UPDATED: 8th August 2013
Got a new iPad? No doubt you're over the moon, but you don't get any protection in the box for all that delicate aluminium and glass. 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 cases here are designed for the third- and fourth-generation iPad. They're both virtually identical to the iPad 2, but are fractionally thicker. See our review comparing the iPad 3 and 4.
You might find that an iPad 2 case will fit an iPad 3 or 4, but our advice is to play it safe and buy one designed specifically for the new model. All the cases you'll find here are compatible with both models (and some with the iPad 2 as well). The only physical difference is the dock connector, as the iPad 4 has the new, smaller Lightning connector. Most cases will have a dock cutout that's designed to accommodate the larger 30-pin connector, but it means they fit the iPad 4 just fine.
M-Edge Trench Runner Jacket, £35
M-Edge isn't a well-known brand in the UK (it's based in the US), but its new military-style Trench Runner Jacket is available to buy from John Lewis. It's the only case we've seen made from cotton canvas, and it has leather 'buckles' which hold the case shut using brass-look press studs.
Unlike most of the folio-style cases in this round-up, the M-Edge Trench Runner Jacket has a non-folding front cover. Instead, the rear cover folds and the 'steps' on the front cover, which are created by a simple fold in the fabric, are used as stops to provide three different viewing angles. We found our iPad was pretty stable in all three positions.
Yet another clever piece of design is the so-called uView mounting system. The iPad clips into a plastic tray, which is reversible so you can't put it on the wrong way and obscure the camera - there's a cutout at opposite corners. This tray clips securely into a bracket on the case itself - the clever part being that you can clip it in both portrait and landscape orientations. The tray can be used as a case of sorts on its own as it has built-in feet, so it can be put down without any risk of scratching the rear of the iPad.
M-Edge makes several cases which support uView, so in theory you could buy more than one and easily clip your iPad into whichever one you fancy. Our hope is that the company will release other accessories so you can attach your iPad to, say, a car headrest or a wall.
There's a knack to the clipping and unclipping process, which involves a considerable amount of force. You align the edge of your iPad with the tab on the case and then push it simultaneously into the tab and downwards onto the bracket. It can be done without pressing on your iPad's screen, thankfully.
Releasing the tray from the bracket requires you to push hard on the tab - so hard you feel as if you might break it, but it does loosen up after a dozen or so attempts. Both clipping and unclipping are best done in mid-air rather than on a flat surface so you can flex the case.
The final trick is that there's no camera cutout as it's possible to slide the tray upwards while attached to the bracket so the camera clears the top edge of the case. Alternatively, you can fold the back cover in half to uncover the camera.
Bear in mind that there are no magnets in the cover, so it won't operate the iPad's sleep/wake function. John Lewis sells only the grey version of the Trench Runner, we hope it will stock the olive green alternative soon. You can buy both colours from M-Edge's website, but expect to pay around £45-50 including shipping.
Buy from: www.johnlewis.com
Everything Tablet 360 Rotating iPad case, £25
Everything Tablet is a small, London-based company and has a range of cases which fit the iPad 2, 3 and 4.
The 360 Rotating case isn't unique (we've seen similar designs before), but it's well designed, comes in a variety of colours and is relatively inexpensive.
Our iPad 4 clipped in tightly and felt well protected by the microfibre lining, plastic rear tray and PU leather cover on the outside. Plus, there's a wide elastic strap to keep the cover closed.
The back panel has generous cut-outs for all ports, buttons and the rear camera. If anything, they're a tad too generous: the top and bottom edges, plus the entire speaker are unprotected.
Inside the front cover are three deep grooves to give you various viewing angles.
Of course, the highlight is the rotating mechanism which means you can turn your iPad to portrait mode and use the same grooves to for different angles. However, only the front two grooves are usable in portrait mode, as the iPad proved too heavy for the rear-most slot, and toppled over.
The fact that you can see the Apple logo through the mechanism is a bonus, though.
We took a look at the bright orange and carbon fibre-effect versions, and liked both equally. It's also available in Gunmetal, baby blue and baby pink.
Buy from: www.everythingtablet.co.uk
Kensington SafeGrip for iPad, £39
It might make Apple’s design wiz Jonathan Ive cringe but the Kensington SafeGrip really does ignore Apple’s fine iPad styling and goes instead for super-rugged protection.
Its chunky, colourful looks make it a great choice for kids, but especially their parents who wince every time little Jonny or Jane bounces off with the family iPad.
It is compatible with the iPad 2, 3 and 4.
It boasts a big handle that will likely limit the number of times it is dropped but if it does hit the floor the all-round padding should cushion the iPad from even precipitous falls. The handle also acts as a stand for viewing and typing. There’s even a groove for fitting a stylus.
