With every new Apple device comes an avalanche of new accessories. Just as cases were the must-have accessory for the original iPad, it's not surprising that there's a deluge of new (and newly updated) cases for the iPad 2. I've had a chance to try a few dozen folio-style cases for the iPad 2, and there are definitely some strong products among them. Here's a brief look at nearly a dozen. (I'll be covering another dozen or so in an upcoming roundup.)
Do you need a case?
The original iPad needed a case—it was actually difficult to hold on to it without one. But I'm not convinced that the same is true of the iPad 2. The iPad 2's lighter weight and thinner profile are perhaps its best features, and just about any case is bound to cancel them out. Apple's response was the iPad 2 Smart Cover ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), a thin, light cover that protects the iPad 2's screen, but not its back.
I like the Smart Cover a lot, mostly because it protects the screen while adding almost nothing to the weight and thinness of the iPad 2. But every time I want to set my iPad down on its back on a rough surface, I wince. And since the iPad 2's silvery back, with that big black Apple logo, is still fully exposed with the Smart Cover attached, I feel kind of conspicuous when I'm out in public with the iPad 2. So for reasons of protection or anonymity—or both—there are definitely reasons to opt for a more comprehensive case for the iPad 2.
The Smart Cover's killer feature, of course, is magnets. When you close the Smart Cover, magnets embedded in the cover put the iPad 2 to sleep; when you lift the cover, the iPad 2 wakes up. In my mind, this is such a compelling feature that the maker of every iPad 2 case or cover should include similar magnets. For whatever reason—I'm guessing the rush to get products out the door, or a hasty conversion of iPad 1 stock for compatibility with the iPad 2—several of the covers I tried don't support this feature.
Now, a few of the vendors whose iPad 2 covers lack support for this Sleep/Wake feature claim that the omission is itself a feature. The way the story goes, a cover can fall open and turn the iPad on, draining the battery. I'm not entirely convinced of the strength of that argument—after all, the iPad has an auto-sleep feature, and if you're carrying your iPad by hand or inside another bag, the cover won't be able to just "fall open." But more importantly, you can turn off the auto-wake/sleep feature if you don't like it. If a case has the necessary embedded magnets, the user gets to decide if they want to take advantage of this clever feature.
In fact, I've come to rely so much on the fact that I no longer need to press-Home-and-swipe to wake up my iPad that I think any case that fails to support this feature has blown it, plain and simple. I've reduced the ratings on those cases accordingly.
Portenzo Notebook and Composition iPad 2 cases
My favorite folio-style case for the original iPad is back with a new version. Portenzo's $60 Notebook Style iPad 2 case ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) and $80 Composition iPad 2 case ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) fit in the surprisingly popular iPad-case-as-Moleskine-notebook genre. Each has a delightfully analog exterior—black-leather Moleskine-style for the Notebook, old-fashioned composition-book style for the Composition—complete with an elastic band to hold it closed. Flip open the cover, and be prepared for gasps when people see that there's an iPad inside, neatly tucked into a bamboo frame. The case's sturdy materials make it feel like a well-made hardcover book.
The Portenzo cases' birch frames are attractive, though the design of the iPad 2 has required the company to add several additional cutout areas in order to provide access to all the tablet's ports and buttons. The iPad 2 is held in place by rubber-toothed corner pieces that grip securely, though the left side of the iPad 2 sinks down into the case a bit lower than I had expected.
Each cases has magnets embedded in the cover to support the iPad 2's automatic sleep/wake feature. For an extra $10, Portenzo will add a nice magnetic clasp that takes over for the elastic band to hold the cover closed. (Even if you don't add the magnetic clasp, the on/off magnets remain.)
If you expect to take pictures using your iPad 2's back camera, you'll be happy to know that the Portenzo cases are available (for a $5 charge) with a hole in the back to allow the camera to see the world. If you find the idea of a hole on your case's back repellant, not to worry—the standard version comes without the camera hole. Other options—both for the Notebook model only—include a $10 internal stylus/pen holder and $15 custom embossing of your name or other text on the front cover. If you opt for the Notebook model, you also get your choice from among ten colors for the "inside cover" material.
The spine of eaach Portenzo case is stiff, so if you fold the cover back and place the iPad down on a flat surface, you'll find it tilted at a slight angle. But the thinner iPad 2 means this angle isn't as large as it was for the original iPad, and as a result, the angle's not quite as good for typing—and especially not for viewing.
Although the iPad 2's speaker grille is located on the back of the device, the Portenzo case cleverly reroutes the sound back out toward you via some scalloped openings along the bottom edge of the frame. In fact, the iPad 2's audio is impressively loud when in either Portenzo case.
These are both good cases, the best example of the Moleskine-notebook genre I've seen so far for the iPad 2. If you're looking to wrap your iPad in some pretty camouflage, the Portenzo cases excellent choices. Their biggest flaw, in fact, is a consequence of the iPad 2's thinner, lighter design—these cases make the iPad 2 feel roughly the same size and weight as its predecessor. As for which to get, unless you prefer the Composition's retro design—which I find a bit gimmicky—go for the Notebook Style and save yourself $20.
STM Skinny for iPad 2
If the goal is to keep your iPad 2 as thin and light as possible while giving it some added protection, STM's $40 Skinny for iPad 2 ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) is a great choice. The front cover is a thin, rigid panel, with soft material on the inside and rugged polyester on the outside. The back of the Skinny is a rigid-plastic shell covered in the same rugged polyester as the front cover. When you close the front cover, it latches magnetically to the rear piece. The cover supports the iPad 2's magnetic sleep/wake feature, so when you lift the lid, the iPad automatically wakes.
