Apple may have the best tablet PC bar none, and a sturdy one at that in its real aluminium construction. But it’s not indestructible, and still benefits from a cover that can protect its back and corners. With a good case on the case, you can feel more liberated in using it in most environments, with no fear of it picking up any scratches, dirt or dents.
Tech 21 makes just such cases for many portable devices, including one designed specifically for the iPad.
The Tech 21 Impact Base for iPad 2 is a very snug-fitting rubbery glove that encloses an iPad 2’s back and edges. It’s far from being the only such cover on the market, but it stands above every cover we’ve seen so far in several key areas.
The way it hugs the form of the iPad shows how carefully the designers have paid attention to the important details.
Fitting the case the first time is not the easiest of jobs, and that’s a good thing. It needs a little pulling and teasing to get the tablet into the corners, then some gentle manipulation to pull the front lip over the edges.
Once in place, you’ll find cutouts for the crucial areas of the iPad: the lock switch and rear-facing camera, the microphone and headphone jack on top, and the dock connector below.
Sleep and volume buttons have raised button-shape areas that still allow these to be pressed (if with more difficulty than the naked buttons), and there are perforations over the iPad’s mono speaker that allow it to still be heard clearly.
Where some cases provide the various holes in close-enough positions to allow the required access, the Impact Base has apertures so precisely molded around the ports, you’d think it was grown around them.
Once slipped on, you notice a couple of areas that Tech 21 has missed. The left side is bereft of rubber edge – that’s to allow Apple’s own magnet-fastened Smart Cover to still be attached. With a Smart Cover snapped in place, you get to appreciate two more neat touches.
One is the way the Smart Cover still rolls flat against the screen, its raised slats fitting inside the Impact Base’s front lip so perfectly, the cover lies easy when closed.
The other clever touch is the other area that Tech 21 deliberately left clear – a 20mm cutout on the right side. This lets you easily lift up the Smart Cover from its closed position, by hooking your thumb inside to lift the cover.
The Tech 21 Impact Base for iPad 2 is actually fabricated from not rubber but thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a material with good non-slip properties and thick enough to safeguard against most knocks.
But the ace up the Impact Base’s sleeve is the advanced polymer that’s lining the inside of the cover, circumnavigating the iPad’s most vulnerable vertex – its edges. Tech 21 has used an inlay of patented D3O material here, recognisable by its trademark orange colour.
D3O is a dilatant material, one whose viscosity increases under shock. So while it may be relatively malleable, even free-flowing, under normal conditions, its molecules lock tight together when stressed.
In other words, it’s mostly bendy until you strain or shock it, when it becomes very hard and stiff. And quite suited to taking impulsive blows by locking up into a harder substance, shield-like.
It’s just those properties that make it a great protector for potentially delicate mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Colour me covered
The Impact Base comes in a range of colours to specifically match Apple’s Smart Cover, namely powder blue, prosthetic pink, lime green, light grey, orange, and black.
Missing from the colour line-up are four from the Smart Cover leather edition options: cream, tan, navy and RED.
Slipping an Impact Base on your iPad 2 will of course increase its weight and thickness, but not inordinately so. Our iPad 2 3G is 8.85mm thick and weighs 605g when nude. The Impact Base itself weighs 127g, and with it and an Apple Smart Cover in place, you’re looking at 870g total mass, and an overall thickness of 13mm.
Or 10.8mm and 732g, for just the iPad 2 and Impact Base.
As with any case solution, it does make the iPad 2 a little more wearing to support in one hand in longer reading sessions.
It’s a small price to pay for the level of protection it offers against casual scratches, and the peace of mind in knowing that your tablet investment is much more safe from harm if dropped.
And as reassuring – and markedly so when combined with the Smart Cover – you get a very solid, professional-looking package of integrated tablet, rear cover and top cover that feel made for each other, an ensemble that will take life’s knocks in its stride.