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Sleeve360 and HandStand for iPad 2: Smackdown of the rotating iPad cases

In January, I wrote a review of the Sleeve360 "wearable" iPad case that had just hit the market at that time. I saw the Sleeve360 team at Macworld Expo a few weeks later, and was happy to see that they were selling a pile of the cases. In April, I gave away a HandStand iPad case that was similarly endowed with a hand-gripping, rotating mount on the back. Now that the two cases have been brought up to date in the iPad 2 era, join me in a smackdown of the two cases and see which reigns supreme.

Sleeve360 for iPad 2

The US$59.99 Sleeve360 for iPad 2 is similar in design to the original model, which is also available at $39.99 from the Sleeve360 website. As with the previous version, the iPad 2 edition features a locking "door" that snaps shut in three locations around the frame of the case. I felt that the locking mechanism on the newer case has a more solid feel and gives audible feedback -- a healthy click -- when the primary locking tab is closed.

The case is an attractive black material that mimics the black bezel of some iPad 2s. If you own a white iPad 2, you may be sad to find that your cherished device suddenly looks like the black version -- there is no white version available. There are cutouts in the Sleeve360 for the dock connector, the speaker, the two cameras, and all of the other iPad controls. I was glad to see that the Sleeve360 folks made changes based on some input I provided in my original review -- the old case used to partially cover the screen of the iPad, while the new one is almost a perfect fit in terms of just covering the bezel.

Another solid change is the thickness of the case. The original was too thick in some places, which made it difficult to handle the iPad controls. Not so anymore -- the sleep/on-off button is now easily accessible, as are the other switches on the device. The difference is that the case is not only thinner and a bit more rigid, but the designers have added a beveled channel around each switch or port.

Everything about the Sleeve360 seems improved from the original iPad model. The adjustable strap, although identical in appearance to the initial version, seemed more comfortable to my hands. The rotating mechanism was a pain to remove on the earlier version, and it took a look at the instructions to figure it out. On the new model? Just push in two silver tabs and the mechanism pops out. Want to put the mechanism back on? Just align the circular mechanism with the hole on the back of the iPad and push the mechanism in until it clicks.

As with the previous version, you can flip out the handle to act as a stand in either landscape or portrait mode. The difference with this version is that even popping the handle out seems to be easier than before.

All in all, it's obvious that the Sleeve360 designers listened intently to owner feedback and improved their product. There's even a nice black velour carrying bag to pop your iPad 2 and Sleeve 360 into for more protection. The price is $10 more than the original Sleeve360 was when it came out, but I think even at the higher price it's worth it.

HandStand for iPad 2

Now let's take a look at a competing rotating case, the $49.95 HandStand for iPad 2. Unlike the Sleeve360, the HandStand comes in three different colors -- black, white, and pink. All three models are made of 100% recycled and recyclable materials.

Putting an iPad 2 into the HandStand takes a bit of work. It's a solid piece of silicone rubber that doesn't really stretch all that much. I found that I needed to grab a plastic spudger to wedge the iPad 2 into the case. This was also the point where I discovered that a plastic spudger, when jammed into your hand with enough force, can cause injury and bleeding.

After putting a Band-Aid onto my wound, I gave the HandStand a spin. Like the Sleeve360, the HandStand rotates through a full 360°. There's a small ridge of plastic that your fingers go over when holding the device, which does give you the feeling that you're really connected to the HandStand. Unfortunately, the elastic strap that holds your hand in place is a fixed size and can't be adjusted to comfortably fit a hand.

I found this to be the biggest issue with the HandStand. I have fairly small hands for a man, and yet I felt that the strap was too tight. I feel sorry for anyone with large hands who has to try to use this case. Between the tight strap and the plastic ridge for your fingers, it took only about three minutes for the HandStand to become uncomfortable for me to hold.

One other issue with the HandStand is that it's not really a "stand." While that ridge does prop up your iPad when it's placed on a table, it only gives it a tiny bit of a bump. If you're looking for something that is going to let you prop the iPad 2 up vertically for watching movies, the HandStand isn't going to do the job for you.

The HandStand doesn't cover up your iPad 2 bezel, so if you own a white model, you can still revel in the gleaming beauty of that pristine plastic. Of the two products, the HandStand does look better.

And the winner is...

The Sleeve360 for iPad 2, hands-down (bad pun intended). This case is much easier to put on and take off, the rotation mechanism can be easily removed, and it the case really does work well as a stand in either portrait or landscape mode. The hand strap adjustability and lack of the "finger ridge" make the Sleeve360 much more comfortable to wear for an extended amount of time.

If you need to hand carry an iPad 2 for extended periods of time, what case are you using? Let us know in the comments.