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Best iPad accessories

The good, the bad and the downright ugly in add-ons for Apple's popular tablet.

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Alex Kidman
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1 of 20 Apple

Apple iPad Keyboard Dock

So, you've just dropped north of 600 bucks on a shiny new iPad. You've taken it out of its case — having carefully watched our video of how to open it in Circular Quay for inspiration — and admired just how shiny it is.

Keeping it shiny isn't going to be an easy matter, and there's no end of vendors offering up all kinds of accessories to improve your iPad experience. How good are they? We grabbed as many as we could and put them through iPad boot camp to separate the loser products from the heroes.

We invited vendors to submit samples from their range, including official Apple accessories as well as third-party products from Belkin, PADACS, Targus, Kensington and Laser.

Updated August 2010

RRP: AU$89
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
The combination of an iMac short keyboard and the iPad Dock doesn't sound like a recipe for greatness, but this dock works really well on a desk, eliminating the dock's wobble factor and adding handy keyboard shortcuts to your iPad, especially if you're a heavy Pages user. It's even passable as a lap-based keyboard alternative.

What we hated
It works in portrait orientation only. Sure, it'd need to be some kind of Transformer to manage landscape, but it'd be a nice feature to have.

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2 of 20 Apple

Apple iPad Case

RRP: AU$48
Rating: 3/10

What we liked
This is a solid case with an easy motion to convert it to a sloped format for widescreen iPad usage.

What we hated
It's tough to fit the iPad into the case, and equally hard to remove it. Like most cases, this makes it incompatible with the dock and keyboard dock, but the difficulty in removing it makes this a much bigger problem. We also found it scuffed and marked very easily.

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3 of 20 Apple

Apple iPad Dock

RRP: AU$39
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
A very simple product that makes placing your iPad on your desk very simple, keeping it in portrait orientation, as well as synchronisation and audio-out options.

What we hated
It's not wide enough to stop the iPad from wobbling when placed in it. Feels a little expensive for something that's not much more than the cable you get with the iPad plus plastic.

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4 of 20 Belkin

Belkin Grip Vue

RRP: AU$39.95
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
If you really want to show off that you've got an iPad but protect the back, then the Grip Vue's the product for you. As promised, its rubbery back does give a slight increase in the hand traction of an iPad, making it easier to grip.

What we hated
Feels like cheap rubber at a high asking price, and naturally does nothing to protect the front of the iPad itself. Surprisingly tough to remove if you want to dock the iPad as well.

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5 of 20 Belkin

Belkin Envelope for iPad

RRP: AU$49.95
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
The envelope is sturdily built with a soft interior that should keep your iPad scratch free. It's easy to slip an iPad in or out of it, and it doesn't make it immediately apparent what's inside.

What we hated
It's an AU$50 envelope with a string fastener, which worries us at a durability level, and because looping the string around the fastener is a lot slower and fiddlier than a zip.

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6 of 20 Belkin

Belkin Leather Folio

RRP: AU$69.95
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
The Leather Folio looks great with an iPad nestled in it. It's got an easy release elastic strap to keep the cover on, and a smooth suede interior to protect the screen.

What we hated
It's expensive! As the iPad slides in from the side, when held in landscape mode it tends to slide downwards slightly. Not enough to have it fall out in our tests, but enough to move the volume buttons away from the side.

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7 of 20 Belkin

Belkin Screen Overlay

RRP: AU$19.95
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
Every vendor it seems has a screen protector for iPad, and most of them work the same way. Apply, press down, spend some time going insane pushing the bubbles out. Belkin was the only vendor to supply us one for testing, however.

What we hated
Like pretty much everyone else, Belkin charges a premium for a thin slice of plastic with a hole for the button area. It's a good idea to protect your iPad screen. It's hard to justify charging 20 bucks for the privilege, though.

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8 of 20 Belkin

Belkin Pleat Sleeve

RRP: AU$39.95
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
The Pleat Sleeve provides a simple and easy-to-use carry case for the iPad, along with a zippered section hidden in the pleats for cables, cords or anything else you'd like to carry.

What we hated
It's a personal preference thing, but the Plum-coloured sample we tested was pleasantly purple on the outside, but then shockingly pink within, which was a little garish.

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9 of 20 Targus

Targus Hughes Leather Portfolio

RRP: AU$99.95
Rating: 7/10

What we liked
The Leather Portfolio certainly gives the impression of style and business acumen, whether you go for the black or chocolate brown leather option. It's solidly built with some squishy impact room to protect the iPad within.

What we hated
It's quite expensive! Opening it up only reveals a single small business card holder where other portfolios give larger storage options.

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10 of 20 Kensington

Kensington Sling Bag

RRP: AU$19.95
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
Kensington's Sling Bag could work well for any small laptop, but they pitched it to us as an iPad accessory. If you're after a full sling bag to pop your iPad in, it works well with tonnes of space for other accessories once you slide the iPad into its padded section.

What we hated
It's not terribly iPad specific, and that means the pocket you put it in is larger than it needs to be. It will work, but your iPad will jostle around quite a bit, and depending on what else you have in there that could be a big negative.

