It’s rare to find any name brand iPad case for $20, and even less common to find one that includes both a shell and a lid, in a style akin to Apple’s iPad Smart Cases. Yet that’s just what you get with Macally’s Clear Case with Reversible Cover for iPad Air ($20, aka CMATEPA5), the sequel to a previous case for second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads that cost twice as much. Although it takes some obvious shortcuts compared to Apple’s premium leather design, it offers a similar level of protection and functionality at a much lower price. The case comes with a clear plastic shell, and a lid in either red or black.
Compared to standalone shells we’ve seen, Macally’s isn’t terribly impressive, but it’s certainly acceptable. Crystal clear, it allows any dust or other particulates on the back of the tablet to show through, so you’ll want to make sure you give the iPad a good wipe before installation. The shell lacks button protection, as most do, but does run all the way to three of the four edges, leaving openings for the ports. An almost 7”-long gap on the right edge leaves room for the lid to attach. On our review unit, the openings seemed to be just slightly to the right of perfectly centered, but not enough to limit access by even oversized headphone and Lightning plugs. The most interesting aspect of the shell may well be the speaker coverage: instead of wide openings exposing the grilles, or dots in the plastic corresponding to the holes below, Macally chose to have the plastic curve under the speakers, and port the audio forward. It doesn’t effect the volume significantly, but we appreciate that the music plays straight out of the iPad’s front, instead of down.
Compared to the iPad Air Smart Cover, Clear Case with Reversible Cover’s lid falls short in most regards. The three-columned cover has microfiber on one side, and a different synthetic fabric on the other, with a patent leather-looking tab on the right column; you can choose to have either side facing out. Instead of magnetically attaching to the body of the iPad like a Smart Cover, it’s held in place by the plastic shell. It’s not an ideal design, but it does work. There are still magnets in the lid, though, which are used to lock and unlock the iPad Air’s screen. Additionally, the cover folds into a triangle for viewing and typings stands. The former is much steeper than we’re used to at about 80°, but the keyboard position is more appropriate.
Even though we don’t love all of the specific design choices in the Clear Case with Reversible Cover, it’s hard to argue with what it offers for the price. It’s $15 less than CaseCrown’s Omni, which was previously the least expensive case to offer a similar level and type of coverage. While it’s not as attractive, it does pretty much the same things, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a case with the same level of protection and functionality for the price. That’s why it earns an A-, losing points primarily for aesthetics. Otherwise, it’s a great budget case for the iPad Air.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPad Air