Review: iPad Sleeves and Jackets

iPad and iPad 2 jackets, sleeves, and cases in 4th case review. (April 14th, 2011)

All of these iPad cases fall into the closing jacket, sleeve, or bag category, as opposed to slipcases or snap on cases. They completely cover the iPad and have zipper or Velcro fasteners to prevent the iPad from falling out of the case.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Waterfield, STM, Booq, Kensington, iFrogz, Acme Made, Speck Products, and SwitchEasy.

Price: See Below.

The Good

  • See Reviews Below.

The Bad

  • See Reviews Below.

I reviewed six sleeve-style cases in my first iPad case review. You must remove the iPad when you want to use it in these slip case style sleeves. My second iPad case article covered snap-on cases. Since that time, a wide variety of cases have been released for the original iPad and the iPad 2. This review focuses on the original iPad, because there are hundreds of new original iPad owners, as you can see by the numerous Craig's List messages of people seeking those devices. Many of the cases are similar and you can use the products below for the iPad 2 also. The balance of this article compares the Waterfield iPad Smart Case, the STM glove iPad and Micro, the Waterfield iPad Suede jacket, the Booq Taipan Spacesuit XS, the Kensington Reversible Sleeve, the Booq Boa skin for iPad, the iFrogz NeoFirm Protection for iPad, the Acme Made Skinny Sleeve, the Speck PixelShield, and the SwitchEasy RibCage.

pile of sleeves


Five of these cases are simple sleeves that are open at the top, but hold the iPad snugly, including the Waterfield iPad Smart Case, Waterfield iPad Suede jacket, Booq Boa skin, Acme Made Skinny Sleeve, and the SwitchEasy RibCage. You can turn any of these cases upside down and shake it without worrying that the iPad will fall out.

Three other cases, the iFrogz NeoFirm, the Kensington and the Speck PixelShield, are envelope-style sleeves. This means that they have a flap that folds over the top to protect the top of the iPad.

The STM glove and the Booq Taipan Spacesuit, include zippers to close off the top of the cases. The STM Micro is a shoulder bag with Velcro closures.

The Cases

iPad Smart Case

Product Manufacturer: Waterfield Designs, Inc.
Price: $59.99 US

waterfield_smartcase_ipad

Black iPad Smart Case with iPad


The Smart Case is a heavily padded sleeve that weighs 8.4 ounces. The interior stiffening protects the glass face of the iPad or iPad 2 from knocks. The side of the case is leather, and the interior stitching reduces wear on the seams. There is a small loop on the bottom to make it easy to remove the iPad for use. The case comes in a choice of six colors: Black, Copper, Flame, Green, Pearl, and Pine.

waterfield_smartcase_ipad

Flame iPad Smart Case


The Smart Case also has a pocket on the back, made of stretchy nylon, suitable for holding thin, light items. If you put the iPad charger into the pocket, as Waterfield suggests, this doubles the thickness of the case.

Rating: 4.5 Stars.
The Good
Well made.
No visible seams.
Good Padding.
The Bad
More expensive than other sleeves.

iPad Suede Jacket

Product Manufacturer: Waterfield Designs, Inc.
Price: $19 - no pocket, $25 - with pocket US


waterfield_smartcase_ipad

iPad Suede Jacket


The basic iPad Suede Jacket is just a thin suede sleeve. There is no padding, but the suede acts as a screen cleaner. It does protect your iPad and iPad 2 from scratches and scrapes, but not against bumps and drops. However, if you carry your iPad in a briefcase, this may be all the protection that you need.

waterfield_smartcase_ipad

iPad Suede Jacket Pocket


The optional mesh pocket provides enough space for a charger and cord. Unlike most Waterfield case products, your only choice is black.

Rating: 3 Stars.
The Good
Well made.
Simple.
Inexpensive.

The Bad
Very thin.
No Padding.

Boa Skin for iPad

Product Manufacturer: Booq
Price: $29.95 US


Booq Boa

Sand Booq Boa Skin


This is an envelope-style case with a stiffened face. The stiff front protects the glass front of the iPad, and a stretchy back holds the iPad snugly against the front. The front has a tweed-like texture is very well made. The Boa Skin's profile mimics the iPad with a flat front and rounded back. This 6.56-ounce case makes insertion or removal of your iPad easy and provides extra protection when inserted in a shoulder bag.

