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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.

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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.

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.

Review continues below

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.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Apple, Cheap Tablet, iPad,
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