When the iPad 2 came out I happily purchased the Smart Cover. Over time I’ve developed an appreciation for its screen protection and stand functionality, but I can’t accept having absolutely no protection for the back. So, I went shopping.
My goal was to find something that would: be a perfect fit, protect the device, work nicely with the Smart Cover, and not add too much bulk or weight. Those requirements led me to XGear’s Smart Cover Enhancer, one of the many available back covers (more reviews forthcoming!).
The Enhancer snaps on and grips the iPad securely: no gaps or loose edges. All of the cutouts for ports/buttons/switches and the speaker are impeccably honed. The cutouts are centered around each function and the material is tapered, thus avoiding hard edges.
Smart Cover sleep/wake operation works perfectly and is not at all affected by the Enhancer.
XGear thoughtfully considered how the Smart Cover works as a stand when engineering the case.
As a hard case, it should provide basic protection (against scratches, dings, etc.) and it does so very well. It’s worth noting that the top and bottom edges are left unprotected, but I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I like being able to see and feel some of the actual device.
I wish we had an equivalent for the foodie term “mouth feel” to describe how gadgets feel in our hands. It’s difficult to describe the Smart Cover Enhancer’s texture. It has a soft finish that feels like something between micro-suede and rubber. I like the finish for two reasons: the softness is nice to the touch and it gives the iPad just enough resistance to keep it from sliding off of most surfaces too easily. Although it’s definitely not grippy or tacky like silicon. Note: You can buy it in black or clear. I’m not sure that the clear version has the same texture.
The cover is thick enough to provide protection and thin enough to avoid adding notable bulk (pictured next to the iPad 1 with Apple’s case).
As a very thin cover it can’t possibly add that much weight, right? On its own the Enhancer weighs very little but somehow the iPad feels noticeably (but not overwhelmingly!) heavier with it on. This is hardly a scientific measure, but the iPad 2 feels about as heavy (again, with the Smart Cover and the Enhancer) as the original iPad with the Apple cover. This is only an issue because I really appreciate the iPad’s newfound svelteness. 🙂 If you are committed to keeping your device as light as possible, I’d opt for a silicon skin.
The Enhancer is available on XGear’s website and is currently $27.99 (it was $34.99 when I bought it — grr). Maybe it’s just me but even the discounted price seems a bit high. Part of me thinks (in my grandfather’s curmudgeonly voice) “it’s a thin piece of plastic for crying out loud!” Obviously the price wasn’t that much of a disincentive. Overall, I’m happy with the protection it provides, the top-notch build quality/attention to detail, and the fact that I’m no longer thinking about scratches, scuffs, and all a host of other unfortunate ways to mar such an elegant chassis.
What I Like: Perfect fit; high quality construction; harmonious with Smart Cover; nice tactile finish.
What Needs Improvement: Not much! Might be too heavy for some, but probably fine for most.