Booq Boa

Purple Booq Boa Skin Front and Back


The Boa Skin for iPad comes in black, turquoise, violet, sand, and yellow. Booq bags generally show no wear, even after years of use, so this unique iPad case may be just what you need.

Rating: 4 Stars.
The Good
Easy iPad insertion and removal.
Stiff front protects glass face.
Reasonable price.
The Bad
Unusual shape.
Logo tab on back.

The Skinny Sleeve

Product Manufacturer: Acme Made
Price: $34.99 US

Skinny Sleeve

The Skinny Sleeve

The Acme Made Skinny sleeve is a basic rubberized sleeve; no extra pockets, loops, zippers or any other adornments or distractions. One side of the Skinny Sleeve is stiffened to protect the glass front of the iPad. Acme Made claims that the StretchShell neoprene is water and stain resistant, and it gives that appearance, with a slick, rubberized finish. Unfortunately, this finish also makes the Skinny sleeve somewhat slippery. These are available in white and black.

Rating: 3.5 Stars.
The Good
Well made.
Water resistant.
Stiff interior protects the glass front of iPad.
The Bad
Hard to hold.

RibCage

Product Manufacturer: SwitchEasy
Price: $34.99 US

RibCage

Red RibCage


SwitchEasy markets this case as an "ultra tough reinforced protective sleeve" and their marketing is spot on. It is available for all iPads too. The thick faux leather protects your iPad from bumps and knocks, and the embossed ribs on the case give it quite a bit of stiffness, doubly protects the screen. However, the finish on the white one that I tested picked up color from other things in my pack, so I'm not happy with the finish. If you choose this case, you may want to choose one of the other colors, such as black, red, or grey.

Rating: 3 Stars.
The Good
Tough.
Stiff ribs protect well.
Inexpensive.
Easy to hold.
The Bad
Finish prone to marking.
Quite thick.

iPad NeoFirm Burst

Product Manufacturer: iFrogz
Price: $24.99 US ($12.49 on sale)

NeoFirm

Green NeoFirm


This is an envelope-style case with a stiffened face. The back of the NeoFirm contains a stiffener, so that when you insert the iPad with the front of the iPad facing away from you, it rests against the extra protection in the NeoFirm. The back of the case is rubberized on the outside, which gives a good grip. I like this case, but it is not yet available for the iPad 2.

Rating: 4 Stars.
The Good
Simple fold over flap.
Stiff interior offers protection.
Rubberized back for a solid grip.
Attractive design on back.
The Bad
Unusual shape.

Kensington Reversible Sleeve

Product Manufacturer: Kensington
Price: $9.99 US

kensington

Reversible Sleeve


The Kensington Sleeve works just like an envelope. It has a flap near the top that folds over the front to seal your iPad into the case, which keeps the iPad from slipping out. As the name implies, this case is reversible - you can turn it inside out. This lets you choose the color that best matches your outfit or computer bag use it when you want a different color. My review unit is gray and black. The nice part of this sleeve is that is fits any device that is 10 inches or under, which means you can use it with the iPad 2 or Amazon Kindle.

Rating: 4 Stars.
The Good
Simple fold over flap.
Protects from everyday bumps and scratches.
Inexpensive.
The Bad
Difficult to get the iPad into and out of sleeve.
Annoying placement of manufacturing tags, which stick out when reversed.

PixelShield for iPad

Product Manufacturer: Speck Products
Price: $39.95 US

kensington

PixelShield


The PixelShield is a slip case with a handle. You can slide your iPad into the case, and carry it via the built-in handle. The PixelShield has a stiffened internal shield to protect the glass front of the iPad. Speck's signature square patterned material makes all their cases easy to grip. The top portion of the PixelShield covers the top inch of the iPad, but you can leave that uncovered, which makes it easy to remove the iPad.

speck

Close View of Handle and Flap


I found that having a handle encouraged me to swing the iPad as I walked; that's not a behavior that will end well. It may be only a matter of time before you bang the iPad and case into a wall or a door. Hopefully, the thick neoprene will prevent a disaster. The cases comes in bright red and black. I don't see any reason why you can't use this case with an iPad 2, but it's not listed under the iPad 2 product list, which seems to be growing daily.

