When we started reviewing iPad cases last year we didn't just pick stuff off the rack. We endeavoured to find cases and accessories that were different in some way: higher quality materials, unique designs, etc. The search led to a series of BestOfBreed (BOB) articles for the first-generation iPad. When the iPad2 was announced, readers asked if we would be doing something similar. We expected to have a difficult time finding enough new items to put a series together. Wow, were we pleasantly surprised! The iPad case ecosystem has EXPLODED in a year. If anything, we were not sure we would actually have enough time to look at everything that's out there. In order to pare down the candidates, we had to refine our selection criteria. HardCandy made the cut because their cases (StreetSkin, BubbleSleeve) are functional (easy to grip, protective, shock-absorbing) and unique (interesting patterns, great colors).
Don't let the hot pink color or the word "bubble" in the name BubbleSleeve give you the impression that this case is anything but SERIOUS travel protection for the iPad. The exterior of the BubbleSleeve is made from molded thylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. This stuff is typically found in sports equipment padding and the like. One of the cool things about EVA, beside its shock-absorbing capability, is that it expands to take the shape of its mold. By forming large bubbles into the shell, HardCandy gave the case a distinctive modern look, created more cushioning for its content, and made it easier to grip. It was a really clever way to leverage the properties of the EVA foam into the design of the BubbleSleeve.
One of the differences between the HardCandy sleeve and the typical sleeve is that the inside of the BubbleSleeve contain corner bumpers. These bumpers have velcro on the back so they may be adjusted to precisely fit the tablet. By preventing the iPad from shifting to the edge during transport, the bumpers create a ring of protection around the iPad. One difference we did notice between using the BubbleSleeve with the two versions of the the iPads was that the fit for the first generation iPad was better. The Gen1 iPad was held more securely by the bumpers and stayed in place better when carried. Due to the curve at the edges of the iPad2 it sometimes slid over the bumpers. We think this is because the Gen1 iPad is thicker. We found that if the iPad2 was laid "screen down" it stayed in place much better. HardCandy can solve the shifting problem if they make a lip at the top of the bumpers to catch the edge of the screen.
The second item from HardCandy is the StreetSkin. The StreetSkin looks like it was designed by a dominatrix (we mean that in a good way). With its wet-looking glossy black color and rubber texturized skin it would be right at home in a bondage gear catalog (or so we were told). When we finally got past its sexy exterior, we saw the smarts in StreetSkin's design.
The StreetSkin is custom-molded to fit the iPad2 like a second skin. The material is a synthetic called thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU). TPU has rubber-like elasticity, does not rip easily, and is abrasion resistant...all of the properties one would want in a case material. So, if skin-tight scratch protection is what you are looking for, then the HardCandy StreetSkin has got it covered.
Like the BubbleSleeve, the pattern on the StreetSkin does double-duty. It offers shock absorption and superior grip. As expected, proper openings and cut-outs are such that all of the iPad's cameras, controls, and ports are unobstructed and easily accessible. Unlike other iPad skins, the StreetSkin also comes with a screen cover. The cover is integrated into the overall design and "melts" into the case when closed. It is also hinged, so when open it folds back flat and out of the way.
One final note regarding the use of TPU versus other synthetic materials: TPU, unlike neoprene, will never pill, and compared to silicone, is much easier to keep lint-free. So if those things bother you, then it is one more reason to check out these offerings from HardCandy :-)
We are happy we discovered HardCandy and look forward to seeing what they will come up with next for the iPad. Who knows, maybe some day they may even start making cases for other sensitive electronic items like cameras...hint, hint. [Permalink] -iPad2 Accessories: HardCandy