Best Cheap iPad Cases
Published on By Raechel Conover
STM Skinny Review
From $35 Best
Reviewers call this iPad case an outstanding value. It garners high praise from experts and users for providing effective protection while staying true to the iPad's sleek design. Many point to the tongue-and-loop closure, which secures the cover when the iPad is carried around in a bag, for instance, and could turn on by accident. It keeps the screen protected and preserves the battery life.
STM Skinny reviews at iLounge and The Wirecutter highlight this iPad case as an outstanding value, saying it comes highly recommended. Why? It has a precise fit, a protective outer shell, and a front cover that works well with the iPad's screen-activation feature, explains the reviewer at iLounge. Also impressive is the all-over protection this case brings to the table. It covers the corners, top, and bottom of the iPad, a design The Wirecutter specifically looked for and deems necessary in an iPad case. Judging by STM Skinny reviews on Amazon, users are similarly enthusiastic about this case. One consumer admires it for walking the fine line between superior protection and a slim profile -- a must for many iPad owners.
The STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35, Amazon) provides complete protection against daily jostling with a hard outer shell, soft inner lining, and durable, water-resistant fabric while maintaining easy access to the ports, buttons, speakers, and camera. The front cover folds back when the iPad is in use to create a stand for typing or viewing. The stand is held securely in place with the case's tongue-and-loop closure. When closed, the front cover uses built-in magnets to activate the iPad's sleep mode. The closure keeps the cover in place during transport to preserve battery life. The STM Skinny comes in five different color options for second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads, as well as a version for the iPad Mini.
With experts exalting its protective powers and users loving the sleek design, we can't help but think the STM Skinny is truly the best option for iPad owners looking to protect their devices from the trials of everyday use. For a low price tag, what more can you ask?
Where to buy
Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 Review
From $40 Best
This case gets credit from experts and consumers for retaining the aesthetic integrity of the iPad itself while keeping it safe. The Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 is designed much like Apple's own Smart Case but wins reviewers' favor with fuller protection and functionality. An included water-resistant sleeve also raises the bar.
This iPad case is a favorite of The Wirecutter, where a Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 review cites the classic design and magnetic front cover. In a hands-on test, the magnets kept the iPad firmly in sleep mode when the cover was closed and readily woke the iPad when the cover was opened. The cover also folds up into a stand for typing and (portrait or landscape) viewing and proved very sturdy through some tough nudges. In SmartSuit 3 reviews on Amazon and B&H, many users agree that the case is slim yet protective and sturdy in any position.
The Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40, Amazon) outfits iPads from the second generation and beyond. (It's also available for the iPad Mini.) It has a hard outer shell and provides coverage to all sides and corners to prevent damage from small impacts, dust, and smudges. When the iPad is in use, the magnets in the cover align with the back to hold the cover open. As an added bonus, the SmartSuit 3 comes packaged in a "green" way with a reusable, water-resistant sleeve for added protection and a mouse pad instead of packing foam.
For iPad owners looking for a cheap case that is similar to Apple's Smart Cover or Smart Case, reviews suggest this one is a better value. The ability to pin back the front cover when the iPad is in use helps set this case apart from others like it. All in all, it's hard to go wrong with the Joy Factory SmartSuit 3.
OtterBox Defender Review
From $60 Good
IPad owners looking for maximum protection have found it in the OtterBox Defender iPad case. Many reviewers express gratitude for its toughness and describe the various ways they've put an iPad through the wringer, only to have it come out looking brand new underneath this case.
This iPad case won't satisfy buyers seeking the slimmest profile or the lowest price, but if you're rough on electronics and need maximum protection, OtterBox Defender reviews say this is the case for you. Take this review from an Amazon customer, whose two kids have not been kind to the iPad. The device has reportedly been peed on, spilled on, bumped, and dropped but remains in like-new condition thanks to the OtterBox Defender. Further proof of the case's value lies in the nearly 2,000 other five-star OtterBox Defender reviews on Amazon. Consumers who have posted reviews on the Target website are similarly favorable. One reviewer tells of a husband who tosses the iPad in and out of the car daily for work and a 6-year-old who slings it around the house -- yet there isn't a scratch on it.
OtterBox makes the Defender iPad case so protective by combining several layers: an inner shell of high-impact polycarbonate, a foam interior to absorb shock, and a silicone outer layer. A textured exterior makes it easier to grip the device without dropping it. There is also a screen protector to guard against scratches and fingerprints. A protective shield can be snapped onto the front of the case when the iPad isn't in use and on the back when the device is activated. This shield has several functions, including magnets to trigger the iPad's sleep mode when it's put away and wake it up when the cover is removed and a sort of kickstand to prop up the iPad for typing and portrait or landscape viewing. This comprehensive case covers all the sides and corners of the iPad and flexible silicone covers all the ports to keep dust and other foreign materials away. The only thing the OtterBox Defender does not claim to protect against is water. It comes in five combinations of black or gray with an accent color, as well as solid black, for the iPad 2, 3, and 4. There is also an iPad Mini version.