The iPad is sunk within the SafeGrip case so the screen gets added protection, too.
The Kensington SafeGrip is a great solution for shared-use environments, and will be equally at home in a classroom as it is around the home.
Buy from: Kensington
BUKcase Originals - Colour Edition for iPad 2/3/4, £40
UPDATED: Buk has updated its original iPad case with a few tweaks, including a hole for the rear camera. Here's the updated review.
Buk is a small company based in Manchester, and hand builds each BUKcase using traditional bookbinding techniques. The result is an iPad case that looks like a hardback notebook, complete with faux bookmark ribbon and elastic strap keeping the cover closed. You also get an individually numbered 'certificate' on the inside front.
The outside is covered in a bookbinding material which looks and feels a bit like leather but is water resistant. The inside is made from buckram, a stiff cloth also used in bookbinding. You can now choose from four vibrant colours: skye blue, spring green, fuschia (pink) and pillarbox red.
Open the case and you'll find a CNC-cut plywood frame, which is glued in place on the back cover of the 'book'. Small foam strips hold your iPad in place, and cutouts provide somewhat tricky access to the iPad's buttons. It isn't difficult plugging in a pair of headphones or the charging cable, but the same can't be said for changing the volume or flipping the mute/rotation switch.
The new Colours Edition case includes a camera cutout on the rear, so you don't have to remove the iPad when you want to use the camera. The hole is well positioned, and nice and large so it doesn't cause any problem when taking photos or videos.
The iPad is held in tightly thanks to the precision-cut frame, and there's decent protection when the elastic strap is used to secure the front cover. The elastic also covers the camera hole, helping to prevent dust and dirt accumulating.
A built-in magnet operates the wake/sleep function. Folding the cover backwards provides a slight angle for more comfortable typing, and you can balance it upright for a suitable angle for watching videos or using FaceTime.
If you're after something a bit different for your iPad and want a case no-one else has, the Buk is a decent choice (but also see Buk's Slim iPad case below). However, other cases are more practical.
Buy from: BUKcase.co.uk
Maroo Drogo, £90
If you want to get your iPad noticed, Maroo's Drogo case (which also fits the iPad 2) is hard to miss. The high-quality leather cover is elaborately embossed with three separate dragon motifs, and has a bright yellow suede interior with matching yellow stitching.
Your iPad is held in place by Maroo's 'Safe Guard Bumper' which clamps the tablet with tough rubber hooks at each corner. Thick padding gives reassuring protection for the screen, and elastic loops keep the case shut.
You can also use the loops to hold the case open and folded back on itself, and there's a thick elastic band on the inside of the cover which you can use to hold the case and iPad steady when you're reading or watching content on the move.
The edge of the cover slots into a tab at the back to provide a stand for watching videos (or using FaceTime). Or, you can put it flat and use it for a comfortable typing angle.
Apart from the high price, which is mostly justified by the materials and excellent build quality, we could find only two slight flaws. One is that the power button is hard to reach as it's obscured by one of the corner hooks, and the other is that the hooks are so tight that they make screen protectors bubble up at the corners.
Both are minor quibbles, especially as built in magnets work with the iPad's wake/sleep function to turn it on and off reliably when you open and close the case. If you can afford it, this is one of the best looking and protective cases we've seen.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Buk Slim case for iPad, £30
If Buk's bulkier wooden case (above) isn't quite right for you, but you want a case that looks like a book, the new Slim version is likely to appeal.
Not only is it cheaper (there's 20 percent off this weekend making it just £24, if you're quick) but it's also thinner and smaller.
The Slim uses the same bookbinding techniques, so it looks and feels like a hard-back notepad, complete with faux bookmark ribbon and elastic strap.
You've a choice of biscuit brown or classic black. We prefer the black.
Instead of plywood, the Slim uses a standard plastic iPad rear shell to hold your iPad firmly in place. Our sample had a shell with cut-outs for Apple's Smart Cover, but Buk can supply one without the hinge cover if you like.
The shell also has cut-outs for all buttons and ports, plus the iPad's speaker.
Flipping the cover back on itself adds a small angle to make typing more comfortable, and the outer material has enough friction to keep the iPad standing upright if you place it like a tent on a tabletop.
Although there's a camera hole in the back of the case, it wasn't quite big enough on our pre-production sample and led to vignettes (dark corners) on photos and videos. We're told this will be fixed in final cases.
This hand-made British case is a good choice if you want something a bit out of the ordinary.
Buy from: BUKcase.co.uk
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, £60
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. It did disappear after a month or so, however.
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk