination of an edge-to-edge hard plastic shell and reinforced canvas fabric wrapped around from the back to the front, forming a lid, as the prior versions. As always, the materials don’t feel cheap at all. A big difference here is the inclusion of button protection. Like with its Cover Buddy, SwitchEasy covers the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons with extended pieces of plastic. They look great, and the top button is particularly clicky—we like it. Otherwise there are well-centered holes for the headphone port, microphone, side switch, iSight camera, and Lightning port, plus small dots exposing the speakers. Canvas is just about as protective as it possibly can be, especially when the included port covers are put in place.
SwitchEasy originally used a latch to hold the lid shut against the iPad’s display; it replaced that with a set of strong magnets in the last edition. The feature has been carried over to Canvas for iPad mini. Not only does the cover cling securely to the screen, it also lock and unlocks it. If moved too far up or down, this feature can be triggered unintentionally, but unlike some other cases we’ve tested, there’s a reasonable threshold.
The most recent full-sized Canvas featured improved landscape stand functionality thanks to textured fabric lining the inside cover and plastic feet on the left edge of the case. This smaller version uses the same setup, although the system has been altered slightly. Instead of a strip of Velcro holding the case to the back panel, a 2.25 inch piece of the shell snaps away, allowing the iPad to be propped up in your desired position. It’s a small difference, but one that helps make the case feel that much more premium.
Once again, Canvas is a case with high build quality, attractive looks, and very good functionality—all at a reasonable price, which is appropriately $10 less than the full-sized iPad version. The fact that the coverage has been improved only makes it better—SwitchEasy really didn’t take any steps backwards with this version. Take all these factors, in addition to the included screen protector film, polishing cloth, bubble removing card, and pair each of plastic headphone and Lightning port protectors included, and there’s no question that this is really a good deal. Judged strictly on its own merits, Canvas for iPad mini is certainly deserving of our high recommendation. However, we will note that there have been some issues raised regarding the long-term durability of plastic components used in prior full-sized iPad versions of Canvas, as well as warranty replacement issues for those cases. In the event that this version raises similar complaints, we may revise our rating downwards to reflect reader experiences; hopefully SwitchEasy has built this version to last.
Updated December 17, 2013: An updated version of Canvas has been released for the iPad mini with Retina display, most notably adding a second microphone hole for the newer model, and switching the color options to a new collection of pink, blue/green, and neon green tones. Identical in most other ways, and fitting both minis without an issue, we’re disappointed to see that it drops button coverage, and that the lid’s magnetic lock/unlocking system has a very small movement tolerance. As a result, Canvas can accidentally lock and unlock the iPad mini’s screen very easily when tossed into a bag. While the original version for the iPad mini was tied for iPad Case of the Year, the revised Retina iPad mini version’s rating drops markedly as a result of these changes. (Additional text by Nick Guy and Jeremy Horwitz.)