Ballistic makes sturdy cases for the iPhone, now they've got the Tough Jacket for your iPad. Designed to be a resilient but practical cover for Apple's biggest iOS device, the Tough Jacket is made of heavy duty plastic and rubber and comes in three parts which assemble onto your iPad for exceptional durability and ruggedness.
The unit I tested works on the iPad 2 and the latest generation iPad. I tested the Tough Jacket for over a week in real-world use to see how it fared. Note that I am not a fan of cases for my Apple devices, but the Ballistic products are a good solution to toughening up your gear.
At first I was put off by the assembly required for the Ballistic Tough Jacket. But then, I'm used to pretty simple cases. Ballistic doesn't make lenticular smiling puppy cases. They make really tough cases.
While testing my iPad, a friend told me they use Ballistic cases on iPhones at his job. One of his coworkers managed to leave an iPhone on the roof of his car one day... Despite flying off the car onto the highway, the iPhone survived. These cases are designed to be tough -- not pretty or easy to get on and off.
Still, the design of Ballistic gear is all about function. A silicone rubber sleeve first goes over the iPad, then a hard plastic white back plate snaps around this rubber. You have to work a little to get things to snap in properly, and when you're done it looks like your iPad has suddenly become standard-issue Imperial Stormtrooper gear. But again, Ballistic isn't making your iPad pretty, just tough. Lastly there's a hard plastic snap-on cover.
There are cutouts for the iPad speaker, headphone port and the lock switch but power and volume are kept under the rubber. The headphone port cutout is ample, but I often had trouble getting my finger into the tiny hole to lock the orientation. Volume works, but power can sometimes take some futzing. There is a dock cutout, but the snap-on cover must be orientated in one direction to allow it to pass through if you attach the cover.
Speaking of the cover, there is a cutout for the iPad camera that has to remain large enough to use -- so that's a bit of exposure on your screen when the cover is attached to the front, but not much. There's a little kickstand on the cover so you can prop the iPad up when the cover is attached on the back. No adjustments can be made, but I found the angle is right on for most use. Also note there is no specific screen protection besides the plastic cover. If you're looking for a water-resistant case, this is not it.
While the cover piece seems a bit flimsy at first, I noticed it's actually a very strong plastic and it withstood repeated smacking onto various hard surfaces. The cover also seems like it would fall off, but it is designed in a clever way so that if you try to remove it improperly, it sort of digs in and stays even more secure. I tried shaking the iPad off the cover by holding everything by the kickstand, then violently shaking the iPad -- the darn thing wouldn't come off. It was very impressive, and a good example of the thinking behind Ballistic's design choices.
The actual function of the Tough Jacket is simple: protect the iPad. The cover plate is really the only "moving" part, and as I described earlier, it's nearly impossible to break. It's easy to remove the cover (though not accidentally), pop it on the back, whip out the kickstand and have the iPad ready to go in seconds. If you're handing your iPad to someone, it's a safe bet it'll be secure.
While I didn't have the gumption to toss my iPad on the ground, I did bounce it on my table a few times, and the combination of rubber and plastic makes a very effective shield. The corners of the Tough Jacket are the rubber portion of the case, presumably for maximum absorption of impact. As some of you know, if you drop your iPad on a corner you are almost certain to shatter the screen.
Accidental drops are likely safe with the Tough Jacket. The harder plastic will keep the integrity of the iPad's structure, while the rubber absorbs the shock. This is probably the safest case I've seen that doesn't encapsulate the iPad's screen.
Provided you keep the cover on the screen while moving about, you should be OK from most drops.
The Tough Jacket is a must-buy if you find yourself using an iPad in situations where numerous strangers have to handle the device. If you're worried about drops, it's a great solution for businesses. Also, if you take an iPad to a job site where hardhats must be worn, think of it as a hardhat for your iPad. It won't protect it if chucked into a chipper shredder, but you'll be far less worried about tossing it in the front of your truck.
Ultimately, the Tough Jacket provides an enormous amount of protection whilst still allowing access to ports like headphones, speakers and the dock connector. It may not be stylish, but it isn't particularly ugly and will protect your iPad from falls and general abuse. For the price (US$69.99 from Ballistic), it's a very good buy.