We’ve said before that while the combination of a Smart Cover and plastic shell offers solid protection and is very useful, these two separate parts rarely justify their combined price. Macally has addressed that problem with its Hardshell Clear Case with Detachable Cover ($40), a new bundle for the third-generation iPad. For $10 to $15 more than the average price of a standalone shell — or $1 more than what the cheapest Smart Cover costs — the company packs together a shell and the closest thing we’ve seen to a knockoff of Apple’s lid. While it’s not an exact replica, the price point and functionality are sure to have some real appeal.
This plastic shell is actually noticeably different than the dozens and dozens we’ve seen over the past couple of years: completely clear, it snaps right onto the back of the tablet, and is held in place by four small brackets near the corners that reach over the aluminum frame. The boundaries otherwise extend a tiny bit past the iPad’s perimeter, with the corners standing noticeably taller above the display. In terms of coverage, it’s about as good as they come with full edge-to-edge coverage that leaves openings only where necessary. Macally also built in an audio waveguide over the speaker to direct and amplify the sound without the need for additional accessories. The effect is subtle, but it’s there. If desired, the shell can be be used without the lid.
Although it doesn’t completely copy the looks—or the function—of the Smart Cover, the lid is unique in that it is the first detachable third-party cover we’ve tested. Divided into three columns, the outside is textured rubber while the inside is lined with a soft, suede-like material. While it does lock and unlock the iPad with embedded magnets, the cover interestingly relies on the clear case to keep it in place, since it lacks magnets in its left-side spine, which here is composed of a metal bar with rubber feet at either end. As such, the lid can’t be used without the cover, which won’t bother most users.
A lack of magnets also means that the lid can’t hold its own position without the tablet weighing down on it, however, we found both the typing and viewing angles to be well positioned and totally sturdy. There is a potentially major downside to the cover though, and it’s one we’ve seen with a handful of cases with attached lids: it moves around too easily, and can unintentionally wake the iPad. This one isn’t as bad as some we’ve seen, but it’s not good, either—place the iPad in a bag and you’ll have no idea whether its screen will be left on for hours at a time.
That issue aside, it’s hard to find serious fault with the Hardshell Clear Case with Detachable Cover. It’s protective, thin, reasonable-looking, and offers a nice feature set too. Yes, there are some issues, with the biggest among them being the cover’s tendency to slide up and down, side to side. Barring this, the case would likely earn our high recommendation. Customers should be able to expect that the magnetic feature works, and that they needn’t turn off the ability. As good as everything else is, that fault drags Macally’s case down to a B, our general recommendation. We sincerely hope the company comes back with an updated version that has a more reliable magnetic clasp system.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPad (3rd-Gen)