best in class

The Very Best iPad Cases

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

While the ways we use our iPads are unique (a college student jotting down notes in a classroom, an illustrator painstakingly creating a new drawing, a grandparent trying to sign up for Netflix, a kid buying a few extra lives for a mobile game while their parents aren’t paying attention), we do all share one need: a case. The right iPad case protects your investment from accidental spills and drops, and it might even stop the Wilhelm Scream from running through your head the next time your iPad slips out of your hands. (We’ve all been there, picking up our precious tablet with careful, concerned movements as if we’re investigating a crime scene, only to be flooded with relief when we don’t see any cracks.) The right case can also improve your iPad’s functionality by letting you position it at different heights or angles. And, of course, the nicest cases will look good, too. To find the best case or sleeve for all sorts of people, we talked to 11 different tech experts, art directors, illustrators, artists, and other folks with great taste. Here are their picks for the best iPad cases, in terms of both security and style.

Best overall | Best less expensive | Best keyboard case | Best less expensive keyboard case | Best heavy-duty | Best sleeve | Best leather | Best illustrator handle

What we’re looking for

Material and protection: iPad cases come in a variety of materials, all of which offer different protection and style qualities. There are sleek leather cases that add low-profile durability. Soft nylon cases can be tough and offer some cushion, while remaining light enough to carry around. Rugged hard-shell cases can give your iPad a coat of armor that absorbs the impact of bumps and drops and shield it from scratches and abrasions. The material of your ideal case will be a matter of preference, but depending on how you use your iPad, you might want something more durable or lightweight.

No one reasonably expects their iPad case to take a hit from Thor’s hammer and have the tablet come away unscathed, but a good case should withstand everyday drops and scratches. If you’re the type of person who throws their keys into their bag where they might rub up against your iPad screen, anti-scratch protection will be important. Pay attention to whether the case covers the edges, corners, and buttons too, so they don’t get damaged if your iPad sees a lot of jostling, whether in your bag while you’re on a train or from a kid who demands to play games on it all the time.

Design and function: An iPad case also has to look and feel good. If you intend to bring it on daily commutes, a cumbersome or too-heavy case can quickly get annoying — plus, who wants to cover their sleek Apple gadget with an eyesore? Other design features to consider are a keyboard, which is great for note-taking students or anyone who sends a lot of emails or frequently types up documents. You may also want your case to have an integrated stand that can prop your iPad at an angle. Some cases have dedicated Apple Pencil holders to keep the tool handy while traveling or commuting, and to offer extra security to folks who don’t want to lose a $130 stylus. The latest Apple Pencil can magnetically attach to the side of your iPad, but if you are using an older model you may want your case to have a dedicated spot for it. You may also want to look for a specific type of closure, from a magnetic or Velcro fastener to an elastic band that goes around the whole case, again depending on how you personally use your iPad.

Best overall iPad case

Plastic with front and back covers | Cover folds into a stand | Magnetic closure 

Several of our experts recommended Apple’s well-known Smart Folio case. This classic minimal iPad cover protects the fragile screen from scratches and occasional drops. I’ve owned one myself and it functioned well as a simple case for an iPad that mostly sat at my desk. It covers both the front and back of the iPad but not the edges, so it’s not built to withstand massive drops. However, it’s lightweight and held up against bumps in my bag during a trip to Miami. The case comes in a handful of colors and attaches to the iPad magnetically, waking the iPad when opened and putting it to sleep when closed.

“I had used bulky cases for previous tablets, and they really hurt the portability factor,” says Tatiana Quiqley, a 3-D artist and illustrator. “The Folio case is a little pricey, but it’s lightweight and easy to fit into your bag or on your lap while you are irresponsibly drawing in bed.” Harry Hembley, the illustrator behind the popular “lil bean” Instagram account, likes that the Folio “folds to the perfect angle for daily drawing.” He also likes the case’s simple-but-nice sueded interior finish. And Jason Snell of the tech podcast Upgrade praises its portability and durability. “I’ve been using the Folio for a few years now,” he says. “It does get some wear around spots where you might grip the case while drawing, but I think it’s a fair trade-off for how light the thing is.” Both Quiqley and artist Kofi Ofosu also appreciate the case’s foldable stand, which makes drawing on the iPad comfortable, no matter how you might be sitting — and even if you’re lying down.

Best less expensive iPad case

JETech Case for iPad
From $8
From $8

Plastic with front and back covers and edge protection | Cover folds into a stand | Magnetic closure 

“I wanted something that was slim and light but didn’t skimp on protection,” says Daniel Fishel, an illustrator and designer who has worked with Netflix, the New York Times, and GQ. He especially appreciates the case’s portability and flexibility: “It rolls up nice, allowing me to draw at a slight angle.” Like the Apple Smart Folio, the JETech case attaches magnetically and has front and back covers, and the cover folds into a stand. However, it also has a plastic edge that offers more protection along the corners and sides of the iPad. It’s not as sleek as the Smart Folio, but it functions similarly for a much lower price and comes in more than a dozen colors. It also wakes the iPad when opened and puts it to sleep when closed. If you use an Apple Pencil, Fishel recommends attaching a Pencil sleeve to the back of the case, so you don’t have to worry about losing it.

