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Aug 25,2010 - iPad covers: Best Of Breed

Since the iPad is more transportable than a laptop, it will no doubt be taken to more places. It stands to reason that providing it with some protection when on the move is a good idea. Any iPad cover will offer some sort of protection. All of them cover the back, and some of them also cover the front. As the screen is the most fragile part of the iPad, if you like to just grab your iPad and go, it would be best to get a case that protects both front and back.

Cases with front/back covers come in two basic styles: two-piece, folio. Today, we will concentrate on the two-piece covers from our Best-Of-Breed list:

We have done FirstLooks of both the OtterBox Defender and Vaja iVolution so we will not repeat them here. The OtterBox Defender is first and last stop for those in search of the ultimate in iPad protection. Other then putting an iPad wrapped in a Defender inside one of these, there is nothing on the market that offers more 360º safety. The Vaja iVolution is a two-piece case for those who want something more luxurious, less techie-looking, but still every bit as functional. Vaja is on our Best-Of-Breed list because the leather used for their products are the best available and their workmanship is second to none.

modulR may be new to many, but we expect they will be making quite a name for themselves with their entrant. The case we got was hot off the production line. The modulR case is different from every other case we have reviewed to date. This case is the core of an extensive accessory system (stand, mount, strap, swing arm, etc...). The idea is extremely cool. With the right accessory, the modulR case can transform the iPad into a digital photo mount, a notepad on the fridge, or a third screen on the wall next to your monitor.

The modulR case is comprised of two pieces, a semi-flexible body protector and a hard-plastic screen cover. On the back of the body protector are four small rubber-coated knobs. They can act as feet or as anchor points for wall mounts and other accessories. As can be seen in the photo, the flat portion of the body protector is a different color than the edges. This is because the lighter gray section is made of the same hard plastic as the cover. The darker gray surround is made from a thicker but more flexible material. This material is not as soft or flexible as the rubberized skin used by OtterBox. However, because it is more rigid, it does not need an outer shell to keep the skin in place over the iPad.

The overall fit of modulR case is excellent. We like how the case feels in the hand. The ridge around the rim of the screen cover made the unit easy to grip. We did note some rough edges around the case. modulR assured us that these early production issues have been worked out and are not in the shipping products. The modulR case is a nice case as it stands, but its value is amplified when paired with its growing collection of accessories. For those looking to get more out of their iPad, the modulR system will let you do just that.

All three covers have some ability to stand the iPad at an angle for viewing and typing. Ok, making that claim for the Vaja may be stretching it a bit, but it is true for both the OtterBox and modulR. The OtterBox stand is integrated into the front cover while the modulR stand is a separate piece. However, while the OtterBox's has fixed angle, the modulR stand may be attached to either the upper or lower knobs depending on the angle desired.

The OtterBox Defender is a thick case, so thick that if you wanted to use it with the iPad keyboard/integrated charger combo from Apple, it would be too thick for the stand. OtterBox solved this problem by making a piece of the back cover removable. While this is a nice solution, it might just be a non-problem. We think most users will skip the special iPad keyboard and go with a more versatile Bluetooth one. We mention this only because after using the Defender for a few weeks, we realized that having to remove this piece every time we want to charge the iPad was kind of a pain. We would have been happier had OtterBox used a flap to cover the power port like they did with all of the other openings. Another solution would be to use the top cover to shield the port opening as per modulR and Vaja. Charging the iPad is something one would do often. It would be better if the case did not make it more difficult to do.

All three of these cases have removable screen covers. The obvious question is what to do with that cover when the iPad is in use. With the OtterBox and the Vaja, the cover slips nicely onto the back. The cover for the modulR, because of the feet in the back, cannot. We would love to see them solve this problem in the next version of their case...there are, after all, four knobs there to hook things on :-)

Tomorrow we will take a similar look at the four folios in our Best-Of-Breed collection. Those cases also have both a front and back cover, but their feature set lean more toward the business end of the iPad user spectrum. [Permalink] -Best Of Breed: two-piece iPad covers


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