Editor’s picks: Our favorite cases for the iPad Air

We spend a lot of time testing and using iPad cases, but there are a few we keep coming back to once our testing is done.

intro slide ipad air

Thin cases for the Air

We spend a lot of time testing and using iPad cases, but there are a few we keep coming back to once our testing is done. Here are some of our favorites for the iPad Air, all of which make great gifts.

apple smart cover

Apple Smart Cover

For minimum protection, there’s Apple’s own $39 Smart Cover. This thin polyurethane cover keeps the display protected while still showing off the Air’s aluminum back. It stays in place thanks to a magnetic hinge, and folds back into a stand that allows two viewing angles: One for typing, and one for watching video, both in landscape orientation. Plus, the Smart Cover is thin enough that it adds virtually no extra bulk to the Air. Though some argue that the Smart Cover is too thin and that previous models had a better design, it’s a solid option for bare-bones safety.—Leah Yamshon

miniot cover

Miniot Cover

If you’re in the “I hate the Smart Cover” camp, try Miniot’s $94 Cover for the iPad Air instead. Like the Smart Cover, it only protects the Air’s Retina display and has a magnetic hinge that keeps it in place. However, the Miniot Cover is made of wood, which gives it a handsome, stylish finish. Instead of folding back into a stand, it rolls up.—Leah Yamshon

pad and quill contega ipad air

Pad & Quill Contega

It seems as though bookbinding-style iPad cases are a dime a dozen these days (OK, more like $1200 a dozen, but you get the idea). Pad & Quill’s $100 Contega Case for iPad Air, however, stands out. Like most bookbinding cases, it uses a handcrafted, wooden iPad frame (this one made of Baltic birch) on the inside, and a rigid, book-style cover on the outside. The cover includes the appropriate openings for the iPad Air’s back camera and microphone, as well as channels for speaker audio and a pass-through Sleep/Wake button. But the exterior of the Contega is covered in leather instead of cloth, and a clever design allows the Contega to offer a sturdy, multi-position stand. The downside of these differences is that the Contega is heavier than most bookbinding cases, but it’s one of the nicest we’ve seen.—Dan Frakes

ballistic tough jacket

Ballistic Tough Jacket

If you’re the rough-and-tumble type, a rugged case is for you. Consider Ballistic’s $70 Tough Jacket, a heavy-duty case with layered protection. First, fit the flexible silicone cover around the back of your Air, and then snap the hard shell polycarbonate layer around that. The Tough Jacket also has an additional shell with a built-in kickstand that serves as an optional protective layer. What makes Ballistic’s cases stand out are its extra corner protection and thick bezel padding, which guard the most vulnerable parts of the Air: The corners, and the touchscreen. Sure, it’s beefy, but the Tough Jacket does its job.—Leah Yamshon

hard candy squish

Hard Candy Squish Skin

We’re usually not fans of thick, silicone cases, but Hard Candy Cases’ $35 Squish Skin Case for iPad Air might just win us over. It’s relatively light (just over 7 ounces), and while the corners are thick enough to provide solid drop protection, the case doesn’t add a huge amount of bulk overall. Smooth grooves on the back give you a better—and more comfortable—grip, and the Home-button cover offers a pleasing, tactile feel. The inside back of the case includes thin, air-filled chambers for a bit of extra cushion.—Dan Frakes

stm studio

STM Studio

As far as basic folio cases go, STM’s $45 Studio is a wonderful choice. This hard shell case has a flexible front cover that folds back to double as a viewing stand. A strong magnet keeps the cover in place, both when it’s closed to keep your iPad Air’s touchscreen protected and when it’s folded back as a stand. Though the Studio’s cover can only be folded into one shape, flipping your Air around lets you prop it up in two different angles for landscape viewing and one in portrait orientation. It’s made from a sleek polycarbonate that’s so smooth to the touch it’s almost soft, and available in bright neon colors. Plus, the Studio’s insides are lined with a soft felt that keeps both the Air’s display and back safe from scratches.—Leah Yamshon

rickshaw bagworks mini commuter bag

Rickshaw Bagworks Mini Commuter iPad Bag

Rickshaw Bagworks’ customizable Mini Commuter iPad Bag ($100 and up, depending on options) is a messenger bag for the tablet generation. The compact, waterproof, padded bag can hold your favorite iPad case (or one of the company's own sleeves), a journal, and several small books. Two zippered organizational pockets, one on the front and another on the back, hold a slew of accessories, while a padded handle and shoulder strap give you comfortable carrying options. The Mini Commuter stands up on its own for easy access to its contents, and our favorite touch is a nifty magnetic strip that covers the bag's Velcro flap closure—perfect for those times when you need to keep quiet in the library or office.—Dan Frakes

toffee macleay

Toffee Macleay Folio

I love the simple sophistication of Toffee’s $59 Macleay Folio, a slim case that wouldn’t look out of place in a boardroom, yet still packs style. (But, let’s be real: I also like it because it looks like a particular handbag that I’m partial to.) It’s made from waxed canvas and sports a leather trim and closure tab that offsets the main color nicely: Navy blue features black leather, while the green, yellow, and black models feature brown leather. Instead of a hard shell, the Macleay Folio opts for a slim, flexible leather frame that you slide the Air into and keep in place with a leather tab. The frame fits the Air’s bezel almost perfectly and doesn’t overlap with the display itself. True, it does leave the Air’s corners slightly exposed, so the Macleay is best as an indoor case, or stored in a messenger bag while on-the-go.—Leah Yamshon

twelvesouth bookbook travel journal ipad

Twelve South BookBook Travel Journal

Need room for more than just your iPad? Twelve South’s $100 BookBook Travel Journal expands the company’s cases-disguised-as-antique-books line to include a model that holds all your essentials. There’s an iPad sleeve, of course, but the rigid, leather cover also hosts a slew of pockets and elastic bands for stowing a charger, a backup battery, cables and adapters, a pen or stylus, miscellaneous small items, and even a set of fold-flat headphones. The Travel Journal isn't nearly as svelte as a bare iPad Air, but it's smaller than a travel bag, and you can't hide a bag on your bookshelf.—Dan Frakes

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