The OtterBox Defender (starting at $60, Amazon) is one tough case -- the only one we found that was even tested against drops. If heavy-duty protection is your No. 1 priority, then this is the way to go. How can hundreds of five-star reviews be wrong?
Khomo Dual Case Review
From $20 Think Twice
User after user finds fault with the Khomo Dual Case, which appears to be an attempt at a cheap replica of the Apple Smart Case. From a front cover that doesn't stay closed to flimsy material, the complaints about this case outnumber the compliments. One of the only things it seems to have going for it is the variety of colors it comes in.
Khomo Dual Case reviews are confined almost exclusively to Amazon and tend more toward the negative than reviews of the other cases we researched. One oft-cited annoyance is the magnets in the front cover. These are supposed to keep the cover on and the iPad in sleep mode when it's not in use and also keep the cover folded up to act as a stand, but they're too weak to do so. Most users find this unacceptable, given that it renders two important features essentially useless. Others report that the front cover begins to fray after just a short time and doesn't make a stable stand, putting the iPad at risk of toppling over easily. To make matters worse, numerous Khomo Dual Case reviews report that the polycarbonate back cover is flimsy and not protective at all.
The front cover of the Khomo Dual Case (starting at $20, Amazon) is made from polyurethane -- the same material as the Apple Smart Cover and Smart Case, which appeals to a lot of buyers. This case is designed to protect against hazards of daily use such as dust, scratches, fingerprints, and small jostles but not rougher treatment. It comes in nine different colors, the widest range of any case on our list.
Overall reviews are mixed on the Khomo Dual Case. Users often mention that they like the look of the case, but many are disappointed in its durability and minimal level of protection, as well as the instability of the stand. This leads us to believe that consumers would be better off spending a bit more on a better case.
Some people prefer to use an Apple iPad sans case, but with a $499 starting price for the newest full-size model, it's worth picking up a cheap iPad case to keep the coveted device safe. Covers and sleeves also offer a bit of protection, but you have to remove them to use the iPad, leaving it vulnerable. A cheap iPad case stays on your iPad to provide protection not only at rest or during transport but also during use. A good case may cost more than a cover or a sleeve, but you don't need to spend more than $60 to get maximum protection against jostles, shocks, and scratches.
Cheap iPad Case Buying Guide
Before adding unnecessary bulk to your device, try to gauge the level of protection you need. If you're using your iPad on a construction site, for example, a durable case like the OtterBox Defender (starting at $60) makes a good choice. However, most users will get ample protection with the sleeker, less expensive STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35) or Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40), our picks for best cheap iPad case. The Khomo Dual Case (starting at $20) appeals with its slim build and low price but doesn't seem to hold up even to normal wear and tear.
All the cheap iPad cases we recommend are compatible with second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads (they also come in iPad Mini versions) and have a couple of key features.
Wake/Sleep Compatibility.The iPad has an automatic sleep/wake functionality that's triggered by a compatible case with a magnetic front cover. This allows the device to activate automatically when you open the cover and revert to sleep mode when you close it to prolong battery life between charges. All the cheap iPad cases that we reviewed have this feature, but some manufacturers have mastered it better than others.
Even otherwise positive reviews of the Khomo Dual Case on Amazon gripe about weak magnets that don't keep the iPad on sleep mode and drain the battery. Some say this flaw makes the case all but useless. The wake/sleep feature works very well on the STM Skinny, Joy Factory SmartSuit 3, and OtterBox cases, according to reviews. The Wirecutter reports that the magnets on the Joy Factory model hold the cover on and keep the iPad asleep even when it's turned facedown. The magnets also snap to the back of the case to hold the cover open as you use the device. An iLounge review of the STM Skinny says the magnets work well and points to the tongue-and-loop closure design, which makes doubly sure the cover will stay in place and keep the iPad in sleep mode on the go.
Stands.Reviews indicate that a stand is a very popular feature. All the cases we researched have some sort of stand to prop up the iPad for viewing or typing. The front cover of the STM Skinny for iPad acts as a stand when folded backward; the tongue-and-loop closure holds it in place. The iPad can be stood up vertically (in portrait or landscape) or laid down at a slight incline so it's propped up for typing. Several users who have posted reviews on Amazon comment that the iPad feels sturdy when the stand is in place and the angle is perfect for typing. The protective cover on the OtterBox Defender also doubles as a stand when the iPad is in use, but it lies flat rather than folding over and a sort of kickstand pops up from the center. Reviews on Amazon indicate that the setup is very sturdy and useful for either viewing or typing.
