Surreptitiously introduced to Apple Stores in the midst of new MacBook introductions and hardware refreshes, the Smart Case is Apple's latest official option for iPad protection. It's teamed together the foldable Smart Cover of last year with a soft-touch rubbery shell to defend the other half of Apple's premier tablet. The case fits both the Retina display-decked new iPad and the iPad 2, so we decided to grab one to protect our iOS slab. Does it do the job? Well, it certainly protects the tablet from keys, spare change and other pointy objects, however, because it's made for two slightly different sized devices, it didn't fit as snugly as we'd hoped, with an especially wide rim around the front also reducing the premium feel of the Smart Cover-esque front flap. So, is it still worth the $50 price tag? That's a little trickier to say, so check out some more impressions and our verdict after the break.
iPad Smart Case hands-onSee all photos
The new all-round cover is very tactile -- the matte finish was easy to grip and while we haven't intentionally put our iPad in any danger, the same finish helped to disguise any dings it's suffered so far. The range of colors offers up something a little more visually stimulating than the monochrome hues of the hardware itself -- the red case we chose really does pop.
The front flap behaves like the Smart Cover we've seen before, although this time it's connected to the rest of the casing. The flap folded behind the tablet painlessly enough, while the tablet can still be laid flat on any surface. It also folds up to form a landscape stand for your tablet, although perhaps due to the rubbery construction of the rest of the case, there's a bit of give when it's mounted. We were also unhappy with the heavy border that fixes the case onto the device -- we thought it felt a lot less solid at the corners compared to holding the standalone iPad and makes the whole thing look slightly chunkier.
To its detriment -- and presumably due to it being compatible with two different iterations -- there is also some space between the top of the case and the iPad. This means it doesn't fit as tightly to the tablet as we'd like -- you can press into the case at the top when it held onto our new iPad. Both the top and bottom edges bend a little when put under a little stress, although we never felt that the device would slip out. There is some nice detail to the back of the case, with the physical buttons encased but still sensitive to button presses, with printed icons on both sides of the volume rocker. Also, due to the arrangement of these, the charging port and the camera, the case only fits onto your iPad in the one orientation -- like a typical book.
If you're not sold on the slight flexibility of the Smart Case, or that unusually heavy rim, there are several other capable case and case-cover combinations out there. Both Speck and Incipio have options for covering the entirety of your iPad and are worth looking at before making the outlay for Apple's official option. However, pairing the likes of a Smart Cover and Incipio's Smart feather Ultralight Case totals $74 -- more than the standalone Smart Case.