Smart Cover and compatible rear covers
Apple Smart Cover, £35 (£59 for leather)
The Smart Cover is compatible with the new iPad as well as the iPad 2. It's there to protect the screen from scratches in your bag, but provides little to no protection against drops. It's best used in conjunction with a sleeve or rear cover rather than on its own. Our advice is to avoid the leather versions as they're not very hard-wearing, showing every mark and scratch. The lighter shades of the polyurethane covers can become dirty, but are easily cleaned with a wet wipe.
The Smart Cover was the original cover to include magnets which wake and sleep the iPad, and the same magnets keep it in position when folded into a triangle to provide a typing or viewing stand. When using the Smart Cover in an upright viewing position, the iPad isn't particularly stable and can be knocked over easily. This isn't helped by the third-gen iPad's extra two ounces of bulk.
Although not cheap, the Smart Cover is well made and should last as long as your iPad. The strong magnets that attach it to the side of the iPad mean it's easy to remove and replace it. If you do buy one, we'd advise wiping both the magnet bar and the edge of your iPad - any dirt or dust trapped in the middle will scratch your iPad, as many owners have discovered.
It's certainly one of the slimmest and lightest options, but we recommend buying one of the rear covers below for all-round protection.
Buy from: store.apple.com/uk
Apple chose not to make a companion rear cover to go with the Smart Cover, so plenty of companies have stepped up to the plate to fill the void. Here are a few that fit the new iPad.
Marware MicroShell, £20 from www.mobilefun.co.uk. Also available in Black and Pink. This is a basic polycarbonate cover with a rubberised inside. Cutouts - as you can see - allow easy access to ports and buttons, and there's good protection at the bottom thanks to only a small cutout for the dock port. The speaker is covered, unlike most rear shells, but it does push the weight up.There are also cheaper options.
Belkin Snap Shield, £17 from www.amazon.co.uk. Available in clar and smoked (the latter shown below), the new Snap Shield, specifically for the third-gen iPad protects the top and bottom edges, but has a large cutout for the speaker. It's less than 1mm thick and the Apple logo shows through, even with the smoked version. One of the lightest rear shells around. As there are many Snap Shields for different products, look out for part code: F8N744cw.
Gear4 Angry Birds case for iPad, £30 from www.mobilefun.co.uk. Fans of Angry Birds have a choice of four different designs for a rear shell. If you like red, there's the Red Bird, while the Black Bird and Pig King have predominantly black designs. The Black Bird is also available on a yellow shell.
We like that the case covers the edges of the iPad leaving little exposed to scratches or damage. The cut-outs for ports are quite tight and you'll have to remove the cover to plug in Apple's camera connection kit (or modify the shell with a file to make the cut-out larger). The glossy finish looks good but immediately became covered in fingerprints. You also have to pay a hefty premium for the privilege of having an angry bird printed on the shell.
Incipio Smart Feather for iPad 3, £15-30 depending on colour from www.amazon.co.uk. Incipio has modified its original Smart Feather to fit the new iPad. It comes in the same colours as Apple's polyurethane and leather Smart Covers, so looks like an original Apple cover. We tried the lime version and found that the colour match wasn't quite perfect - the shell matched the microfibre lining of Apple's cover, but not the slightly brighter exterior.
Unusually, the case covers the hinge of the Smart Cover, so you can't remove it without taking off the Smart Feather as well. That will be an instant dealbreaker for some, but it does prevent the Smart Cover becoming detached accidentally. The cutouts at the top and bottom are a bit too generous for our liking, and won't protect your iPad's extremities as well as other rear shells. Incipio generously bundles a screen protector in the box which will save you a few pounds if you'd have bought one separately.
Look for part code IPAD-25x, as it's easy to confuse with the iPad 2 version IPAD-23x.
Incipio NGP for New iPad, £30
This 'next-generation polymer' cover feels like hard rubber and is designed to protect the back and sides of the iPad. The speaker, dock connector, mute switch, headphone ports and microphone are accessible, but the dock connector cut-out isn't large enough for Apple's camera connection kit.
The case covers the power and volume buttons and fits perfectly on the new iPad. So perfectly in fact that it lifted up the corners of the included screen protector when we fitted the case as it overlaps the front of the iPad very slightly. This helps prevent the screen getting scratched if the iPad is placed face-down on a table or desk.
If you're the type that likes to use screen protectors, you'll have to limit the number of times you take the case on and off. The NGP isn't compatible with Apple's Smart Cover which leaves the screen somewhat unprotected. A sleeve would therefore be the best companion. As this case is brand new, prices are currently high but we expect them to drop by up to £10.
Buy from: www.morecomputers.com