Like many of the other backplate-type cases, the SmartShell covers the back and edges well. It has good sized cut outs for the ports, mic, buttons, camera and speaker, as well as a cut out in the side to allow you to lift up the Smart Cover a little more easily. It has all the important things covered, but that opening in the side could be a potential vulnerability.
Thickness and material
The case is made of polycarbonate and is available in six different colors including clear and looks pretty good once on the iPad. The majority of the case is just 1.2mm thick, meaning it's one of the thinner polycarbonate offerings available. At the edges, where the case meets the front of the iPad the plastic gets thicker and creates a noticeable edge around the smooth tapering of the iPad 2. Unfortunately there are also some sharp edges to the case, which feels cheap and makes the iPad uncomfortable to hold. This might be a one-off with our clear review unit, but it appeared to be a lack of finishing during manufacture, which we haven't seen with other polycarbonate cases in this class.
The SmartShell has a nifty trick up its sleeve that we haven't seen in other backshell cases and that's a magnetic metal strip on the back side of the case that holds the Smart Cover in place then folded around the back. This is the kind of thing Apple should have built into the iPad 2 itself, as it removes the annoying flop of the Smart Cover when it's open and works wonderfully in the SmartShell.
The Speck SmartShell has good coverage, is pretty thin and comes in a decent set of colors to match your Smart Cover. The magnetic strip on the back is great and improves the Smart Cover no end. It's a shame then that the clear polycarbonate isn't as well finished as we would have liked, and those sharp edges that make the iPad 2 uncomfortable to hold aren't what we're looking for. Your mileage may vary and indeed the "matte soft-touch" finish of the colored cases may be different. For the clear cases we hope this is a one-off production error, but the rest of our review unit seems perfect so we can only conclude that it's cheap manufacture is to blame.
If you can get one out in a store and check the edges, or buy it from an online retailer with a solid return policy, then the Speck SmartShell is definitely worth a look and will set you back around US$25-35 plus shipping.