3 iPad Air Cases that Won’t Weigh it Down [UPDATED]

| Analysis

Protection is important for your iPad Air, but one doesn't want a case that defeats that airy feeling that it's known for. This is a review of three cases from iLuv, Newertech, and Speck that are in the 6 to 9 ounce (170 to 255 g) range They're not the lightest possible cases, but the protection is good.

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The iPad Air weighs just a little over a pound. At 28 percent lighter that the previous generation, it doesn't seem like much, but the effect is astonishing. Accordingly, to preserve that feeling, one would prefer a case that affords good protection but doesn't weigh the iPad Air down. Anything in the 1 to 6 ounce range would be extraordinary and preserve that airy feeling.

The cases reviewed here are some of the earliest available. They're mid-weight, in the 6 to 9 ounce range. Even though they weigh more than one might wish, all were judged to have very good protection. Plus, the combined weight is more or less the same as the bare 1.46 pound iPad 4.

1. Speck StyleFolio for iPad Air ($39.95)

This case is very similar to the Speck FitFolio for iPad mini previously reviewed. There is a plastic back, with a soft lining, that leaves all ports open including a special acoustic scoop for the speakers  When you click the iPad in, it's there to stay, and it's just a bit of a tussle to extract it easily and safely.

Speck StyleFolio

Attached to that plastic back is an outer flap, a lid, that does double duty as a cover for the display but also folds to provide a platform for propping up the iPad. Four grooves inside the lid allow one to adjust the angle.

In order to achieve that, the lid must be hinged on the back at the midline of the the iPad, and that may not suit some users. It seems inelegant. Notable are the many different available colors and a clasp that keeps the lid closed.

There is no magnetic wake/sleep function.

I liked the idea of leaving the power button exposed because some push-through designs make pressing that button difficult. On the negative side, the iPad is hard to remove from its clutches. While the iPad's speakers appear covered, the design uses acoustic scoops to redirect the sound forward. After some testing, it seemed to me that the improvement was barely noticeable, and much less effective than simply cupping your hand around a bare iPad Air.

Summary

The weight is 8.6 ounces (244 grams) and the protection is very good. The vegan leather feels soft and warm. One problem I can see with a case like this is that when you fold the cover flap around, the camera lens is blocked.

Finally, the folding design and the way the iPad Air is propped up seems subject to slippage. The iPad is hard to remove.  All in all, this case gets a 3/5, solid rating. It's just not an exciting, lovable case compared to others I've seen.

2. iLuv Simple Folio for iPad Air ($39.99)

This is a much better case, in my opinion, than the Speck StyleFolio. The iPad is held place by friction with the frame and backing, which is nicely soft and rubbery, plus a folding flap. The iPad is in there to stay, but it's a lot easier to remove in a hurry.

iLuv Simple Folio

The cover flap also folds around, but does so without hinging in the middle of the back. Instead, the cover flap folds around to tuck into an ornamental piece of fabric. The two different orientations for propping it up work because the iPad knows how to flip the display. While there are only two orientations to prop it up, the design is more elegant and makes for a nicer case, hinged at the side of the iPad.

Like the Speck case, when you fold the cover flap around for reading, the camera lens is blocked. I bring that up because you may be reading or browsing, then see something you want to quickly photograph. It's awkward when the flap is in the way.

There are only two available colors, black and red. But the red is bright and attractive. Instead of a clasp, there's an elastic band that deploys to keep the lid shut.

There is no magnetic sleep/wake function.

Summary

The weight is 9.3 ounces (263 grams), a bit more than one would like. This case starts to make you lose that airy feeling, but the protection, good design, easy iPad removal and geometric propping instead of tongue and groove propping seems like a better way to go. Still, unless designed for it, it seems folio case makers are forever doomed to cover the camera when the cover is folded back. Even so, I liked this case, and it earns a 3.5/5 rating.

Finally, I was told my one case representative that Apple did not share magnet information (for sleep/wake) to the case makers for the iPad AIr. No more explanation was provided.

3. Newertech Nuguard KX for iPad Air ($89.95)

This is a different kind of case, a shell case that wraps around the back plus a little bit around the front edge, but leaves the display exposed. While that may seem like a bad thing, it's an advantage for fairly safe environments. Plus, it leaves the camera lens always exposed, as any iPhone's case would. However, unlike the folio cases which have a flap that protects the display duing travel, throwing this case into a backpack is problematic unless you buy an additional plastic or tempered glass display protector.

Newertech Nuguard KX

 

The case material is an exceptionally cushiony and lightweight, and the light and airy feeling of the iPad Air is better preserved than the two cases above.

The power/sleep button is covered with a push-through button, but the action remains easy and light to the touch.

The only available color is a dark gray. It complements my space gray and black iPad Air well, but the photos of it on a silver/white iPad Air suggest a pleasing contrast of dark gray and white.

Also, this case is quite a bit more expensive than the other two reviewed here. My take is that the material is somewhat more exotic and expensive to manufacture. The grip is excellent, and you'll feel more like a starship officer holding this case and iPad. The two folio cases above make one feel as if reading a conventional book.

One notable thing about this case is that the opening at the bottom for the Lightning conector and the stereo speakers is ribbed, providing extra strength. I also found it very easy to insert and remove the iPad Air from this case.

Like many shell cases, this one wraps around to the front just slightly so that when you lay it face down, the display is protected. What's notable here is that the case's edge is a bit thicker than gel cases, so that the protection, that is, the distance from the table surface, is even greater. It was a good feeling for me.

Summary

At 6.4 ounces (182 grams), this case still had that (almost) feeling of a lightweight iPad Air. It's about the heaviest case that can do that in my subjective analysis.

For those who would prefer a wrap around shell case, and this is a very good one. It has all the right features, feels good, looks good, is grippy and thick and cushiony. The push-through power button has a light feel. However, when I recently had to toss my iPad Air into a briefcase for a short trip, I replaced it with a folio case to protect the display. Easy on and easy off is the key in that scenario. For everyday use in an office, this is a great case. The TMO rating is 4/5.

Recommendation: include a tempered glass display protector.

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Update #1: Other World Computing is currently selling the Nugurd KX case for $49.95.

Update #2. Review and rating of the Speck StyleFolio updated to reflect the use of the acoustic scoops.

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  Speck
StyleFolio
iLuv
Simple Folio
Newertech
Nuguard KX
Style Folio Folio Shell
Weight, oz. (grams) 8.6 (244) 9.3 (263)  6.4 (182)
Power Switch Exposed Exposed Push-thru
Colors Many, solid & patterned
See Product URL
Red, black Dark Gray
Magnetic sleep/wake No No N/A
Materials Vegan Leather

Synthetic leather/

Oxford fabric

X-Orbiting gel
Features Clasp, display
protector
Closure strap Leightweight
Thickly cushioned
Price $39.95 $39.99 $89.95
Rating 3/5 (solid) 3.5/5 (solid+) 4/5 (great)

Comments

CjR

I looked at the ones above, but wasn’t impressed. Subsequently ordered the brand new Logitech Folio Cover for the iPad Air. Just got it today. Minimalist cover, but durable. Inside soft and smooth. Clips hold tablet snugly. Has awake/sleep cover. Excellent protection. I pre-ordered it from Logitech and it was released November 12. Highly recommended.

ed 1

Did you actually buy these and test them out? Or just read the descriptions on amazon.

blakey

I’m surprised there aren’t more listed here with so many available. Any chance on reviewing the premium cases like Grove (http://grovemade.com) or Treegloo (http://treegloo.com) ?

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