Rating: 4 Stars.
The Good
Stiff interior to protect the glass front of iPad. .
Handle for easy carrying.
Easy removal of iPad.
The Bad
Handle encourages swinging the iPad when walking.

glove iPad

Product Manufacturer: STM (Standard Technical Merchandise Pty Ltd)
Price: $24.99 US

glove iPad

glove iPad


The glove iPad is a basic neoprene sleeve, with a zipper on the top. While the case works fine, the ends of the YKK zipper, inside the case at 9 and 3 o'clock, narrow the inside of the case just enough that it is difficult to get the iPad into the case. A zipper guard also protects the iPad from hitting the teeth by accident. It has a single zipper pull at the top, and a small loop on the back to assist you in inserting the iPad. The iPad 2 should slip into this bag with less trouble.

You can buy this sleeve from various online retailers, including RadTech.us, who often sends review products to MacNN. They have multiple sleeve colors, including orange, black, teal, sage, mushroom, pink, red, and black.

Rating: 3.5 Stars.
The Good
Well made.
Inexpensive.
The Bad
Ends of the zipper get in the way when inserting the iPad.

micro for iPad shoulder bag

Product Manufacturer: STM
Price: $44.95 US

STM micro

micro for iPad


STM also sells a small shoulder bag that fits any 10" or smaller tablet, including the iPad. The 300D water resistant micro ripstop polyester outer shell withstands a lot of abuse. The thickly padded inside is a soft nylon material that won't scratch your device. The 1.5" shoulder strap makes the bag easy to tote.

The nice features of the micro for iPad shoulder bag include, handles that you can hide inside little pouches, an outside pocket suitable for carrying the charger or other accessories that closes with Velcro, and pockets inside that pocket for pens, keys, and more. A slip pouch on the other side has no flap.

Rating: 4 Stars.
The Good
Built to Last.
Versatile.
Comfortable to carry.
The Bad
Needs more internal padding to keep iPad in place.

Taipan Spacesuit XS

Product Manufacturer: Booq
Price: $29.95 US

Booq

Taipan Spacesuit XS


The neoprene Spacesuit XS for the iPad includes some improvements over a basic sleeve. First, the neoprene is textured, but surprisingly, this does not make it easier to grip. The texture is "silky," to use Booq's wording, which seems more of a fashion statement than functional. Also, the YKK zipper has two pulls instead of one, which means that you can close the zipper anywhere you want, instead of just at the right end of the zipper. However, the zipper ends still make inserting the iPad into the (already snug) case a bit of a chore, but seam guards protect your iPad from hitting the zippers. The complementary interior color is made of soft material, that won't scratch your device.
Booq

Silver Taipan Spacesuit XS


The Taipan Spacesuit XS is marketed for the iPad and the iPad 2. t is available in berry, silver (reviewed) and black and comes with an unprecedented 5-year warranty.

Rating: 3.5 Stars.
The Good
Attractive textured case. .
Two zipper pulls.

The Bad
Texture does not make case easier to grip.
Ends of zipper get in the way when inserting the iPad.

Conclusion

All of these cases provide some level of protection for your iPad when you carry it around. Which case is best for you depends on how you carry your iPad. If you put your iPad in a briefcase, and just want to protect against scratches, then a thin sleeve like the Waterfield Suede Jacket might be sufficient. If you want to protect against bumps in a bag, then any of these cases will work. On the other hand, if you carry your iPad without a backpack or briefcase, then you might prefer the Speck PixelShield because it has a handle. If price is not a concern, the Waterfield Smart Bag is probably the nicest of all the covers reviewed here, while the STM Micro bag is the most versatile.

Related Reviews

Part 1: iPad jacket and sleeve-style cases

Part 2: Folio Style iPad Cases

Part 3:Fitted iPad Cases

by Marshall Clow and ilene Hoffman


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