Protection. Quarterbacks value it. Mama bears have it ingrained in their DNA. And if you’ve got a brand-spanking new iPad that costs hundreds of dollars, well, protecting that sucker from damage is likely high on your list, too.
It’s a priority that case maker Ballistic hopes is important enough to a lot of folks as it offers up its take on a protective iPad case — the Tough Jacket for the iPad 2 and new iPad. Is it tough enough for your prized Apple tablet? Sounds like it's time for another full review, eh?
First, let’s go through the Tough Jacket’s hardware. This protective case comes in two pieces: a rear shell and a plastic cover. The rear case is primarily constructed with hard plastic that’s supplemented by rubber trim. The rubber wraps snugly around the iPad’s edges for a tight and secure fit that’s designed to keep the tablet in place during impact. There’s also extra rounded rubber on each of the corners for added protection — in addition to absorbing shock, the rubber corners also channel impact away from the less padded sides because they typically hit the surface first due to their slightly enlarged size.
Typically, many protective shells for the iPad call it a day at this point. But although the padded edge approach works during drops made on flat surfaces, they won’t protect the iPad’s screen if it happens to fall and hit, say, the corner of a table. To protect the display from such impact, the Ballistic Tough Jacket also comes with a second plastic cover for the front. The front cover attaches by clipping on two sets of grooves on the top and bottom edge of the rear shell. When not in use as a front cover, you can also clip it to the back so the whole set stays together. In this configuration, the cover doubles as an iPad stand as well.
The designers did a good job in making sure that the case provides access to the power and volume buttons even when connected. There’s actually an opening for the screen lock button and rubber nubs for the power and volume controls. The case also leaves openings for the speaker, mic and pin connector, though you will need to take the second cover off to be able to actually plug in your charging adapter to the iPad.
Of course, the key question is how well the Tough Jacket works on protecting your tablet. After several drops and, admittedly, heart-wrenching moments for yours truly (as someone who really takes good care of my stuff, the thought of dropping an iPad on tile — even with a protective cover — just horrifies me), I can confirm that this case works. The only caveat is that the front cover can come off when dropped on a hard surface like linoleum or tile, particularly if the case hits the floor from the sides. Even it does come off, however, it would have already done its job of protecting the screen. That is, unless you drop it on a rock-covered hill and your iPad just keeps bouncing down. For normal use, though, the Tough Jacket works fine.
Downsides include a high price tag at $70, though I’ve seen it sell for half that price online. It also has a clunky design that makes your thin, svelte iPad bulky. For everyday use, I would personally stick with my leather folio cover. If you have kids and young teens — especially boys who constantly drop their iPad or leave it on the floor — however, the Tough Jacket is a good way to give yourself some peace of mind.
FINAL RATING: 3.5 stars