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Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray) review: Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)

Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)

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Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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3 min read

When the clever Smart Cover debuted alongside the iPad 2, a problem emerged: as functional, easy, and downright cool as the Smart Cover is, it doesn't protect the tablet's back. Plenty of back covers with cut-outs for Smart Cover compatibility started to emerge to address the problem, but finding the right fit has always been hard...and, when you add together the cost of the Smart Cover and a back case, expensive.

Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)
7.0

Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)

The Good

The <b>iPad Smart Case</b> offers comfortable, solid wraparound protection for your third-gen iPad or iPad 2.

The Bad

The Smart Case is wobbly when folded into a vertical stand, and it doesn't offer all that much that other cases don't already provide.

The Bottom Line

Apple's iPad Smart Case is a reliable and solid folio case that offers much more protection than the Smart Cover, but it's nowhere near as magical.

Apple's newly released iPad Smart Case looks, at first, like the perfect answer. The $49 full-folio case has a Smart Cover-like front, and also has a back. Together, it's...well, it's a folio case. That's the problem: really, it's nothing new in the iPad case landscape. However, the Smart Case is Apple's own first full iPad case since the original microfiber iPad case in 2010.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In many ways, the Smart Case is really a throwback to that original case: the segmented, folding cover was an idea that started with that microfiber case, not the Smart Cover. The Smart Case is made entirely from polyurethane with suedelike microfiber on all inside surfaces, and a set of magnets on the edge of the cover flap to automatically wake the iPad 2 or third-gen iPad from sleep.

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The case comes in six colors, most of them matching the candy-pastel look of the polyurethane Smart Covers: blue, green, pink, red, light gray, and dark gray. I tried the dark gray, which actually looks medium-gray to my eyes. A white Apple logo is printed on the back.

Sarah Tew

So, is this case a regression in form? It depends on your perspective. If you value good, solid protection, this is progress. The all-microfiber case feels cut from a single material, soft to the touch and yet just a little bit sturdy. All areas of the iPad are covered up, even the volume buttons, which have molded areas you can press through the case. I don't know if this case would be shockproof, but like the original iPad case, it should survive a basic light drop.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pop your iPad into the bottom of the Smart Case, and flexible rubberized edges form a secure fit while exposing most of the iPad's front glass. The case adds extra bezel around the edges, makes the iPad seem wider and a bit larger than before. Hand-held typing in portrait mode feels a tiny bit awkward, but for reading and for viewing media, especially one-handed (I ride a subway to work), it offers a comfy grip. Maybe it's the way the case handles weight distribution, but the iPad feels lighter to hold when in the Smart Case than when using a Smart Cover and a third-party back shell. It feels comfortable with the cover folded back, too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The cover's a bit challenging to open, which some may not like. Just like in the original iPad case, the top cover nestles into the base when folded down, protecting the screen better but making the cover harder to lift casually. I found myself having to use a fingernail.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Compared with the original Smart Cover, the Smart Case doesn't work so well in other orientations. When folding the top lid back for keyboard mode, the way the flap hinge rests causes the iPad to ride lower than with a Smart Cover, and the extra bezel makes reaching the keys feel a little different. It works, but it takes getting used to. You can also stand the iPad up in landscape picture-frame mode, but I wouldn't recommend it. My third-gen iPad didn't feel solidly balanced that way -- not nearly as sturdy as a iPad with a Smart Cover in the same position.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Smart Case is best viewed as a comfortable, all-around basic folio case. At $50, it's not outrageously priced, especially when you consider that a Smart Cover plus a third-party back cover would cost at least as much, and probably more.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I consider the Apple Smart Case a throwback case rather than something progressive. But if you liked Apple's original iPad case, or just want a little more protection, this is a throwback you'll be happy to have.

Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)
7.0

Apple iPad Smart Case (dark gray)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
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