The third-generation iPad, reviewed, is finally here. Whether the new retina screen is the killer feature that's persuaded you to buy, or you're upgrading from an older iPad, you'll want some protection for it. That's why you're here, of course.
So, without any further chit-chat, let's get to the point: which case, cover or sleeve should you buy? The new iPad is virtually identical to the iPad 2, but it's fractionally thicker.
We've spoken to all of the case manufacturers featured here and some say their existing iPad 2 cases will fit, while others say they most definitely won't. Our advice is to be cautious of specific-fitting cases as there's no guarantee that it will fit properly, nor have a compatible camera cutout (the new iPad's camera lens is larger than the old one).
Rest assured that all 25 cases here DO fit the new iPad and we'll be adding even more cases as they become available.
Incipio Lexington Hard Shell Folio, £35
The Lexington is much like STM's Skinny 3 case (see below) in that it offers two standing positions and a slot-in tab to hold everything in place. At 235g, the Lexington is heavier and sturdier than the Skinny 3 and has a thicker rear polycarbonate shell with a microsuede lining to protect the rear of the iPad.
The main difference is that it hinges from the rear, rather than the side, of the case. And what a difference. Thanks to the fabric 'hinge', the two stand positions are much more usable than most folio-style cases. When the iPad is upright for watching video, the stand is around 5cm deeper than usual and this gives the Lexington much better stability.
It's a similar story in 'typing mode' where the back edge of the iPad sits a bit higher off the desk and is again held firmly in position. Some may find the angle a touch too steep but we liked it.
Magnets reliably wake the iPad and make it sleep when you open and close the cover and the dock cut-out is big enough to accommodate large devices such as the camera connection kit.
There are various colour combinations to choose from, but all suffer from showing up every greasy fingerprint due to the smooth finish of their faux-leather material. Plus, as with the other Incipio cases below, the case smelled strongly of glue or some other chemical, but this did fade after a couple of weeks.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
iChic Oxford Tweed, £41
Although designed for the iPad 2, iChic's Slim Shell Folio range fits the new iPad perfectly. Possibly even better than the iPad 2, in fact. We've picked out the Tweed version with an orange microfibre interior, but there are plenty of other colour and fabric options, including denim.
The case is very slim, and is one of the lighest around weighing just 189g. Magnets in the cover wake the new iPad and make it sleep when you close it. Unlike some third-party cases, the magnets actually work properly with the new iPad and hold the cover shut when you hold the iPad upside down.
Flip the cover around the back and tuck it into the rear tab and it acts as a sturdy typing stand, or upright for watching videos or making Skype calls. Unlike the Lexington above, the tab on the rear doesn't hold the cover in place as well, so it can slip out if you're using it on your lap. There's also an elastic loop for a stylus.
At the rear are generous cutouts for the speaker, dock connector, buttons and camera. These leave a few areas a little unprotected from sharp objects in your bag, so don't consider it 360-degree protection.
It's stylish and functional, though, and barely more expensive than Apple's Smart Cover, so pretty good value too. Currently, you can buy the Oxford only from iChic's website and as it's a Swiss company, prices appear in Euros. Including delivery to the UK it's approximately £44.
Buy from: www.ichic.com
Belkin Cinema Stripe Folio with Stand, £40
This brand new case has just about all the features we'd want: decent protection, cutouts for all the buttons, speaker, camera and ports plus two different stands. The double fold in the case allows you to position your iPad at the perfect angle, and the rubbery finish prevents it from slipping over at shallower angles. If you flip the cover over the back and tuck it into the tab, it also works as a typing stand. A magnetic catch holds the case shut, and another magnet on the rear holds the flap out of the way when the case is open. More magnets in the cover wake and sleep the iPad, and the tablet itself is held in place and protected at its four corners by tough rubber hooks.
The Stripe version of the case is available in blue, red and black, but there are other designs in the Cinema range, including leather-bound and 'dot' versions. However, we have a couple of reservations. One is that the power button is tricky to access beneath the rubber hook. That's still a minor quibble though compared to the the weight. At 360g, the Cinema Stripe pushes the total weight to over 1kg when you factor in the 660g iPad. It's fine if you won't be holding your iPad for long periods, but we suspect you'll prefer something lighter if you will.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Incipio Flagship Folio, £65
Incipio's brand new Flaghip Folio is a novel take on the folio style. The chunky carbon fibre-like plastic and solid aluminium hinge puts this case a world away from soft, skinny cases and it exudes class. It may be expensive, but it's worth the extra price over lesser folios.
Protection is very good: only the speaker, dock connector and volume controls are exposed - everything else is well shielded. The dock connector cut-out is large enough for accessories such as Apple's camera connection kit and the HDMI adaptor. Inside the front and rear covers is a soft microfibre lining, so your iPad's screen and back panel are safe from scratches.
