Review Price £444.99
If iMovie and GarageBand aren't far enough in the 'cool but not especially useful' category for you (in that they actually could be useful) then the iPad 2's Smart Covers should be. In principle they sound like a good idea, but in reality they're not quite the magical revolution we were led to believe they should be.
We'll start with the good. The magnetic attachment is very clever, and it does make attaching a Smart Cover very easy - certainly a less frustrating process than fitting the original iPad into its official case. We like the way the case folds back to prop up the iPad at an angle, making it easier to type on when sat on a desk or table. We also like the magnetic sensor that turns the screen on and off automatically as you put the case on and take it off.
The bad, however, kills almost all of these positives. For a start the microfiber interior lining which is supposed to keep the iPad 2's display clean does nothing of the sort, unless you actively use it to wipe the screen - the same function a sleeve performs perfectly well. We're also not especially convinced that the benefits of saving a few mm of protective padding by only covering the screen of the iPad 2 are worth the risk of scratching the back. Furthermore, fold the cover round to the back and it hangs loose, and we even found that holding it in one hand could cause the magnetic hinge to come off. Most critically, though, the Smart covers are simply too expensive - were one supplied with each iPad 2 we'd be nonplussed, verging on pleased by them, but at £35 and £69 for the polyurethane and leather varieties respectively, we can't extend our recommendation.
For all that they leave a lacklustre impression, the iPad 2's Smart Covers don't damped our impression of the device itself. The slight price reduction of the 16GB model is a definite slap in the face to the competition, and one that won't hurt Apple in the slightest - iPad owners are practically throwing money at Apple in return for apps. The 3G model remains a less easily justified extravagance, given the limited amount of time most iPad owners will be using one away from a source of Wi-Fi (for all its merits the iPad remains more a lounging device than a travel companion) - but of course we'd rather the option be there than not.
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