Review: XtremeMac Microshield, Thin Sleeve + TuffWrap Shine for iPad 2
Long-time iPod, iPhone, and iPad accessory XtremeMac has debuted three new cases for the iPad 2: Microshield ($35) is a thin plastic snap-on shell, Thin Sleeve ($40) is a faux leather sleeve with a pullout tab, and TuffWrap Shine ($35) is a soft, form fitting rubber case. All of them come as is, without screen protectors, cleaning cloths, or any other pack-ins included.
Apart from its lack of screen protection, Microshield is incredibly similar to Incipio’s Feather for iPad 2—were there no brand markings, the small differences would be all but imperceptible. The only real construction differences, besides the finish, are slightly different shaped corners and a more rounded side opening on Microshield. XtremeMac’s soft-touch translucent plastic case fits around the back of the tablet, securely snapping around the aluminum edges. The holes for the camera, side switch, and volume rocker are precisely molded, so pictures won’t be obscured and there are no hinderances to using the side controls.
Just like Feather and some other rushed-to-market shells that we have seen recently, both the top and bottom edges are almost fully exposed. While this does allow for unobstructed access to the headphone port, mic, Sleep/Wake button, speaker, and Dock Connector, it leaves much more of the iPad 2’s metal skin exposed than necessary. We have found no material benefit to this other than the ease of production for the manufacturers; it simply leads to a case that feels somewhat incomplete. Combine this with the fact that there is no screen protector in Microshield’s package—Incipio includes two different types—and there is no reason other than XtremeMac’s different variety of purple, blue, or black colors to choose this model over Incipio’s same-priced, better-equipped option.
Thin Sleeve lives up to its name: it’s an imitation leather portrait orientation sleeve, and indeed quite slim. Even though it is made of faux leather, the case feels surprisingly nice—there isn’t a lot of padding, but a reinforced back and soft front do provide some structure. Thin Sleeve is made to work with the original iPad or iPad 2, and either one slips in or out very easily; the microsuede interior protects the tablet from being scratched. When it is time to remove the tablet from the sleeve, you can use the built-in eject tab, pioneered years ago in Apple’s expensive leather iPod cases. This tab is attached to a piece of ribbon that runs to the bottom of the iPad, lifting the device out when pulled.
The case is held shut with weak magnets in the flap, which covers the top as well as the body of the sleeve. During our testing, the biggest problem was that the magnets weren’t strong enough: although they do keep the case shut when it’s held still, a good shake or even light brush on the cover is enough to dislodge it. That aside, XtremeMac did a better job with Thin Sleeve than most companies have done in iPad 2 sleeves to date. Although we have seen real leather models from Beyzacases and United SGP, we prefer this implementation and the material still feels good, while offering a considerably lower entry price. The closing mechanism could stand to be improved, but we still recommend this model to those who like sleeve style cases, especially when you compare the price against the competition.
Compared to Microshield, TuffWrap Shine is significantly more protective for the same cost. Available in clear or solid black versions, the flexible plastic case fits around the back of the iPad 2, and covers all four edges instead of leaving open spaces. It is quite similar to the Philips ShockStop Soft-Shell Case we’ve previously covered. The headphone port, mic, camera, side switch, speaker, and Dock Connector are all exposed, while the Sleep/Wake button and volume rocker are—thankfully—covered. Unlike some other models which make the buttons more difficult to use when they are covered, these remain at full tactility, although there is no separation between the volume up and down controls, which can make changing the volume a little bit more difficult.
Just like ShockStop, the edges are thin enough around the front bezel that you might accidentally dislodge one or more of the front sides—not the whole case—during typical use. While it’s easy just to pop them back into place, the next generation of iPad 2 cases will likely be built just a little bit better to withstand that issue. Bearing that in mind, TuffWrap Shine is still an reasonably protective case, omitting screen protection and otherwise falling only a little short of what Philips has to offer. ShockStop has a raised crystalline pattern that provides some shock protection at only a very small difference in thickness, and costs $5 less. As with Microshield, this is a pretty good option overall, but we would only recommend it over its closest similar competitor if color is a big concern.