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Get the ultimate tablet case for under $20

The best cases are those that double as stands -- and can position your tablet in portrait or landscape orientation.

The Handheld Items Multi Angle 360 Stand Up Case for Kindle Fire.
The Handheld Items Multi Angle 360 Stand Up Case for Kindle Fire.
HandHeld Items

Much as I'm loathe to diminish the beauty of a tablet by wrapping it in a plastic or leather case, I recognize the necessity -- not just for protection, but also for productivity.

For example, as someone who routinely reads books and magazines over breakfast, I like to prop up my tablet at a comfortable viewing angle. And I don't always want it in landscape orientation, either; sometimes I prefer a portrait view. (See you around, iPad Smart Cover.)

That means I need a case that not only doubles as a stand, but also lets me turn my tablet to my desired viewing angle.

I've long admired Zero Chroma's convertible cases, which have rotating fold-out stands, but with prices for the iPad and Kindle Fire versions starting at $50, I was forced to look elsewhere.

Here's what I found: the HandHeld Items Genius 360 Stand Up Case for new iPad for $19.99 and the HandHeld Items Multi Angle 360 Stand Up Case for Kindle Fire for $16.99. HHI has similar cases for other tablets, including the Acer Iconia A500, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, and Samsung Galaxy Tab, and nearly all of them are priced below $20.

I recently purchased the iPad and Kindle Fire cases, and I'm quite happy with both. The iPad version, which is available in your choice of five colors, has a hard-plastic backside and a flexible silicone cover. Cutouts within that cover let you position the iPad at two different viewing angles for both portrait and landscape orientations.

The Kindle Fire case is made of synthetic (but not too fakey-looking) black leather, and it, too, relies on a grooved cover to hold your tablet upright at two viewing angles. However, in landscape "mode," the case can't quite hold up the Fire at the lower of the two angles; it just collapses. Not a deal-breaker for me, as I think that angle is too shallow to be of much use anyway, but it's a demerit to an otherwise five-star product.

I firmly believe that if you're going to tuck your tablet inside a case, you should choose the most versatile case you can. Lots of other stores offer lots of other options, but my hard-target search found the best bang for the buck right here.

Bonus deal: Today only, and while supplies last, Woot has the refurbished Samsung NP305E5A-A03USR 15.6-inch laptop for $379.99, plus $5 for shipping. This is a quad-core AMD system with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a keyboard with numeric keypad, and a 6-cell battery. That's an unusually nice price for quad-core power.

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