SwitchEasy CoverBuddy for iPad mini
Next to sleeves, shells are some of the simplest cases available. SwitchEasy's first case for the iPad mini is a small version of CoverBuddy ($20), a shell originally released for the second- and then third-generation iPad. This edition is actually one of the best tablet shells we've come across though, offering a surprising amount of coverage. Unfortunately, the color options have been seriously struck down, going from 11 to just two: clear or translucent grey.
The design of this version deviates from the previous model. It’s still a hard plastic shell that snaps onto the back of your tablet, covering its edges but leaving room on the left side for a Smart Cover. Before, there was a gap between the magnetic spine and the case. CoverBuddy now leaves just enough room to attach the lid. It doesn’t stop short with long, edge-exposing openings at the other sides. Instead, it has individual, well-centered holes for the headphone port, microphone, rear camera, side switch, and Lightning port. Small holes over the speakers let the audio out while still protecting the aluminum. The biggest difference this time around is the inclusion of button coverage, a rarity for shells. Plastic extends over the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons, protecting them from damage. We found it took just the slightest bit more effort to press them, but that’s acceptable given how uncommon that level of protection is.
CoverBuddy comes with a pair of protective inserts for both the headphone port and Lightning port, plus a sheet of screen film, a cleaning cloth, and a bubble-removing card—this screen protection is a new addition. We wish SwitchEasy offered the wide array of colors it does for the larger shell, or least some opaque options. Glossy, clear options show scratches and fingerprints, plus any dirt or dust that gets under the case. Other than that, there’s not much more one can ask for from a shell. As has always been the case, the cost of pairing up a shell with a Smart Cover is way too expensive; better solutions can be had for less. But if you already have one of Apple’s lids, this is a really smart companion, worthy of our strong general recommendation.
Updated November 26, 2012: Shortly after our original review was posted, SwtichEasy announced the availability of six additional colors of CoverBuddy for iPad mini. Color-matched to the iPad mini Smart Covers, these are soft touch finished opaque cases. They sell for the same price as the see-through versions, and come with the same accessories.