iCircle iPad case pairs protection with a pop-out stand

For a hefty $70, this cleverly designed case buys you a lot of style and versatility. But just how durable is it?

The iCircle iPad case makes clever use of a pop-out ring, but it doesn't feel quite as sturdy as it could.
The iCircle iPad case makes clever use of a pop-out ring, but it doesn't feel quite as sturdy as it could. Rolling Ave.

What's flat, black, circular, and holds your iPad?

No, not some weirdly molded LP record. The answer is Rolling Ave.'s iCircle, one of the more stylish and versatile iPad cases I've come across.

(Quick note: The vendor's Web site isn't quite finished yet, so you may notice some placeholder text. But you can order the iCircle directly from Amazon if you're interested.)

The iCircle is a glossy plastic shell that clips onto the back of your iPad 2 or new iPad. Its most prominent feature: a circle that pops out from the rear and holds the tablet upright in either portrait or landscape orientations.

You can get the case in black with a black circle or white with a silver circle. I tested the latter, a shiny and gorgeous color combination.

I'm a huge fan of cases that double as stands, as I frequently find myself wanting to prop up my iPad for portrait-orientation reading (which leaves out Apple's Smart Cover -- though I should mention that the iCircle leaves room for one if you want to keep yours in the mix).

The iCircle's circle is exactly that: a hollow ring that pops out at an angle to hold your iPad upright. You rotate the circle 90 degrees to switch between portrait and landscape viewing, and rotate (after a fashion) your iPad to switch between high and low viewing angles -- the latter good for typing.

The iCircle, shown here in black, can prop up your iPad in portrait view as well as landscape.
The iCircle, shown here in black, can prop up your iPad in portrait view as well as landscape. Rolling Ave.

The added bonus of this design is that the circle, when retracted, is deep enough that it affords a really nice grip point for one-handing the iPad.

My big complaint with the iCircle is that it feels cheap. The shell itself seems like it would crack rather than absorb a fall, and in fact my review sample is already showing a slight fissure along one of the corners.

What's more, the spring-loaded arms that hold the circle are made of plastic and seem quite delicate. I suspect that one accidental bump of the circle while it's extended would cause it to break right off.

Update: According to a company rep, those arms are actually made of a "die-cast zinc alloy," and therefore should be able to withstand a good deal of punishment. They certainly look and feel like plastic, but I'm assured they're metal.

That's a shame, because I really like the iCircle. I just think that for $69.99, it should have a sturdier design.

What's your favorite iPad case? (Bonus points if you name one with a built-in stand.) I continue to like the Zero Chroma Vario .

 

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