Best Budget Cases to Keep Your IPad Safe

By Louis DeNicola,

It's rare to see someone on the street with an iPad outside a case or without a cover. Cases let owners add a personal touch to the popular tablet while lessening the fear that a slip or ding will ruin the expensive device.

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The Apple Smart Cover ($39) is perhaps one of the most common ways to shield an iPad. It protects the screen but doesn't wrap around the back or the edges to cushion a potentially shattering impact. recommends other covers near the same price point that offer similar screen protection but also additional armor for the back and corners. And unlike a sleeve, the recommended cases safeguard the iPad when it's in use, not just at rest or in transport.

Keep your investment protected with an iPad case.

Here are the three top picks:

The STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35) is, as the name implies, a slim and lightweight case, which online reviewers like because it keeps a low profile. This case has a tongue-and-loop closure that serves two functions: to keep the cover from being accidentally pushed open and to hold the cover in place when it's folded backward, creating a stand for viewing or typing. A hard shell lined with microfiber protects the back and the case is covered in water-resistant fabric.

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The Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40) is similarly thin and lightweight, a selling point for many. The case has a faux-leather texture that reviewers consider professional and stylish; they say it gives the case a high-quality feel. The magnetic front cover is similar to Apple's Smart Cover, folding in on itself in three places to create a squat, triangular stand. The cover also clings to the hard-shell back while the iPad is in use, compared with other cases where the user must hold the cover against the back or it will just dangle. This case ships with a reusable waterproof sleeve and a monogrammed mouse pad instead of packing foam.

The OtterBox Defender iPad case (starting at $60) represents a step up in terms of both cost and protection. This case doesn't have a foldaway cover; instead the front is reinforced by a built-in screen protector and a detachable shield that doubles as a stand. The back has multiple layers of protection: a hard, polycarbonate shell with foam lining and a silicone outer layer to absorb shock. This all-encompassing case has the added advantage of keeping dust off the iPad. Online reviews tell stories of abuse this case has taken -- from being dropped on the floor to being tossed around by a toddler -- without any harm to the device inside.

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All three cases are compatible with the iPad 2, 3, and 4 and come in smaller versions to fit the iPad Mini. Their magnetic covers wake up the iPad when opened and put it to sleep when closed, so they not only protect the screen but also prevent the battery from draining if the power button is bumped inside a bag or backpack. Many other covers do the same, but sometimes not very effectively. On the cases listed above, the feature earns a big thumbs-up from reviewers.

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