A few hours before the opening keynote at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, we reported that Apple was set to unveil an all-new iPad. We did not get a product demo at the keynote. Fast-forward a few hours after the event, and the Polyurethane Case appeared on the Apple Store. As an alternative to the Smart Cover that unveiled with the iPad 2, which provides only screen protection, the Smart Case offers full back and front protection for $10 more than the $39 Smart Cover. It is available in six colors (without tax at Adorama), and free engraving is available if ordered online. So, is the Smart Case the case you need to protect your iPad? Read on for the full review (including video) below.

I have never been one to put cases on my gadgets, because I believe it takes away from the design that the engineers intended (perhaps that is why my iPhone is slightly cracked). But seeing how the iPad is big, has a slick back, and it is pretty darn expensive, I can understand people’s need to cover it to ease the pain if it is dropped. So today, I bought both cases to give them a whirl. I used both throughout the day for reading and dallying around in a few apps. I am not going to review the older Smart Cover, because it has been around and works well.

So, the new case. Since Apple does not sell any other iPad case besides its own offerings in its brick and mortar stores, it probably sells a ton of these things. I think the public loves to have their gadgets covered, and they will buy one upon first purchasing their iPad. Putting on the Smart Case is straightforward, though it takes a bit of pushing. You simply just tilt the side of the iPad to the left and shove its right side in (like most cases). It takes a little pushing, but it eventually snuggles in there. I have to say the Smart Cover is much easier to put on, because you just line the cover up and smack the magnet down.

On the side of the case, you will find open ports to control the volume rocker and mute or portrait lock switch. On the bottom, there is a speaker grill, so sound is amplified. In my experience, everything sounds just fine, because the case does not take away any noise as one might expect. No accessibility is taken away with this case too, which is nice.

However, upon first putting on the case, its biggest problem already began to scream out. There is a sizable amount of space between the corners of the device. The space causes the iPad to slightly slip around inside, which is very, very annoying. It is horrific. I am not sure why there is so much space, perhaps to make it easier to put on. Nevertheless, it is very troublesome.

The second troubling point comes along as the case is in your hands. Lying on the couch while doing my normal Sunday reading, I felt the sides of the case digging into my hands. It is not painful by any means, but it is definitely annoying. It is also something that I do not experience with either the Smart Cover or naked iPad.

One area I feel like the case does well in is overall protection. If I were to drop my iPad, I think it would survive thanks to the case—especially in the back. The back of the case is strong, along with the sides (maybe that is why it is uncomfortable in the hands). The Smart Case offers protection that I do not think the Smart Cover can offer; however, I do not think it has as much protection as the infamous and oh-so-strong Otterbox.

There is one feature that the front of the case and its cover offer: the magnetic front. You can open it to turn the device on, which is a much-appreciated feature. Secondly, it can double as both a folding stand and a keyboard stand for typing with Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. When folding the magnetic cover back on the case, I did notice that the magnet is not nearly as strong as it is on the Smart Cover. It does not like to stick as much, which is very frustrating.

Wrap-up

I outlined the issues with the Smart Case: the space that causes the iPad to slide around inside, the weak magnet, and it is uncomfortable in the hand. Like I said, there is one area where it excels, and that is the overall protection.

To wrap-up, the Smart Case does not feel like an Apple product. I would not call it cheaply made, but it does feel a little incomplete and dainty in more than a few areas. If you are especially worried about dropping your iPad, I guess the Smart Case is a good solution. However, other offerings —like the Otterbox— might do better. If you are just looking to use the Smart Case on a daily basis…look elsewhere. The Smart Case is sloppy and not well constructed.

Conclusion:

Apple’s Smart Cover certainly feels like a better solution at $14 less. Check out the full gallery below:

iPad Smart Cover