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iPad folio case roundup: Three great ways to protect your iPad

Some pundits were calling Macworld Expo 2011 the "iPad Case Expo" since there were so many vendors on hand with either "me-too" products or totally unique ideas. While I think that label is somewhat unfair, there were a lot of iPad cases on display at Macworld.

A number of those designs showed up at my office during the show, so I decided to do a quick overview and comparison post of three of the best for TUAW readers. All three of these are what we refer to as folio cases in that they have a front and back cover, much like a book, and they generally provide a way to prop up the iPad in a number of positions. The latter trait of the iPad folio cases makes them the flexible yoga instructors of the iPad case world.

Now, let's take a look at some of these cool cases.

iSkin Aura

For some reason, iPad cases generally seem to fall into one of two categories: good-looking or functional. iSkin has created an iPad case that fits both categories quite well -- the iSkin Aura (US$119.99) is a beautiful case that also provides the functionality that most iPad users expect.

Highlights

Of all of the folio cases that I've seen so far, the iSkin Aura has the most class -- it's like a beautiful female model standing in a field with a bunch of male nerds who represent the rest of the iPad case market. The reason for this is the metallic brush fabric that wraps the Aura in one of three colors -- carbon (metallic black), bronze (metallic beige) and sienna (metallic orange).

While most folio cases fold in some way to give users a choice of screen angles while using the iPad, the Aura is the only one that can be flipped into a typing stand with a "privacy screen." That may sound odd, but it's actually a cool way to type on the iPad at a coffee shop without the person sitting across the table from you seeing exactly what you're writing.

The Aura literally snaps shut with a traditional snap button, ensuring that the case won't open up while you're gallivanting about town. It's also one of the thinnest of the folio case genre; nice, since these cases can tend to be a bit chunky.

Lowlights

The price is a little on the high side. $120 for a case? C'mon, that's almost 25 percent of the price of a base iPad! Also, while the folding capabilities of the Aura are impressive, the first time you try to put it into a specific position you might feel like you're making an origami elephant without reading instructions.

Who is it for?

The person who wants the classiest case in town. The Aura is absolutely stunning, and it's the best-looking and most well-manufactured folio case I've seen.

ZooGue Case Genius, Version 2

The ZooGue Case Genius, Version 2 was probably the most widely seen iPad folio case at Macworld Expo. Why? The manufacturer seemed to be giving out truckloads of these. I think I have an idea why they were giving them away -- the one I have is marked "ZooGue Smart Kase" on the front, and perhaps they rightly thought that the word "smart" and the misspelled word "kase" looked absurd together. The ZooGue Case Genius comes in grey, pink and black.

Highlights

The idea of the ZooGue is that it is it is extremely flexible. The iPad can be propped up at just about any angle, which is unique in the genre of folio cases. It does this through an ingenious application of Velcro on key areas of the case. There's a strap (with Velcro patches on the ends) that can be used to hold the cover closed for carrying or to strap the entire case -- iPad and all -- to a car headrest or any other vertical surface.

The price is right, too. For a case with a thousand uses, the fact that this case sells for only $49.99 is incredible.

Lowlights

I've been using this case since the company handed 'em out at the Press Meetup at Macworld Expo, and I have just a few beefs about it. First, the Velcro is everywhere and sometimes sticks to cloth surfaces that I don't want to attach my iPad to. Second, the velour-like material on the inside of the case is very difficult to clean properly if you spill food on it (that's what I get for playing Monopoly on my iPad while I eat...). Finally, it's a bit on the thick side.

Who is it for?

Anyone who wants an affordable and highly adjustable iPad folio case that can be used in a remarkable number of ways.

NewerTech The Pad Protector

On April 3, 2010 when I was picking up my present iPad at the Aspen Grove Apple Store, the second thing I purchased was one of the standard Apple iPad Cases. That case is still the slimmest available on the market, and it started the trend of folio cases. However, my Apple case started falling apart within about six months, which explains why I'm always looking for the perfect case.

NewerTech recently started shipping The Pad Protector, a $24.95 case that may not be as slim as the original Apple case, but it's much nicer -- and less expensive. It features a leather exterior, a soft suede interior lining, a screen protector to keep your iPad screen from smudging and a nice magnetic closure to keep the cover in the down and locked position. It comes in basic black and an eye-popping red, so you have a choice of colors.

Highlights

Don't take this the wrong way, but I like leather. It has a nice feel to it, it's warmer to the touch than most plastic-based materials, and it ages nicely. The leather used for The Pad Protector has a smooth finish to it, but not so smooth that it will slide out of your hands. While it's thicker than the Apple case, the NewerTech case is designed in a similar manner (it uses a tab that the cover slides into to create a wedge-shape for typing or watching movies). It's much better made than the Apple version, I like the magnetic closure, and the free screen protector is great. It's also one of the least expensive folio cases available.

Lowlights

There's only one that I can think of; I'm wondering if the magnets in the closure might interfere with the electronic compass (magnetometer) that's built into the iPad. Normally, that might not be an issue, but if you're using an iPad app that takes advantage of the magnetometer, like Star Walk for iPad or MotionX GPS Drive HD, the case might cause some interference that would point the compass in the wrong direction. We don't have any proof that it could, but we'll see if we can get an answer from NewerTech. Update: according to the senior product development team member at NewerTech, the magnets do not cause interference issues -- he's used many magnetometer apps without a problem.

Who is it for?

Anyone who wants the luxurious feel of leather, the protection of a relatively thin case and free screen protector, and doesn't want to empty their wallet at the same time.

Conclusion

That's it for this roundup of three popular iPad folio cases. Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments. We'll have a giveaway of several of these cases in a few weeks, so be sure to visit TUAW often to find out when it takes place.

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