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Apple iPad mini case roundup

TabletsGuides
by Jay Werfalli & Riyad Emeran, 28 Dec 2012Guides
Apple iPad mini case roundup

You're the proud owner of an Apple iPad mini and the first thought that probably crosses your mind is how to protect it. Nothing wrong with that, but the choice of covers and cases has become bewildering in a very short space of time. So in order to help you make the right choice we've rounded up seven models.

No roundup of iPad mini covers and cases would be complete without including Apple's own Smart Cover. The concept isn't new; we’ve seen the Smart Cover adorn many a 9.7in iPad and its basic design remains largely the same for the mini.

Made from polyurethane, the iPad mini Smart Cover is available in five main colours - blue, green, dark grey, light grey and pink - the same as the iPad's Smart Cover in fact, although that also comes in a choice of five leather designs. There’s a sixth special edition red-coloured one too.

The inside is adorned with a soft microfibre faux-suede layer, the colour of which complements the outside. This helps keep the mini's screen clean, but in our experience the thin and flexible folds separating the three plates create two channels into which dust readily collects. This frequently left two lines of dust on the iPad mini’s screen.

Like the larger iPad Smart Cover, this one attaches to the iPad mini via a hinged magnetic spine that lines up the polarities of its magnets with those inside the tablet. The result is a cover that positions itself perfectly with the mini’s screen pretty much every time it’s attached. However, the design is different. The larger iPad cover uses a metallic hinge arrangement in such a way that metal-to-metal contact points are created. Over time, we’ve noticed that these can mark the larger iPad’s chassis. This isn’t the case for the mini Smart Cover because the spine is encased in the same polyurethane material as the rest of the cover and lined with the same suede-like material as the cover’s interior. This should protect the iPad mini’s left side from repeated detachment and reattachment of the cover.

A word of warning. Avoid passing the tablet around while holding it only by the cover. Even though the magnets are strong it is possible to overcome the attraction by dangling the mini under its own weight.

Using more magnets hidden in the top and bottom regions of the outermost rigid plate, the mini Smart Cover triggers the iPad mini’s sleep and wake functions as it’s closed and opened - in much the same way as its larger sibling. This explains the ‘Smart’ moniker, and saves you having to press the on/off/sleep/wake button on the device before putting it down or slipping it into a bag.

Furthermore, those familiar with Apple’s Smart Cover will know that it can be easily folded into two useful stands (the thin and pliable membranes easily fold unlike the stiffer creases in some of the other cases). The first stand raises the device from a horizontal position to a more comfortable one that aids reading and typing, while the second enables you to prop up the iPad mini in landscape, ideal for hands-free viewing on a desk or bedside table. In each arrangement, integrated magnets lock the cover into position making both stands stable enough for touch operation (although in the vertical ‘watching’ position, the iPad mini does bounce back and forth a little when touched).

Of course the Smart Cover is simply that – a cover. While it keeps the mini feeling thin in the hand, it provides no protection for the back, unlike the rest of the models in this roundup. If that bothers you then don’t buy one. If it doesn’t and you’re willing to part with the rather steep £35 retail asking price, then the iPad mini Smart Cover is a neat fit.

Verdict

The Smart Cover is actually a clever design clearly conceptualised at the same time as the iPad since its ‘smart’ functionality and physical attachment rely on the magnets built into the tablet itself. It’s not cheap for what looks like a simple flat sheet of panelled polyurethane, but when you take into account its added stand and operational functionality its value for money increases – but we still think it’s too expensive and the score reflects this. The other downer is of course the lack of rear protection for your iPad mini.

Score: 7/10

Manufacturer: Apple

Price: £35

It’s clear that Cygnett has taken inspiration from Apple’s Smart Cover and Smart Case to create the Enigma, but that’s no bad thing, especially since there is no Smart Case available for the iPad mini yet.

Unlike the Apple Smart Cover, the Cygnett Enigma covers the front and back of the iPad mini, ensuring that it’s completely protected when it’s in your bag.

