Today we'll be looking at the first in a series of reviews following up on our iPad 2 Smart Cover-compatible backplate roundup. If you want a case to cover the back of your iPad 2 that still allows you to use your Apple Smart Cover, then these are the cases for you.
On the chopping block today is the iSkin solo Smart, which is a clear Smart Cover-compatible iPad 2 backplate case that covers more than most.
The solo Smart not only covers the back of the iPad 2 like most Smart Cover-compatible cases, but also covers all edges and a front lip of the bottom of the iPad, stopping just short of the Home Button. This means that the iSkin provides some of the best coverage available for an ultra-thin backplate, covering the top, bottom and sides of the iPad well with cut outs for the speaker on the bottom, the microphone on the top, the side switch and the camera on the back. The dock port and headphones port are covered by built-in dust cover plugs (as you can see in the gallery below), while the volume and power buttons are covered by a thinner flexible layer allowing you to push them through the case without issue.
Thickness and material
The iSkin solo Smart is made from a pretty thin layer of TPU, measuring approximately one millimetre thick. TPU is a rubbery material and so the case might afford some impact absorption, but at that thinness, don't bank on it saving your precious tablet from dents and cracks resulting from drops of any decent height. It's good for preventing scratches though and provides increased grip over the smooth aluminium of the iPad 2.
The iSkin solo Smart does one thing none of the others on the TUAW testing bench manage and that's lock the Smart Cover into place. The left-hand side edge has an inlay of polycarbonate that clips over the top of the Smart Cover's magnetic attachment edge holding it securely in place, while still allowing it to fold and move as it normally would.
The iSkin solo Smart covers all sides and edges, doesn't add much to the weight or thickness of the iPad 2 and will certainly prevent scratches and minor bumps. It covers the ports with pop-out plugs, which in my opinion is a bit overkill and hinders usage, but if you don't sync your iPad or listen to it through headphones much then why not have them covered up? The same could be said for the Smart Cover lock-in mechanism. I would prefer the option to remove the Smart Cover when not using it, which isn't easy with the solo Smart on. But if you never remove the Smart Cover, the iSkin works well.
If you're looking for good coverage from a thin TPU case that's compatible with your Apple Smart Cover, then the iSkin solo Smart gets the job done admirably for around US$50.