The iPad clips into the rear section easily, and the Flagship Folio doesn't cover any of the iPad's screen bezel. Magnets operate the sleep/wake function and a tab on the cover clips over the side of the iPad to ensure it stays shut - many folios rely on the magnets.
A series of eight ribs on the inside of the front cover, along with big rubber 'feet' on the two left-hand corners of the rear, enable lots of different viewing angles, although we found our iPad was stable only in the first five positions. Further back than that and the iPad tended to topple forward since the angle was 90 degrees or greater.
The front cover can be folded flat against the rear of the iPad, but this obviously covers the camera (we're not sure why the camera cutout is so large). We also found that the magnets put our iPad to sleep in this position if the cover moves slightly. This only happened a couple of times, though.
Our only other gripe is that the case had a strong chemical smell (possibly the glue), which remained even two weeks after testing. We hope final production samples won't suffer from this when they arrive in June.
Buy from: Allmacshop (due to launch in UK in June 2012)
Brunswick England, £120
This all-leather folio should appeal to executives. It's well padded and adds plenty of protection. A fold in the rear allows it to function as a stand in two positions: one raised up for presentations, and a lower one that's still a little too high for typing. Folded back flat gives a shallow angle that's better for typing, but still not ideal.
Magnets in the cover turn your iPad on when you open it, but there's nothing to keep the cover shut. Magnets are meant to do the job, but they're simply not strong enough. All ports are accessible without removing the iPad from the case, though. The camera cutout is a touch too low, and left photos with a dark vignette at the top. Also available in brown and cranberry.
Buy from: www.proporta.com
Maroo Nylon Cover, £50
Attention-grabbing cases don't come much brighter than this: the Awanui's garish graffiti pattern is sure to get you, and your new iPad, noticed. The back is made from faux black leather, and it's a convincing look. We like the matching graffiti tab on the rear which the front slots into in order to turn the Awanui into a stand.
The blue suede lining provides a nice contrast, and there's a rubber insert which clamps the four corners of your iPad in place, providing protection at the same time. Inside the front cover are elastic corner straps to keep the Awanui closed, and they can also be used to hold it open when you flip the cover around the back. You can slide your hand under the wider elastic strap to help you holding your iPad with one mitt. There's a cutout for the new iPad's rear camera for when you want to take some photos or videos.
As ever, there's a range of other designs to choose from (the retro Mana II with its cassette logo is shown left) if the graffiti isn't your style. The Awanui isn't the cheapest, nor the lightest, but it's very well made, will protect your iPad and costs only £15 more than Apple's Smart Cover.
Buy from: www.coversandcases.com
STM Skinny 3 for iPad 3rd generation, £40
STM’s skinny range has been expanded to include the third-generation iPad. The Skinny 3 has a hard shell back, which the iPad clips securely into. The front is protected by flap, which can automatically wake your iPad. It also allows users to position the iPad in a typing position and a position ideal for FaceTime.
The micro-suede lining left us feeling confident that our iPad’s Retina display won’t be scratched, and there are cut-outs that allow access to all of the ports, buttons and functions including the camera and microphone. A minor quibble is that slotting the strap into position can be fiddly, but it does prevent the cover from slipping out of place. The Skinny 3 is available in Royal blue, black, pink, mushroom or berry (shown here). It's one of the lighest options.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Incipio Premium Kickstand with Stylus, £35
The Premium Kickstand has been updated to ensure compatibility with the new iPad. In practice this means Incipio has added rubber covers to three of the four plastic hooks that hold the iPad in place. We found our new iPad slid comfortably into place and felt secure.
The tri-fold cover allows multiple viewing angles. Instead of a small hinge as with Incipio's Flagship Folio (above), the case is effectively three full-size panels and a rubber section on the inside of the front cover has three grooves that provide three different landscape positions.
For typing, you flip the cover backwards and open up a flap on the outside of the front cover which is held shut by magnets. It opens to an angle determined by three short ribbons, which hold the top edge of the iPad (when in landscape mode) in place at a comfortable angle for typing. It's a unique design that no other case here uses.
The Kickstand is made from tough nylon and is held shut by an elastic strap. The micro-fibre lining on the inside protects both sides of your iPad, but as with the other Incipio cases we've tested, there's a strong smell which we presume is caused by the glue that holds everything together.
Given the price, the bundled stylus makes this case good value - it's held in place on a loop on the middle fold of the case, so is on the inside when the case is shut. It's not the best-quality stylus we've seen, but it's fine for apps such as Draw Something. We found it tricky to get the stylus back in its loop, but other styluses should fit if you prefer to use a different one. See also: Best Stylus for Draw Something.
As well as black nylon, the case is also available in grey nylon and what Incipio calls 'black vegan leather'.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Next page: Seven more specific-fit cases