The iPad mini clips into a hard shell with cut-outs at the top and bottom for access to the headphone port, power button and Lightning connector. The cut-outs are wide ensuring that the mic at the top and the speakers at the bottom remain uncovered. There’s a smaller cut-out on the right edge for the volume buttons and mute switch. Finally there’s a hole in the rear shell for the camera lens.

The microfiber lined cover lays flat on the screen, but there are no magnets securing it as with the Smart Cover. The lack of magnets also means that the cover won’t automatically switch the iPad on and off as it’s opened and closed. The cover stays in place, though, despite the lack of magnets, and you can be pretty sure that your screen will be safe from scratches.

The cover can be folded in a multitude of ways – hence the Enigma name, no doubt. Folding the cover together like a paper aeroplane allows you to stand the iPad up for viewing video. Interestingly, doing this reveals that the cover does, in fact, have magnets built into it, but clearly not in the correct positions to turn the iPad mini on and off.

The cover can also be rolled up for use as a stand for video watching or for typing, much like the Smart Cover. The typing angle is pretty good once you get used to it, but the Enigma’s custom video watching position feels more secure than the rolled up option.

Unlike the Smart Cover, the Enigma also allows you to stand the iPad mini up in a portrait orientation. Obviously you’re unlikely to want to watch video in portrait mode, but if you’re reading an eBook on a long plane or train journey, being able to stand your mini up on the table in front of you will be a boon.

The Enigma is available in three colours – the blue you see here, bright pink and a more sedate black. It does add a degree of bulk and weight to your iPad mini, but not to an excessive degree, and considering the benefits it provides, it’s a reasonable trade off.

Verdict

Like the Apple Smart Cover, the Enigma will set you back £35, although you can find it online for around £25. Even at full price though, you really do get so much more for your money from Cygnett. The whole iPad is protected with the Enigma, but it’s also a more versatile option, allowing for portrait as well as landscape viewing.

If you’re looking for a case that will both keep your iPad mini safe and offer a variety of stand options, the Cygnett Enigma should be top of your list. Given the choice, we’d probably go for one in black, though.

Score: 9/10

Manufacturer: Cygnett

Price: £34.95

The Cygnett Workmate is a very different proposition to its sibling, the Enigma. The Workmate is designed to make the iPad mini a slightly more robust and rugged device than it would otherwise be.

Note the word “slightly” though, since the screen remains completely unprotected. So assuming that you don’t drop your iPad mini directly onto the screen, then the Workmate will go some way to protecting it – especially if it lands on an edge or corner.

The Workmate feels pretty tough, with its hard, plastic shell and thick rubber sections. The whole case has been designed to absorb shock and stop any impact related trauma transferring to the iPad itself. If Cygnett’s drop test video is anything to go by, it seems to work, but let’s not forget that big caveat regarding the lack of screen protection.

The case has cut-outs for all the ports, speakers and microphones. However, the power and volume buttons are covered, with rubber over-buttons indicating their position. Said buttons operate perfectly, with almost no extra pressure required. There’s a cut-out for the mute switch and a hole in the rear for the camera lens.

There are no stand options with the Workmate – its simple purpose is to offer drop and impact protection. This makes it a more targeted case than many others on test here, aiming clearly at either the very clumsy, or vertical markets that use iPads in an industrial environment. If you fit into neither of those categories, you and your iPad mini will probably be better served with a different case.

Verdict

With a price of £29.95 the Workmate isn’t the most expensive iPad mini case, but unless you really need that shock absorbing protection, you’re better off spending a bit more on Cygnett’s excellent Enigma case instead.

If, however, you do need a rugged case, the Griffin Survivor is a more robust option with front, back and side protection. 

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: Cygnett

Price: £29.95

The Slim Folio is a light, one-piece case designed to protect both the front and back of Apple’s iPad mini without making everything too fat – hence the ‘slim’ name. Folded, with iPad mini in-situ, it measures approximately 15mm thick.

