At this point, we’ve been inundated with folio-style cases for the third-generation iPad, but one will occasionally stand out from the bunch and grab our attention. Macally’s Hardshell Flexible Case ($50) is the most recent example: although the design somewhat resembles Speck’s CandyShell Wrap, this plastic and rubber case is unique in its own right, falling short of our recommendation largely because of a fairly significant design flaw.
The folio is comprised of a contoured rubber and plastic shell attached to a trifold front cover; we prefer this kind of design to the more common ill-fitting fabric and leather frames we regularly see. It allows for more thorough protection, while providing better access to the device’s ports and buttons. Although they’re somewhat deeply recessed here due to atypical molding, the headphone port, microphone, rear camera, side switch, and Dock Connector port are all lined up well and accessible when necessary. The iPad’s Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are covered in plastic as well, and although we appreciate the extra protection, it’s worth noting that it becomes a bit more difficult to press the former as it requires more pressure than when the tablet is unadorned. Although it feels solid, it looks like the process used to merge the rubber and plastic could use some work, as we saw some rough edges between the soft edges and hard center plate.
As for the lid, its frame is rubber, with three ridged plastic columns breaking it up; they’re well integrated, and we have no worries about the pieces becoming separated during regular use. The lid also has embedded magnets to automatically lock and unlock the iPad’s display, yet still requires a flexible latch to hold the case shut. Unfortunately, that design element turns out to be more of a problem than a solution. Folding the cover into a triangle allows it to serve as a stand, although it’s far more limited and precarious than we expected because of how the clip rests within the crease. Between the viewing and typing angles, the former is more reliable, with a high angle similar to that of the Smart Cover. On a handful of occasions, however, we saw the stand slowly slide out of position and collapse; this can be expected to happen when you interact with the case on a low-friction surface. The typing angle is far worse. When we set it up on a low-friction glass desk, it fell own every time, within a matter of seconds. Rougher surfaces allowed it to hold its position somewhat better, although it still buckled from time to time. An unstable stand is a serious demerit against the case; $50 iPad cases now often come with stands, and very few are as poorly stabilized as this one.
We had reasonably high expectations for Hardshell Flexible Case, and while we’re happy enough with it from an aesthetic perspective, the faulty stand structure is disappointing. If it did work properly, we’d have good reason to recommend the very protective, otherwise well-designed folio. Granted, in the right circumstances, the stands will work, but consumers should be able to expect them to work correctly and consistently. Because of that, the Hardshell Flexible Case regrettably earns a C+ rating. We hope the company can revisit the design in the near future and improve upon its issues; replacing the lid clip with a proper magnetic latching system would go a long way towards fixing the problems.
Company and Price
Model: Hardshell Flexible Case
Compatible: iPad (3rd-Gen)