This is the first in a series of round-up reviews covering cases for the Apple iPad tablet computer. We won’t cover every single case design out there, but will instead focus on the new, innovative, unusual, and different. The first iPad cases to go under the review microscope are the OtterBox Defender and two from M-Edge: the Hip Bag and the Leisure Jacket.
OtterBox Defender ($89.95)
If you’ve ever seen or used an OtterBox product, you know that this brand is all about extreme protection. The same is certainly true of their Defender case for the Apple iPad. It is composed of high impact polycarbonate with an outer layer of soft silicone that adds grip comfort and security.
All corners and ports are well protected. Some, like the screen orientation lock switch and headphone port, are covered with small flaps. The power button and home button are covered, but you can activate both buttons by pressing through the case. There’s a removable door at the bottom of the case that allows you to dock the iPad without completely removing it from the case. That’s great news if you use the dock, though I would have preferred a flap instead–I don’t like exposing so much of the back of the device just to plug it in for recharging.
One of the nicest things about this case is that it protects the whole iPad, and not just the back. The Defender comes with a snap-on front cover that protects the delicate screen when you’re transporting the iPad in your bag, but can easily be turned around and snapped to the back of the case when you’re actually using the iPad. Even better, it has an integrated stand, so if you need to take notes in a meeting by either tapping on the virtual keyboard or using the iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, the tablet will remain held at the perfect angle. The stand works best in landscape mode, but you can use it in portrait mode as well, if you get the angle just right.
The OtterBox Defender is the ideal case for the paranoid and the clumsy alike. If you are worried about protecting your iPad investment from almost every hazard, you can’t do better than the Defender case. It offers ultra protection in a relatively low profile though slightly heavy case, but the peace of mind is definitely worth it. At $89.95 it isn’t cheap, but it does include a screen protector and cleaning cloth and definitely provides some of the best protection currently available for the iPad.
If you don’t need extreme protection, check out the OtterBox Commuter case for the iPad. It is less expensive, at $64.95, and it has an interior layer made of silicone and a polycarbonate exterior. It also does not include the snap-on front cover or the integrated stand, but would do a good job of protecting the tablet at home or in the office, if you won’t be transporting it back and forth in a backpack or gear bag.
M-Edge Hip Bag ($49.99)
The Hip Bag is an in-between sort of case. It has a shoulder strap like a small messenger bag, but it is also a very tight fit for the iPad so it behaves more like a case. The bag is constructed of canvas in your choice of black or pink, with a permanently attached, adjustable shoulder strap made of webbing. The fabric has been treated with ScotchGuard for stain and water resistance. The shoulder strap is offset across the top of the bag so the bag hangs nicely from your shoulder.
There are two exterior pockets, but they are not gusseted and the fit is so tight that they are quite difficult to access. You might be able to put an iPhone or a pair of earbud headphones in there, but it would be very hard to get them out of the pockets. The bag opens at the top and is secured with a high quality zipper. The opening is slightly oversized to make it easier to insert and remove the iPad. The interior is made of soft microfiber cloth that won’t scratch your iPad, and may even help to remove fingerprints and other smudges from the screen of the tablet.
At $49.95, the Hip Bag is nicely constructed, but seems a bit too expensive. It will work for minimalists who don’t need to carry business papers, cables & chargers, and other stuff along with the iPad, but it may not be the right solution for everyone.
M-Edge Leisure Jacket ($49.99)
This case is another hybrid of sorts, in that it can function as both a carrying case and a work-through case as well. The back is made of fabric, and it has a clear vinyl front panel. A rigid form covered with soft fabric cradles the iPad, and dual zippers secure the case. A large zippered back pocket has room for small accessories like an iPhone, earbud headphones, and a charging cable; smaller mesh pockets inside organize those small accessories.
The idea here is that you will lay the iPad in the cradle and then zip the cover closed, so that you can use it while the iPad is fully enclosed. It works well, but there are a few issues. If the screen of your iPad isn’t perfectly clean when you insert it into the case, the vinyl front cover may “stick” to the screen and create an oil slick effect that is somewhat annoying. And while this case offers protection against accidental splashes and dust, it is not waterproof.
If you want to put the case inside a larger bag, M-Edge suggests that you turn the iPad over so that the screen is facing the soft fabric-covered cradle inside the case. The cradle does have cutouts that allow you to access the controls, and strategic placement of the zipper pulls when you close the case will accommodate the cord if you would like to plug a pair of headphones into the jack on the top of the iPad.
I like this case and believe that it would work well in relatively light-use environments, such as in an office. I wouldn’t recommend it for road warriors, because it doesn’t offer anywhere near as much protection of the OtterBox Defender. Then again, it is significantly lighter, is well made, and comes in a variety of vivid colors. Whether or not it’s the right case for you depends on your usage circumstances.