With the right accessory, the “walled garden” of iOS starts to open up, letting you output video to your TV, use your iPad as a guitar amplifier and even a miniature recording studio. If you haven’t been cleaned-out buying the tablet in the first place, take a look at our round-up of accessories already available for Apple’s next-gen tablet.
Griffin Elan Folio
One of the classiest iPad 2 cases around, the Griffin Elan Folio uses a book-style faux-leather flap to protect the iPad’s screen. The inside of the case is lined with soft microsuede – so that its bodywork won’t get scratched.
The Elan Folio also doubles as a stand. There’s a fold in the otherwise fairly-rigid front flap, and a lip on the back of the case that this front flap slots into when folded around. With this in place, the iPad can be held up in two ways, like a photo frame or at a less severe angle that’s perfect for watching videos on the train. There’s also a pricier real leather version of the Elan Folio available.
iLuv Neoprene Sleeve
A little more outrageous-looking than the reserved Griffin Elan Folio, this iLuv case has a heavily embossed design that’ll soak up the damage from light knocks and bumps. This isn’t a case that you can keep on in use though, as there’s no window for the screen or any cut-outs for sockets. The inside of the case is lined with a soft fleece-like material, so as long as you don’t let any grit inside, it’ll keep the whole of the iPad protected.
The zip only covers half of the case’s side, so you can’t flip over one half of the case and use your iPad still resting on it. This may limit its appeal, but it’s affordable, well-made and rugged enough to offer a decent amount of protection for the new £400+ apple of your eye. For the more outgoing, a shocking pink version is also available.
iLuv’s take on the classic folio look is much like Griffin’s, but the silver bar on its front emblazoned with the “iLuv” logo gives it a slightly feminine vibe. The leather grain is also more realistic than Griffin’s attempt, but we’re still dealing with good old pleather here, not the real thing.
Large poppers keep the font flap in place when closed, and provide the iLuv Portfolio case with its iPad stand functionality – flip it around the back and it’ll attach to another set of poppers. The iPad can then be kept upright, or at a less severe angle, much like the Griffin Elan Folio. Which is better though? There’s little to separate them in build quality terms, and both are lined with microsuede. The stitching on the iLuv case is subtler, but any rugged manly types out there might be put off by the “iLuv” branding visible on the case’s front.
£59 (Leather) / £35 (Polyurethane)
The cleverest case around is Apple’s own Smart Cover. It only protects the front of the device, but as such it hardly adds any bulk to the slimline iPad 2. It uses magnets to stick to the side of the iPad (it won’t work with an original iPad) and will even take the tablet out of sleep mode when removed from the screen.
For such a simple design, the Smart Cover does cost a bit though. The polyurethane model retails for £35 while the luxury leather edition costs £59 – and this being Apple, you won’t see any massive reduction on these any time soon. At least there are enough colours on offer to cater for a variety of tastes – there are five polyurethane shades (grey, blue, green, orange and pink) and five leather shades (tan, black, dark blue, white and red).
With all the class of an Apple Smart Cover and much more exclusivity, the Miniot Wood iPad 2 case is probably our favourite of the lot. Made out of a single piece of wood, the case flexes just like the Smart Cover, and attaches to the iPad 2 with the aid of magnets.
As you can see in the video below, it rolls up to form a movie-viewing stand, so it doesn’t look out in functionality terms either. The price? It’s around the same as the leather Smart Cover, and as the Miniot Wood cover will be produced in much smaller quantities, you avoid that identikit look – it won’t be too long before Smart Covers start popping up on the high street all the time, in the hands of iPad 2 owners.
Angry Birds case by Gear4
The Angry Birds games only cost 59p a pop, but you’ll have to fork out a fair bit more for this Gear4 case if your addiction to this series is so severe you simply must clad your iPad in its titular avians. It’s a hard plastic shell that covers the iPad’s back, with holes for the various sockets and on-body controls.
For full protection, you’ll have to match it up with a screen protector, as it leaves the front end of the tablet bare. There are several Angry Birds designs available from Gear4, and as they’re official the likenesses of the birds and the green pigs are spot on.
Not so much a case as an advanced screen protector, the Zagg InvisibleSHIELD coats the iPad 2 – back and front – in a thin plastic film that’ll fend-off scratches and keep the resale value of the device sky high. Zagg produces these shields for most popular phones, and it has the process down to an art, with plastic that doesn’t ruin the responsiveness of the capacitive touchscreen.
The downside of using an InvisibleSHIELD is that it doesn’t offer much protection from falls. Scratches and scrapes it can contend with, but drop it and the InvisibleSHIELD won’t help much. It does of course come with the bonus of not adding any substantial bulk to the tablet’s body.
There’s no official Apple keyboard dock for the iPad 2, but the classic, simple dock has been given the version 2 update. It doesn’t do much, but is a very elegant way to give your iPad 2 a permanent spot on your desk, rather than simply using a bare USB cable.
It can be used for charging and syncing, while there’s also an audio output to let you easily attach a pair of speakers. Style-wise it’s completely inoffensive. It’s a small, white piece of plastic and holds the iPad 2 so that it’s slightly angled, to make reading on-screen content easier. At £35, it is a tad pricey for what it is, though.
Griffin PowerDock Dual
Here’s one for dedicated Apple fans – the Griffin PocketDock Dual will house both an iPad and an iPhone or iPod Touch, charging them simultaneously. The charging sockets are compatible with just about the entire Apple portables range, including new Nanos and the iPod Classic series.