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11 of 20 Kensington

Kensington PowerBolt Micro Car Charger

RRP: AU$29.95
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
The iPad's battery life is pretty good, but if you've used it extensively before a long car journey you're a little stymied. Existing iPhone car charge cables don't offer the correct voltage needed to juice up an iPad, and that's the market that the PowerBolt serves. Not much more than a cigarette lighter and a USB/iPod/iPhone/iPad cable, the PowerBolt is quite idiot-proof and worked well for us.

What we hated
The obvious associated problem that crops up with in-car iPad charging is working out where to put the iPad itself. It's way too big for a screen holder, will cramp the lap of your passenger or bounce around in the seat if you have no passenger. This isn't the PowerBolt's fault, however.

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12 of 20 Laser

Laser iRange Pattern Case

RRP: AU$44.95
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
The Pattern Case has slick PVC construction, making it look somewhere between a case and a handbag. There's ample space on the inside for storing documents as well as the iPad, and the clasp itself is very solid. One very nice bonus is that the case comes with a screen protector and cleaning cloth.

What we hated
The iPad itself is held rather loosely in place with elastic straps, which feels dodgy and doesn't look very good. Likewise, the slick PVC exterior might look OK (tastes vary) but because it's slick, it's also somewhat slippery in the hand.

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13 of 20 Laser

Laser iRange Silicon Case

RRP: AU$34.95
Rating: 5/10

What we liked
The Silicon Case is very easy to fit or slip off, and provides (so it's claimed) dust and UV protection to all the bits of the iPad that aren't the screen. Like the Pattern Case, you also get a screen protector thrown in for free, which is a nice bonus.

What we hated
The case doesn't feel terribly durable when it's on, and yet despite its thin rubbery nature, like every other case, it's not compatible with the iPod dock.

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14 of 20 Targus

Targus Crave Slipcase

RRP: AU$39.95
Rating: 8/10

What we liked
If your iPad is likely to be chucked into a bag and bounced around a lot, the Targus Crave Slipcase offers a lot of squishy protection. There's also a "hidden" zippered compartment at the front, which is quite roomy. We managed to fit an iPhone 3G, HTC Desire and HTC Legend in at the same time, and surprisingly, none of them fought.

What we hated
There's a certain "anorak" quality to this particular design, which you'll either love or hate. Puffy also equals somewhat bulky, which could be a concern.

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15 of 20 PADACS

PADACS Canto Professional Leather iPad Case

RRP: AU$32.95
Rating: 9/10

What we liked
The Canto case is a jack of all trades iPad case. It's a folio-style case that closes with a small magnetic latch, and opens up to reveal not only your iPad but also business card and small document holding pouches on the interior of the case. The back houses a small stand that folds into the ridges on the front of the case, allowing for multiple stand angles. It also doesn't hurt that it's very competitively priced.

What we hated
Not much. The magnetic clasp doesn't entirely have somewhere to go when it's fully open, but that's a minor quirk in an otherwise superb case.

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16 of 20 Targus

Targus A7 Sleeve

RRP: AU$39.95
Rating: 7/10

What we liked
The A7 neoprene sleeves come in a variety of shades. We tested the purple, black and blue models, and all have nicely understated interiors that look quite good. The cross-stitched panel design gives it an extra edge in supporting the iPad against bumps, and it's easy to slip an iPad in or out.

What we hated
It's very much a one trick pony, and for this kind of money you could buy a case with additional storage pockets.

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17 of 20 PADACS

PADACS iPad Stand

RRP: AU$39.95
Rating: 6/10

What we liked
Unlike the official dock, the tripod-style design of the iPad Stand allows for landscape as well as portrait orientation of your iPad -- or any other device it'll prop up.

What we hated
It's quite fiddly to get portrait working, as the legs have a tendency to slide outwards into the landscape position.

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18 of 20 PADACS

PADACS Anard Professional Leather Case

RRP: AU$32.95
Rating: 3/10

What we liked
This is a solid case with an easy motion to convert it to a sloped format for widescreen iPad usage.

What we hated
It's tough to fit the iPad into the case, and equally hard to remove it. Like most cases, this makes it incompatible with the dock and keyboard dock, but the difficulty in removing it makes this a much bigger problem. We also found it scuffed and marked very easily.

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19 of 20 PADACS

PADACS Anti-Glare Cover.

RRP: AU$14.95
Rating: 9/10

What we liked
Cheaper screen covers are usually the equivalent of cling film, but the PADACS Anti-Glare cover is solid and does provide a level of glare reduction, turning the iPad glossy screen into a more matte-style affair. As a result, it makes outdoor reading a reality rather than an eye-scorching festival of pain.

What we hated
Cheaper screen covers are usually the equivalent of cling film, but the PADACS Anti-Glare cover is solid and does provide a level of glare reduction, turning the iPad glossy screen into a more matte-style affair. As a result, it makes outdoor reading a reality rather than an eye-scorching festival of pain.

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20 of 20 PADACS

PADACS Executive Leather iPad Case

RRP: AU$59.95
Rating: 7/10

What we liked
The upper scale of PADACS' current range nets you the Executive Leather iPad Case, with softer leather and a slot for the iPad on the side rather than the top.

What we hated
It seems odd that the much more expensive case in the range should have less flexibility for stand positions, but the Executive only offers one — and it's wobbly much of the time. The side insertion method for the iPad makes it harder to remove if you need to.

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