Review: SwitchEasy CARA iPad case (2012)

SwitchEasy updates the CARA for the new iPad. (May 29th, 2012)

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Product Manufacturer: SwitchEasy

Price: $49.99

The Good

  • Slim, attractive design
  • Tough polycarbonate lid protects screen, creates thumbholds
  • Elastomer back offers extra grip, protection against minor damage
  • Easy-to-open latch still closes tight

The Bad

  • Will eventually collapse in stand mode unless stood at steep angle
  • Elastomer unlikely to prevent damage from high drops
  • "Hinge" could potentially tear

A common trick for iPad case makers wanting some attention is to use crazy patterns or textures; anything, essentially, to make a product resemble more than a generic model you could buy off of Monoprice. SwitchEasy's CARA folio -- newly tailored to the third-generation iPad -- initially seems to follow the same approach, using a lid with a raised honeycomb design that's obviously more about looks than practicality. That hardly makes the CARA impractical, though, as we'll explore in our review.


Design


There are just two parts to the CARA: the lid, and the elastomer back that the iPad slots into. Installing an iPad may take a little more time than you'd expect, just because there's a lip that has to wrap around the edges of the tablet. After struggling with it for a little bit, though, you should be fine, and the tradeoff is worthwhile. The lip offers a little extra protection, and the back as a whole should keep an iPad safe from any scuffs, scratches, or small dings. Tidy cutouts are present for the mic, camera, headphone jack, rotation switch, and dock connector, but the sleep/wake and volume buttons are covered, and even the area over the speaker is perforated just enough to let sound through.








One weakness is that the "hinge" on the case is just an extension of the back, and made of the same material. While it does feel less flimsy than what you'd find on something like the Griffin IntelliCase, there still seems to be the potential for the case to tear if you pull the lid back too hard, or too often. I should also point out that if you drop an iPad from a height onto a hard surface, the back is only going to be a modest help against shock damage.


The lid may be a different story. It's built with a tough polycarbonate material, and the honeycomb pattern makes it feel quite thick, even if it's not much thicker than what you'd see on most other folios. For travelers, the CARA may be perfect -- it's thin enough to fit into a satchel or travel bag, but I can virtually guarantee you that an iPad's screen will stay safe with the case closed.


Use


Another strength of the accessory is grip. Intentionally or not, that honeycomb creates convenient anchorpoints for your thumb, which makes it especially easy to pick up an iPad one-handed. The elastomer back helps even further, since it's virtually impossible for your fingers to slip. You do have to fold the lid back to actually use your iPad, but it folds perfectly flat, and a pattern on the lid's inside provides enough grip of its own.


Magnets in the lid trigger an iPad's sleep/wake functions, as is normal these days. A latch is used to keep the case shut; it may in fact be one of the best ones I've ever seen, since it somehow manages to stay secure when you want it to be, but flips open effortlessly.


If there's a serious issue with the CARA it's trying to use it in stand mode. In theory you should be able to bend the lid back to about a 45-degree angle for support, but the only thing keeping it propped up is the latch. In practice the lid will gradually slip out every time at that angle, brought down by the weight of the iPad. The only solution is to adjust the lid to a very steep angle -- which keeps the case surprisingly sturdy, but only on smooth, even surfaces such as a desk, not on your lap or a bed.





Conclusions


Although the CARA should probably be avoided if you need a good stand, it's otherwise one of the best cases available for the third-gen iPad. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to recommend it. For its essential purposes, very few other folios can even compete.

by Roger Fingas


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