Speck HandyShell for iPad 2/3 review
The Speck HandyShell is a sturdy case, stand and handle for the iPad 2 and third-gen iPad. (Despite being advertised as an iPad 2 accessory in some quarters, Speck confirms that it will fit the iPad 3 too.)
You might think that the whole point of an iPad stand is to make the device hands-free: to prop it up at a convenient angle, set a video running and then slump down lifelessly in your chair, or display an online recipe and plunge your hands into a pile of raw meat.
But some stands, such as this iPad 2 and iPad 3-compatible model from Speck (or the cute WhaleTail from Octa), double as handles, designed to make the iPad easier to clutch securely with one hand. The hard hinged loop on the back of this case folds out and you put your thumb through it. (This loop also lets you hang the iPad from a hook or doorknob.)
It’s a bit of a niche feature – an unclad iPad isn’t exactly difficult to hold in one hand – but does make it significantly less drop-prone, with the loop acting as a sort of fail-safe if you let go. It also makes it easier to hold the iPad one-handed without pressing on the screen with your thumb.
And if you drop the iPad, the HandyShell’s protective cladding should stand up to a certain amount of impact damage. It’s hard and sturdy on the rear, and adds a couple of millimetres of tough, rubbery lip around the edge of the screen, which could save the display if it lands on something flat. A screen protector would be a wise complementary precaution for outdoors use.
The combination of handle and drop protection is appealing enough, if possibly overkill for normal iPad use. And you can imagine certain professions that would truly benefit: those in which an iPad is toted around and used continuously throughout the working day. Perhaps doctors doing hospital rounds, couriers who require digital sign-off, or on-site architects.
The rest of us will probably enjoy the HandyShell most as a stable and convenient stand. The stiffness of the hinge is key here: there’s no ‘lock’ point, which means you can prop up the iPad (in portrait orientation) at any angle you like. It also serves in landscape mode, but you’re limited to a single viewing angle, which is about right for watching a film. Typists should look elsewhere.
Other than the lack of a flatter stand position in landscape mode, the HandyShell’s down sides are mostly cosmetic: the two models we looked at are both plain to the point of dreariness, mostly decked out in some very plasticky-looking greys and blacks. They also add a little over 200g to the weight of the iPad (pushing our third-gen iPad up to 872g) and a fair bit of thickness, particularly where the plastic loop sits against the back.
But functionally everything works well: the case is easy to apply (but secure once on) and all the ports, buttons and cameras are easy to access and use normally.
As for the price, an RRP of £49.95 might sound a lot, and is. But we’ve seen the HandyShell available for considerably less online (on Amazon, for instance), so shop around for a good deal.
We can’t quite issue an unqualified blanket recommendation for the Speck HandyShell case/stand, mainly because it forces you to compromise quite a bit in terms of looks and weight; it’s also on the expensive side. But the built-in stand is excellent and the case’s protection is reassuring. For those who carry around an iPad 2 or 3 and use it regularly on the go, the Speck HandyShell is a great option that will make you less likely to drop your tablet, and give you less reason to cry if you do.