The reasonably stylish exterior is made from a leather-look material, covered in what the company describes as a ‘pebble’ texture, while the interior is lined with microfibre pseudo-suede similar to the Apple Smart Cover. Soft to the touch, it should help keep the tablet’s screen and rear dust-free.

Sliding the iPad mini in is a simple process. Open the case up; lift an internal flap (part of the flexible frame sewn in place to hold the tablet secure); slide the mini in; then re-fold and tuck the flap back underneath the iPad mini, and voila!

It’s a snug fit and the first thing we noticed was that the flexible frame’s various cut-outs and perforations for the iPad mini’s speakers, headphone jack, camera, microphone and lightning connector, as well as for the on/off/sleep/wake and home buttons, were not perfectly aligned. However, with a bit of pushing and stretching these could be made to line up better.

The next thing we noted was how the left side of the frame did not sit flat against the iPad mini – a result of the twisting action needed to tuck that flap under the tablet. As a consequence, we were repeatedly removing the iPad mini and giving this left part of the frame a good twist in the opposite direction in the hope that it would correct it. This improved things over time, but it was never perfect, so if you’re someone who wants a tailored fit from day one, this will quickly become irksome.

Like other cases here, the Folio doubles up as a ‘landscape’ stand – flip around the cover and then wedge it behind a rigid flap sewn into the case’s rear to form a triangular support. All well and good if you’re laying it flat in an inclined position for typing, but there’s a problem when it comes to using it in an upright position for watching or reading.

The front cover has one defined crease, which folds to make the back of the stand – that’s fine. However, to form a nice flat base another pre-defined crease/fold is needed towards the front, but there isn’t one. Instead you need to rely on the weight of the iPad mini to make one in order for the stand to be stable – not the ideal solution. In fact, because the cover uses integrated plates like the Smart Cover, a second crease tends to form along the smaller inner plate set further in. This not only makes the stand’s base smaller; but it repositions it and messes with the centre of gravity so that all it wants to do is topple backwards.

Verdict

The Griffin Slim Folio is a mixed bag. It adequately protects the front and rear of your iPad mini but it’s not the best fitting case we’ve seen. As for the two-position stand, it’s fine in the inclined typing position but in the upright viewing position it hardly fills us with confidence. And at £28.95, your money is probably better spent on the Cygnett Enigma.

Score: 5/10

Manufacturer: Griffin

Price: £28.95

Whereas the Cygnett Workmate aspired to being a rugged case for your iPad mini, the Griffin Survivor is the real deal. Griffin rates the Survivor as being military tested, and it’s not hard to believe – the difference between the Workmate and the Survivor is like the difference between standard infantry and Special Forces.

The Survivor completely encases the iPad mini, providing ultimate protection from drops and shocks. The Survivor is s three-part solution – there’s the tough rear shell, the thick rubber padding, and then the solid front, complete with screen protector.

The Survivor also protects all the ports, ensuring that you don’t get dust in your headphone socket or Lightning connector. All the buttons are covered, even the home button – but they all work fine without much extra effort needed. There’s also a rubber flap covering the mute switch and another one protecting the camera lens.

It’s a bit of a struggle getting the iPad mini seated at first, but once you’ve got it clamped in place, front and back, it really does feel safe as houses. We’re not overly keen on ruggedised iPad cases, but if you really want to keep your new tablet safe while out in the field, the Survivor definitely feels up to the job.

The screen cover is a proper plastic sheet, rather than one of those annoying stick-on affairs. But despite being fairly substantial, the touch-screen is completely responsive – it’s as if there’s no layer between your finger and the iPad at all.

Griffin also ships a stand with the Survivor, so when you’re in between incursion missions, you can kick back and watch your favourite movie – Black Hawk Down perhaps?

The Survivor doesn’t come cheap though, with a recommended price of £44.99, but a scout around the web will turn up a number of retailers pricing it at around the £35 mark.

Verdict

With the Survivor, Griffin has created a case that inspires confidence and makes you feel that your iPad mini is near indestructible. If you’re planning to regularly use your mini outdoors and in unsavoury weather conditions, it’s worth investing in the Survivor.

