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Cheap iPad Case Buying Guide

Before adding unnecessary bulk to your device, try to gauge the level of protection you need. If you're using your iPad on a construction site, for example, a durable case like the OtterBox Defender (starting at $60) makes a good choice.

However, most users will get ample protection with the sleeker, less expensive STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35) or Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40), our picks for best cheap iPad case. The Khomo Dual Case (starting at $20) appeals with its slim build and low price but doesn't seem to hold up even to normal wear and tear.

IPad Case Reviews

All the cheap iPad cases we recommend are compatible with second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads (they also come in iPad Mini versions) and have a couple of key features.

Wake/Sleep Compatibility.

The iPad has an automatic sleep/wake functionality that's triggered by a compatible case with a magnetic front cover. This allows the device to activate automatically when you open the cover and revert to sleep mode when you close it to prolong battery life between charges. All the cheap iPad cases that we reviewed have this feature, but some manufacturers have mastered it better than others.

Even otherwise positive reviews of the Khomo Dual Case on Amazon gripe about weak magnets that don't keep the iPad on sleep mode and drain the battery. Some say this flaw makes the case all but useless. The wake/sleep feature works very well on the STM Skinny, Joy Factory SmartSuit 3, and OtterBox cases, according to reviews. The Wirecutter reports that the magnets on the Joy Factory model hold the cover on and keep the iPad asleep even when it's turned facedown. The magnets also snap to the back of the case to hold the cover open as you use the device. An iLounge review of the STM Skinny says the magnets work well and points to the tongue-and-loop closure design, which makes doubly sure the cover will stay in place and keep the iPad in sleep mode on the go.

Stands.

Reviews indicate that a stand is a very popular feature. All the cases we researched have some sort of stand to prop up the iPad for viewing or typing. The front cover of the STM Skinny for iPad acts as a stand when folded backward; the tongue-and-loop closure holds it in place. The iPad can be stood up vertically (in portrait or landscape) or laid down at a slight incline so it's propped up for typing. Several users who have posted reviews on Amazon comment that the iPad feels sturdy when the stand is in place and the angle is perfect for typing. The protective cover on the OtterBox Defender also doubles as a stand when the iPad is in use, but it lies flat rather than folding over and a sort of kickstand pops up from the center. Reviews on Amazon indicate that the setup is very sturdy and useful for either viewing or typing.

On this front, the Khomo Dual Case gets dinged once again in reviews. The front cover, which folds in three places to create a stand, is said to lose its rigidity after just a few uses and generally offer flimsy support that collapses easily. The similarly designed Joy Factory SmartSuit 3, on the other hand, gets many compliments from users in reviews at the online storefront of electronics retailer B&H. They report that the folding front cover makes a very sturdy and solid stand, while holding the iPad at the perfect angle.

Appearance.

Finally, if you're concerned with colors and designs for your cheap iPad case, this is the only area where the Khomo Dual Case excels. It comes in nine different colors -- more than any other case on our list. The OtterBox Defender Case comes in six color combinations; the STM Skinny for iPad comes in five colors, while the Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 comes in four solid colors and five subtle designs, most of them neutral.

IPad Case Reviews

Materials and Protection.

Judging by iPad case reviews, consumers want something that will protect the back of the device from scratches and the glass front from breakage without taking too much away from the sleek design of the iPad. In making our picks, we looked for protective cases made from durable, quality materials that cover not only the back and/or front of the iPad but also the corners, top, and bottom when the iPad is in use, as well as when it's not. We found all of these qualities in our top choice, the STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35). The hard shell on the back of the case is combined with a soft microsuede lining and the entire case is covered in durable, water-resistant fabric to add an additional level of protection against spills. An iPad/iPhone specialist at iLounge reports in his review of the STM Skinny that the case provides additional protection to the corners, top and bottom of the iPad by covering them completely and the device fits very securely into the case.

Review continues below

The Wirecutter's favorite case and our other top pick, the Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40), also provides this all-around coverage without adding a lot of bulk to the iPad. It has a hard shell on the outside, which The Wirecutter calls "solid" based on a hands-on test, and comes in a a reusable water-resistant sleeve, which adds protection when you're on the go. One user who posted a SmartSuit 3 iPad case review on Amazon tells of a time when she dropped a thin bag carrying her iPad on concrete and the device survived without a single nick or scratch, thanks to this protective case.

If you need more than just day-to-day protection, our runner-up, the OtterBox Defender iPad case (starting at $60), is going to be your best bet. Even at its cheapest, this case falls at the top end of the Cheapism range of $60 or less, but consumers who are familiar with OtterBox cases don't seem to mind paying the price. (The Defender Series is a popular choice among iPhone owners, as well.) The OtterBox Defender iPad case comprises an inner shell made from high-impact polycarbonate and a foam interior for shock absorption, as well as a silicone outer layer to absorb impacts. The textured feel enhances the user's grip on the device to help keep it from being dropped and a built-in screen protector prevents scratches and other damage. The case also comes with a protective shield that can be snapped onto the front when transporting the iPad or onto the back when the device is in use to add an additional layer of protection.

Nearly 2,000 reviewers on Amazon give the OtterBox Defender a five-star rating. Users evidently can't say enough in iPad case reviews about the level of protection this model provides. Whether they're tossing the iPad into a car or letting a toddler run around with it, users trust this case to stand up to the challenge of protecting the device through it all. The only true gripe we found was that some don't like the built-in screen protector because they feel it compromises the Retina display. However, many reviewers suggest a quick fix: Just remove the screen protector and apply a different one or use none at all.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Khomo Dual Case (starting at $20) is considered a minimalist case. It's modeled off of Apple's own Smart Case, with a hard, polycarbonate back cover and a front cover made from polyurethane, designed to protect the iPad from dust, scratches, fingerprints, and small impacts. Consumers who have posted iPad case reviews on Amazon (where the Khomo Dual Case is exclusively sold) report many problems. This review is one representative example: The user writes that the plastic used is thin and flimsy and would never provide adequate protection. Many others agree that the cheap quality of this case makes it a poor value.

The similarly minimalist Apple Smart Cover (starting at $39) and Smart Case (starting at $39) are the default options for many iPad owners. The cover protects only the screen when the iPad is dormant and the case adds coverage for the back and edges. Although these cases are priced in the same range as our recommendations, both provide far less protection for the money.



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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap iPad Cases
  2. Discount iPad Cases Features Comparison Table
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