iPad Smart Case Review: Good choice for full protection

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple’s iPad Smart Case sort of sneaked up on us and has not had a much attention. I decided to take one for a spin and see if it is worth having.

In iPad 2 days I was very happy with the original Smart Cover twinned with a plastic rear shell from Speck. But when the “new” iPad arrived I could find nothing in the Apple Store to protect it. The Smart Case was not yet in stock so I went with a Targus Vuscape in a synthetic leather-look material.

This is a well-designed and luxurious protector for the tablet and, at under £40, represents excellent value. It is actually more versatile than Apple’s Smart case in terms of variable angles. The sole downside is that it adds considerable bulk and some unnecessary weight to the device. Nevertheless, I have been very happy with it (see my original review) and would recommend it unreservedly if you don’t mind the bulk.

Plastic cover

Last week, in preparation for the summer vacation, I picked up a basic, plastic Smart Cover from my local Apple Store. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised with the cheaper case. It is absolutely minimal in bulk and weight and very practical.

First surprise was that the front cover, more or less identical to Apple’s Smart Cover in appearance and function, is permanentently attached to the back by a plastic hinge. The more expensive £59 leather version is a two-piece affair, featuring what appears to be a standard, magnet-attached top cover. Without a doubt, the hinged plastic Smart Case is ergonomically superior in my opinion.

The one-piece design is a positive advantage and also minimises the possibility of accident. With the Smart Cover here is a tendency to grab the cover if the device is falling and, of course, the magnets just part. On the downside, I imagine the plastic hinge is something that could wear out in time, but that’s only my pessimism showing through.


Having been used to Belkin and Speck rear cases, which are of a harder plastic and clip on firmly to the back of the iPad, I found the more rubbery back enclosure of the Smart Case a little odd, both in appearance and feel.

Instead of clipping on to the tablet, this case has a rubberised plastic lip which pulls over the edges of the iPad to create a frame about 5mm wide. It reminds me of fitting a tyre to a bicycle rim. I was prepared to hate this, but I have come to accept it and, even, like it.

If you are unused to seeing a frame, it is worth bearing this in mind when choosing the colour of the case. Buy the wrong colour and the frame will begin to annoy after a time. I went for the dark grey, having dallied with the red but deciding that it would be too bright.

Once the iPad is slipped into the rear case and the surrounding rubberised bezel pulled into place, the tablet feels secure. I don’t think there any chance of it falling out by mistake.

The top cover fits snugly inside the rim. It’s a very neat solution and, when closed, creates the impression that the tablet is inside a single protective sheath rather than a two-part case. It definitely looks neat.

The cover itself is similar in design to the standalone Smart Cover. It closes by magnet and features the auto on/off feature that is so useful. The cover boasts the same three folds which enable the it to be adjusted into several combinations.

Folded versatility

In one position, with the cover folded into a triangle, it supports the iPad upright in landscape mode. In the same configuration, the tablet can be laid down at a shallow angle which is intended for typing. I would prefer a slightly steeper angle. The upright mode is, in anything, a little too upright, but it does the job of presenting the iPad at a convenient angle for media viewing.

The folds create the same pattern of three stripes down the screen which all Smart Cover users are familiar with. The padded inside of the cover is said to help keep the screen clean. This works to a degree and this is obvious after a few days. The screen areas behind the soft lining stay relatively clean while the folds create three vertical stripes of dirt. It’s not a big deal; the screen still needs cleaning frequently whether you have a cover or not.

Anyone who has used the original Smart Cover will be perfectly at home with the Smart Case from a functional aspect. The front of the case folds back completely and does not add bulk when holding the iPad.

Sharp edges

On the negative side, there is a significant difference in comfort between an iPad fitted with a Smart Cover and one with a Smart Case.

The back of the Smart Case has an annoyingly prominent and narrow edge on the three sides not occupied by the cover hinge. It is actually very sharp and makes holding the encased iPad even more uncomfortable than holding a naked device.

The sharp edge digs into the hands and turns reading sessions, especially when in bed, into a form of torture. The answer is to use the folded cover to balance the device so the weight is taken off the hands. This is a good way to read in bed, with the triangular-folded cover resting on the chest while steadying the iPad at an optimum reading angle with one hand.

Even at the best of times the iPad is a big beast and can be tiring on the wrists. While in other respects it makes a great ebook reader, the weight is definitely a disadvantage and this sharp edge only makes matters worse.

Despite this downside, the Smart Case is a good way of protecting your iPad without adding to weight or bulk. At £39 I would definitely recommend it. You can pick it up a few pounds cheaper here at Amazon with free Prime delivery.

by Mike Evans, 21 August 2012

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