In front of the power sockets is a little dish, which you can drop your keys into, or fill with jelly beans should the mood take you. The clever design accounts for the devices’ speaker placement too, so your iPad won’t be silenced when docked. Covering all bases, it comes with adapters for European, US and Japanese power sockets as well as the standard UK plug.
LuvMac desktop dock
If the official dock’s price tag is a little too rich for your blood, a third-party equivalent is available from LuvMac. It’s not a big-brand name, but how far can you go wrong when making a simple iPad dock? This dock will keep your iPad upright on a desk, and will charge and sync when it’s plugged-into a computer using the supplied USB cable.
It misses out on some extras, such as additional outputs, but if you want a simple way to keep your iPad looking good on a desk, this offers arguably better value than most other docks out there. Oh, and it’s black so blends in nicely with the standard surround of the black iPad 2.
Camera Connection Kit
The camera connection kit is designed to let you view the photos from your camera’s memory card on-the-go, but it has the added bonus of effectively doubling-up as a way to expand your iPad 2’s memory. It comes in two parts, both of which attach to the iPad’s dock socket.
The SD reader lets you view photos and play video from a memory card, while the USB dongle lets you plug a camera directly into the iPad. With this USB dongle you can even attach an external hard drive to your iPad, although it’s worth remembering that you’ll only be able to play the files that an iPad supports natively – primarily MP4 video and JPEG images.
Apple’s VGA adaptor is one of three ways to get your iPad outputting video, and it’s also the cheapest. It’s not without limitations though. A VGA connection only outputs video, so you’ll need to transmit audio either using the iPad 2’s internal speaker or another cable from the headphone jack.
It’s also subject to HDCP copy protection, so if you’re thinking you can simply plug this in and watch your iTunes movies on the big screen, you can’t. With an iPad 2 it’ll let you output 1080p video though, where older devices (iPad, iPhone 4) are limited to 720p.
Apple composite AV cable
A rung down the AV ladder is the composite cable, which outputs stereo audio thanks to a pair of phono plugs and SD-quality video. There’s also a USB cable to let you charge and sync your iPad while it’s connected using this composite connection.
This would be our last choice of video output methods though, as it’s relatively low-quality and won’t make good use of the iPad 2’s incredible power. Other connections will allow the iPad 2 to output video at a much more appealing 1080p resolution.
The big daddy of the AV connection options on Apple’s books is the AV Adapter. Like the rest it plugs into your iPad 2’s dock connector, and gives you an HDMI socket plus an additional “replacement” dock connector.
You will however need your own HDMI cable as this £35 accessory only gives you the socket, not the cable too. At almost 10 per cent of the price of a low-end iPad 2 model, it’s steep but worthwhile if you want to play games and apps from your TV. Unlike previous devices, the iPad 2 supports mirroring using this cable – so what’s on-screen on your iPad will be the same as what appears on your TV.
Zagg Zaggmate keyboard dock
Zagg, known mostly as the maker of the invisibleSHIELD advanced screen protector, has produced a keyboard-case combo. It’s a tough case made of aircraft-grade aluminium that also packs-in a Bluetooth keyboard. When not acting as a simple protector, it’ll hold the iPad 2 up either in portrait or landcape orientation – turning it into a laptop of sorts.
All this added functionality, and it only increases the thickness of the iPad by an eight of an inch, or around 3mm. Impressive stuff. At a hundred dollars, it’s significantly more expensive than the official iPad 1 keyboard dock though.
Apple wireless keyboard
Apple has ditched the keyboard dock for the iPad 2, but the wireless keyboard will work with it just fine. Based on the keyboard style of the Mac, it is compact and very easy to type away quickly on. Like all iPad compatible wireless keyboards, it uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with the iPad 2.
The keyboard is powered by two AA batteries and employs power conservation techniques to eke out the maximum number of days of usage. We haven’t had a chance to test drive the keyboard with an iPad 2 yet ourselves, but it should last for weeks when used occasionally.
The Kensington Keyfolio marries a classy faux-leather case with a Bluetooth keyboard, giving you laptop-like functionality on-the-go. Unlike the original keyboard dock, designed for the first iPad, the Keyfolio holds your iPad in landscape orientation, giving it that real laptop feel.
Like any case worth its salt, the Kensington Keyfolio gives you access to all the side ports and controls of the iPad 2 thanks to carefully-employed cut-outs. The device itself is a re-branded OEM product – not quite as high-quality as the carefully-engineered Zaggmate, but worth it if you want that Folio style with a keyboard in tow.
The GuitarConnect helps to turn your iPad into a guitar amp, and your iPad 2 into a miniature recording studio. It plugs into the headphone jack at one end and your guitar’s jack socket at the other – and gives you an additional audio out to send to some speakers, headphones or a full guitar amp.
With additional apps like iShred or GarageBand, you can use the iPad 2 as an amp modeler or a multi-track recorder – features far in advance of the tablet’s original remit as a web-surfing device.
Akai SynthStation 49
The keyboard equivalent of the Griffin GuitarConnect, the Akai SynthStation is the perfect way to control the synth apps available on iPad – such as the Korg i-MS20. The £150+ price tag may sound steep, but it’s actually something of a bargain as full synths often cost hundreds if not thousands pounds.
Aside from the 49-key keyboard, the SynthStation 49 is also equipped with two modulation wheels, a nine-button drum pad and some physical playback controls. It’s a great accessory for bedroom musicians.
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