Best iPad keyboard case

Plastic with front and back covers and edge protection | Detachable keyboard with trackpad | Adjustable kickstand | Includes a stylus holder | Magnetic closure 

Logitech’s Combo Touch can transform your iPad into a makeshift laptop thanks to its trackpad, keyboard with backlit keys, and adjustable kickstand, which Snell says makes it perfect for students. Pair it with the Apple Pencil, and you’ve got a note-taking powerhouse, he says. The case has four “modes” that are essentially different viewing angles — there’s one for sketching, one for typing, one for watching video, and one for reading. It’s sturdy, and there’s a convenient nook to store your Pencil.

I’ve been using the Combo Touch for about a year, and the case is a study in thoughtful design, from its grippy and protective outer shell to its conveniently detachable trackpad and keyboard (which draws power from the iPad, so there’s nothing to plug in or recharge). A row of shortcut keys on the keyboard mimics the classic Apple shortcut keys, making it easy to adjust settings like screen brightness and volume just like you would on a MacBook.

Best less expensive iPad keyboard case

Plastic with front and back covers | Keyboard | Cover folds into a stand | Magnetic closure

Illustrator Sadie Lewandowski bought the iPad Smart Keyboard Folio case because “I really wanted a keyboard that was easy to carry around with my iPad,” she says. “Whenever I’m in research mode before an illustration, I pull out the keyboard so I can quickly type, and when it’s time to draw, I tuck away the keyboard flap behind the screen, which deactivates the keys so there are no accidental button presses.”

The biggest difference between this case and the Logitech keyboard case is the absence of a touchpad on the Apple case — so if you want the Folio to function similarly to the Combo Touch, you’ll have to connect a wireless mouse. There are also no shortcut keys on the Folio keyboard to adjust screen brightness, volume, and other settings, and the case is a little less protective around the edges and corners than the Logitech. Lewandowski describes the case as sturdy and surprisingly light, while noting that it still keeps her iPad stable while she draws on her lap: “Pressing heavily on one side of the screen won’t make the iPad jiggle,” she says, which is important for artists, who need balance while drawing. Like Apple’s more basic Smart Folio case, the Smart Keyboard Folio case comes in a few different colors and attaches to the iPad magnetically, waking the iPad when opened and putting it to sleep when closed.

Best heavy-duty iPad case

$38

Canvas and plastic with front and back covers and edge protection | Cover folds into a stand | Includes a stylus holder | Magnetic flap closure

Illustrator Maggie Stephenson recommends the Targus VersaVu iPad case for its security and reliability. “The exterior is non-slip and has a comfortable and cool feel that you’ll appreciate if you have to hold your iPad for a long period of time,” she says. She also likes that the case accommodates the Apple Pencil really well, helping it to stay attached to the iPad’s magnetic smart connector. “I use my iPad every day for hours at a time and have found this case to be the most robust, but also the most comfortable one around,” she says. The Targus can stand up your iPad in either landscape or portrait modes.

Best iPad sleeve

Water-resistant canvas sleeve with soft fleece interior | No stand | Velcro flap closure 

Despite the anxiety it may induce in some, a few of the people we spoke to say they prefer to leave their iPad naked when they are using it, and tuck it away in a sleeve when they’re done. Dominic Kesterton, an artist and illustrator, is adamantly anti-case. “I hate grabbing on all that clunk when I draw. It just feels like it’s in the way,” he says. Illustrator Nick Liefhebber agrees. “I like the design and form factor of the iPad by itself,” he explains. “Sometimes I hold the iPad on my lap when drawing, but I also use a simple foldable Kolibri iPad stand, and that doesn’t work well with a case.” Liefhebber has been using this sleeve for almost three years and likes that it’s “rugged, with a waterproof outside and soft padded inside.”

Best leather iPad case

Leather and plastic with front and back covers | External pocket and handle | Cover folds into a stand | Includes a stylus holder | Magnetic closure plus elastic band

“It’s by no means the Otterbox of cases, but if I dropped my iPad in this case while it was closed with the elastic band, I wouldn’t be scared,” says Lo Harris, an illustrator and animator. “It has a cool magnetic smart cover that automatically wakes and puts my iPad to sleep when I open and close it, which helps save battery life,” she says. “It also has a front pocket where I can keep note cards and cash. Plus, its soft, synthetic leather is super-elegant, and it has a plastic shell where you place the iPad. And the trifold stand lets you prop it up and attach a keyboard or watch a movie.” She says she can easily slip it into a bag and it strikes a nice balance “between style and protection.”

Best illustrator handle for an iPad