Score: 9/10

Manufacturer: Griffin

Price: £44.99

A couple of weeks ago we reviewed the Mujjo MacBook Pro laptop sleeve and pretty much fell in love with it. Now we’re looking at Mujjo’s iPad mini sleeve and the love affair doesn’t seemed to have waned one bit.

If anything, Mujjo has done an even better job this time around, at least as far as aesthetics go. Mujjo has constructed its iPad mini sleeve from soft wool felt and real leather. The sleeve is stitched around the edges with a leather flap stitched across the top. Unlike the laptop sleeve, this one has no popper to secure the flap, instead Mujjo has riveted a strap across the front of the sleeve, which the flap tucks behind.

As with the laptop sleeve, this one has a secondary pocket for storing a few small bits and pieces. You could even slot your iPhone in there if you didn’t fancy carrying around in your pocket, and it would be just as well cared for as your iPad.

And that’s really the long and short of it. Your iPad mini will be enveloped in a case that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tod’s boutique. And when you use your mini, it will be as slim and light as Apple intended, rather than being encased in plastic.

That’s assuming that you want to use your iPad in all its naked glory. If you like the idea of being able to stand your mini up on a table while you watch video, or tilt it towards you while you type on it in landscape mode, the Mujjo sleeve won’t be ideal.

This, however, is what separates Mujjo from so much of the competition. This is a manufacturer that has a very focused, single-minded view of its products and the customers that buy them. Mujjo’s sleeve might not be as versatile as other cases we’ve reviewed, but the job it sets out to do is done with aplomb.

The iPad mini sleeve is available in grey felt and brown leather, or grey felt with white leather. We prefer the brown, just because the leather looks more natural, although white iPad users could well prefer the latter.  

At around £43, the Mujjo iPad mini sleeve doesn’t come cheap, but if you want your mini to look as good dressed as it does undressed, it’s worth coughing up the cash.

Verdict

The Mujjo iPad mini sleeve is a beautifully designed and manufactured product. It might not offer the versatility of some cases, but when it comes to visual style, there’s nothing to beat it.

Score: 9/10

Manufacturer: Mujjo

Price: £43

Proporta has been making cases for Apple devices for as long as we can remember, so it comes as no surprise that the company was geared up for the iPan mini as soon as it hit the street. This particular case sports licensed branding from surf attire aficionado, Quicksilver, too.

The Quicksilver case is a simple sleeve, but unlike the Mujjo iPad mini sleeve, this one is made from neoprene, rather than wool felt and leather. The inside of the case has an incredibly soft microfiber finish, ensuring that your iPad is kept scratch free, both front and back.

The outside of the case is decorated with a blue cheque pattern and the Quicksilver logo emblazoned across the centre. We weren’t completely enamoured with the aesthetics, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be, especially if you’re planning on throwing your iPad mini into a Quicksilver rucksack.

Despite this Proporta sleeve appearing quite large, it’s not particularly easy getting the iPad mini inside it. It’s quite a tight fit top to bottom, which means you have to push the iPad in with some effort while you drag the zips closed. We also couldn’t help worrying about scratching the iPad on the zips as we slid it in, although that’s probably more testament to our own paranoia than any design flaw.

Once zipped up this sleeve should keep your iPad as safe as any other neoprene case, which is to say that you’ll be fine throwing it in your bag without needing to worry about it getting scratched. It doesn’t exude quality though, and when compared to the Mujjo iPad mini sleeve, this example from Proporta does feel somewhat cheap and insubstantial.

To be fair to Proporta, though, this is the cheapest sleeve on test by some margin. With a recommended price of only £14.95, this sleeve could almost be considered an impulse purchase and if you’ve stretched your budget to buy the iPad mini in the first place, it might be an option worth considering.

Verdict

The Proporta Quicksilver neoprene sleeve is the cheapest option on test, but it also looks and feels that way. However, if you’re on a very tight budget, you’re definitely better off stumping up £15 than letting your iPad mini go naked.

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: Proporta

Price: £14.95

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