The case's magnetic cover "latch" is strong enough that it's a bit curious to find a thin flap that wraps around and slides into a pocket on the back to keep the case even more securely closed. But the flap becomes more useful when you fold the cover behind the iPad and insert that flap in the pocket—the cover then acts as a stand that holds the iPad upright in landscape mode, perfect for watching video. Unfortunately, while this is useful, most of the time I found this flap just gets in the way, sticking out like it does from the front cover.
To insert the iPad into the Skinny, you slide it under two plastic tabs in the corners of the back piece and then click it into the two other corners. It's easy to insert and remove the iPad from the shell, and the shell holds the device securely. All ports, buttons, and cameras are accessible. The case is available in sage (light green), mushroom (gray), berry (red), or black.
While I'm not a big fan of the Skinny's thin "tongue" flap, the STM Skinny is still a good case. It provides protection for the front and back of the iPad 2 without compromising its weight and thinness.
Pad & Quill Octavo for iPad 2
Another entry in the iPad-case-as-Moleskine genre, Pad & Quill's $60 Octavo for iPad 2 ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) features a leather cover and cloth interior that, together, make the case feel like a hardcover book. You insert the iPad into an internal birch frame that holds the iPad in place with the help of some grippy corner strips. The case has the requisite Moleskine-inspired elastic band to hold it closed for transport.
The frame is crafted to keep all the iPad 2's ports, buttons, and cameras accessible, including, as with the Portenzo models, a sculpted section that reflects the iPad's audio outward. The front cover of the case has a magnet embedded in it to support the iPad 2's automatic sleep/wake feature, and for an extra $10, Pad & Quill will add a pocket on the inside of the front cover for storing papers and other thin items.
I found the spine of the Octavo to be a little looser than that of my favorite Moleskine-style iPad 2 case, the Portenzo Notebook, making the Octavo a bit less stable when you fold the cover back. The spine also seems slightly wider than the width of the frame, making the case slightly thicker than it could be.
The Octavo is an nice case, and the genuine-leather exterior is gorgeous to behold. All in all, though, I prefer Portenzo's Notebook case, mostly because it offers more options (such as opting out of the camera hole and adding a magnetic clasp) and I slightly prefer the look of its wood frame. But the Octavo is still a high-quality iPad case that's a joy to use.
Cygnett Lavish, Lavish Earth, Glam, and Windsor
Cygnett makes a series of leather iPad 2 folios that are identical except for the color and finish: The $50 Lavish (black faux-leather), Lavish Earth (tan or purple—the latter is really attractive), and Glam (red or black faux-patent-leather) and the $60 Windsor (all Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) (brown real leather).
There's a lot to like about these cases, especially if you like leather folios. The iPad itself is framed by leather, a look that I don't really like—I'd rather see as much of the iPad's glass front as possible—but is quite common in folio cases. To insert the iPad, you remove a Velcro fastener from behind the left side of the leather frame and slide in the tablet. The leather frame keeps all ports and buttons accessible, including the iPad's rear camera via a circular cut-out.
Each of the Cygnett folios includes the requisite cover magnets to support the iPad 2 sleep/wake feature, so the device turns on when you open the front cover. The cover also features a separate magnetic clasp, so the front cover remains securely closed when you're not using the iPad. The front cover is actually attached in the middle of the back of the case, where a hinge lets the cover fold out into a triangular configuration that props up the main part of the case; three strips on the inside of the cover provide for three different video-viewing angles.
If you're looking for a leather, business-style case—or one with a bit of panache, in the case of the Lavish Earth and Glam versions—the Cygnett iPad 2 case delivers.
Scosche Folio Case for iPad 2
Scosche's $45 Folio P2 Folio Case for iPad 2 ( Macworld rated 3 out of 5 mice ), available in Black Leather Texture, White Leather Texture, Black Carbon Fiber Texture, and White Carbon Fiber Texture, provides protection for your iPad 2 without adding much weight or thickness. Its faux-leather or carbon-fiber exterior is classy, and and the interior is lined with soft fabric. You fasten the iPad into the case by pushing it into six hooks that hold the iPad tightly without obscuring any of the front glass or any ports, cameras, or buttons.
Using the case as a landscape-orientation video-viewing stand is easy too, courtesy of four grooves on the inside front cover. You snap the iPad out of the two leftmost mounting hooks, and then position the left edge of the iPad in one of these grooves. You can also flip the cover around to the back to create a typing stand.
The Folio P2 has a clever design and and attractive look, but it fails the magnet test: the case's cover won't automatically wake up your iPad when you open the front cover and put it to sleep when you close the cover. Without this glaring omission, Schosche's case would be an excellent lightweight option.
Hard Candy Cases Convertible iPad 2 Case
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2, he indicated he didn't really like Apple's original iPad case. Not that it wasn't good, he said, but it covered up the beautiful hardware beneath. So Apple re-invented the case and created the iPad Smart Cover.
But what if you have an iPad 2 but loved the original Apple iPad Case ? In that case, look no further than Hard Candy Cases' $45 Convertible iPad 2 Case ( Macworld rated 3 out of 5 mice ). Available in black, red, or white this faux-leather case is functionally identical to the original Apple iPad Case. Slide in your iPad and and tuck the the frame's flap under, and you're ready to go. All ports, buttons and cameras are accessible, and there's even a little pocket on the inside-front cover to stick business cards in—a nice addition Apple's case didn't have. As with the original Apple case, you can flip the cover around to prop the iPad upright for video viewing or use it at a lower angle for typing.
Unfortunately, this case is also like the original iPad case in that it lacks any sort of magnets in the cover, so it won't automatically wake and sleep your iPad. But if you're looking to replicate the iPad 1 era, maybe that won't bother you so much.
Targus Versavu Cover & Stand for iPad 2