On this front, the Khomo Dual Case gets dinged once again in reviews. The front cover, which folds in three places to create a stand, is said to lose its rigidity after just a few uses and generally offer flimsy support that collapses easily. The similarly designed Joy Factory SmartSuit 3, on the other hand, gets many compliments from users in reviews at the online storefront of electronics retailer B&H. They report that the folding front cover makes a very sturdy and solid stand, while holding the iPad at the perfect angle.
Appearance.Finally, if you're concerned with colors and designs for your cheap iPad case, this is the only area where the Khomo Dual Case excels. It comes in nine different colors -- more than any other case on our list. The OtterBox Defender Case comes in six color combinations; the STM Skinny for iPad comes in five colors, while the Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 comes in four solid colors and five subtle designs, most of them neutral.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
STM Skinny Review
Materials/Construction Hard-shell back, water-resistant fabric, microsuede lining
Wake/Sleep Compatibility Yes
Stand Yes (folding cover)
|35||Hard-shell back, water-resistant fabric, microsuede lining||Yes||Yes (folding cover)||Five|
Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 Review
Materials/Construction Hard-shell back,
Wake/Sleep Compatibility Yes
Stand Yes (folding cover)
|40||Hard-shell back,||Yes||Yes (folding cover)||Four/Five|
OtterBox Defender Review
Materials/Construction Silicone outer layer (textured for better grip), polycarbonate inner shell with foam interior and built-in screen protector, shield stand
Wake/Sleep Compatibility Yes
Stand Yes (built into shield)
|60||Silicone outer layer (textured for better grip), polycarbonate inner shell with foam interior and built-in screen protector, shield stand||Yes||Yes (built into shield)||Six|
IPad Case Reviews
Materials and Protection.Judging by iPad case reviews, consumers want something that will protect the back of the device from scratches and the glass front from breakage without taking too much away from the sleek design of the iPad. In making our picks, we looked for protective cases made from durable, quality materials that cover not only the back and/or front of the iPad but also the corners, top, and bottom when the iPad is in use, as well as when it's not. We found all of these qualities in our top choice, the STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35). The hard shell on the back of the case is combined with a soft microsuede lining and the entire case is covered in durable, water-resistant fabric to add an additional level of protection against spills. An iPad/iPhone specialist at iLounge reports in his review of the STM Skinny that the case provides additional protection to the corners, top and bottom of the iPad by covering them completely and the device fits very securely into the case.
The Wirecutter's favorite case and our other top pick, the Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40), also provides this all-around coverage without adding a lot of bulk to the iPad. It has a hard shell on the outside, which The Wirecutter calls "solid" based on a hands-on test, and comes in a a reusable water-resistant sleeve, which adds protection when you're on the go. One user who posted a SmartSuit 3 iPad case review on Amazon tells of a time when she dropped a thin bag carrying her iPad on concrete and the device survived without a single nick or scratch, thanks to this protective case.
If you need more than just day-to-day protection, our runner-up, the OtterBox Defender iPad case (starting at $60), is going to be your best bet. Even at its cheapest, this case falls at the top end of the Cheapism range of $60 or less, but consumers who are familiar with OtterBox cases don't seem to mind paying the price. (The Defender Series is a popular choice among iPhone owners, as well.) The OtterBox Defender iPad case comprises an inner shell made from high-impact polycarbonate and a foam interior for shock absorption, as well as a silicone outer layer to absorb impacts. The textured feel enhances the user's grip on the device to help keep it from being dropped and a built-in screen protector prevents scratches and other damage. The case also comes with a protective shield that can be snapped onto the front when transporting the iPad or onto the back when the device is in use to add an additional layer of protection.
Nearly 2,000 reviewers on Amazon give the OtterBox Defender a five-star rating. Users evidently can't say enough in iPad case reviews about the level of protection this model provides. Whether they're tossing the iPad into a car or letting a toddler run around with it, users trust this case to stand up to the challenge of protecting the device through it all. The only true gripe we found was that some don't like the built-in screen protector because they feel it compromises the Retina display. However, many reviewers suggest a quick fix: Just remove the screen protector and apply a different one or use none at all.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Khomo Dual Case (starting at $20) is considered a minimalist case. It's modeled off of Apple's own Smart Case, with a hard, polycarbonate back cover and a front cover made from polyurethane, designed to protect the iPad from dust, scratches, fingerprints, and small impacts. Consumers who have posted iPad case reviews on Amazon (where the Khomo Dual Case is exclusively sold) report many problems. This review is one representative example: The user writes that the plastic used is thin and flimsy and would never provide adequate protection. Many others agree that the cheap quality of this case makes it a poor value.
The similarly minimalist Apple Smart Cover (starting at $39) and Smart Case (starting at $39) are the default options for many iPad owners. The cover protects only the screen when the iPad is dormant and the case adds coverage for the back and edges. Although these cases are priced in the same range as our recommendations, both provide far less protection for the money.