Drop-Proof Your iPad 2

These ruggedized covers keep your slate safe in a savage world.

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Keep Your iPad Safe

You've invested a lot in your iPad 2, which is slim, lightweight, and oh-so-easy to drop. What's the best way to safeguard the tablet from scratches, spills, and pavement plunges? Well, you could hand Apple an extra $40 to $70 for its lame iPad 2 Smart Cover, which shields only the screen. Or you could buy a case that provides much better protection, for the same amount (with a few exceptions).

Check out these rugged, protective iPad cases. Some are shipping now, while others will arrive shortly.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user 3dom]

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Hard Candy Street Skin

Hard Candy's Street Skin cases are both flexible and durable. Made from thermoplastic polyurethane rubber, an elastic but rugged material, the $40 Street Skin forms a tight seal around the iPad 2. It provides easy access to all ports, plugs, controls, and audio outputs, too. The Street Skin's magnetic screen cover attaches via a hinge to the case. Color choices include the expected black and white, as well as an attention-grabbing pink for iPad owners who will not be ignored.

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Incipio Feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case

Here's a thin but tough case that hugs the iPad 2 tightly. Unlike the Street Skin, however, the Feather ultralight case is no softy. Its hard polycarbonate shell is remarkably slim--only 1mm thick, in fact--so it won't bulk up the iPad 2 as some ruggedized cases do. Strategically designed cutouts and holes allow you to access all ports, buttons, and cameras. Priced at $35, the Feather comes with two screen protectors (antiglare and clear) plus a cleaning cloth.

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RAM Rugged Handi-Case

This tough container is more of a portable office than a conventional iPad shell. The RAM Rugged Handi-Case is essentially a tablet-friendly briefcase that secures an iPad or iPad 2. It has enough storage space for other business essentials, such as documents, paper clips, power cords, and pens. The sides and back of the $71 Handi-Case have several punch-outs for a power adapter and other cables. And the sturdy handle is convenient for field techs or frequent flyers who carry their iPad through airports.

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iBallz

Rather than hide your magical tablet inside a dowdy shell, this unique protector adds a touch of quirk to the iPad 2's slim splendor. The aptly named iBallz fits four shock-absorbing foam balls, connected via an elastic cord, on each corner of the tablet. If you should drop the iPad, the $20 iBallz provides bumper car-like protection. It elevates your tablet above tabletop spills, as well. To tilt the iPad for easier typing, just remove the top-left ball and reposition it behind the device. The company also offers companion products, such as the iBallz Lid folding sleeve ($30), the Satchel carrying case ($40), the Hard Case ($35), and the Soft Sleeve carrying case ($28).

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InnoPocket EliteFolio Carbon Fiber iPad 2 Case

InnoPocket's iPad protector is not only rugged but also exceptionally limber. The stylish EliteFolio Carbon Fiber case is designed for "trendy executives and race car enthusiasts," according to the company, but is also available to boring folks willing to part with $200. The EliteFolio's two sturdy shells are molded to fit the iPad 2 snugly, and they're connected by a "smart" hinge that rotates 360 degrees. This clever design allows the case to function as a viewing stand and a typing stage, too.

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BodyGuardz Armor Carbon Fiber

When it comes to iPad 2 cases, thin is in. The slim and stylish BodyGuardz sports a cool carbon-fiber pattern. The $30 BodyGuardz kit comes with a durable back cover that prevents scratches, as well as an antiglare screen protector for the display. Color choices include black and white. Like other trim-yet-tough cases, the BodyGuardz helps the iPad 2 maintain its supermodel svelteness.

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iLuv Case With Bluetooth Keyboard

Here's something a little different: an iPad 2 case with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard. Though not as rugged as its hard-shell competitors, the $130 iLuv iCK826 wins points for originality. Sheathed in faux leather, this clever case comes with a retractable kickstand for typing and video viewing. Velcro secures the wireless keyboard to the case, which includes a cutout for the iPad 2's rear-facing camera. Don't need a keyboard? The iLuv Portfolio Case with Stand is $50.

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Factron High Defender for iPad

This pricey protector is designed for the original iPad, but its ostentatiousness earned it a spot here. If you crave metallic beauty, mortgage the farm and buy one of Factron's exquisite and expensive aluminum shells. The High Defender is available in two models, each costing as much as (or more than) a high-end iPad: The Duralumin A2017 is $756, and the Duralumin A7075 is $905. Sure, it's hard to justify a tablet accessory that costs that much, but at least your iPad will be stylishly secure.

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Otterbox Defender Series

Speaking of Defenders, here's a more reasonable option. The Otterbox Defender Series is a robust line of iPad 2 cases built to protect your tablet from drops, shakes, and scratches. Priced at $90, the Defender has a silicone skin to absorb shock, and an inner polycarbonate shell with a foam interior to prevent the iPad 2's back from scratching. The clip-on touchscreen cover is particularly clever, as it doubles as a fold-out stand for typing and viewing.

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SwitchEasy Cara

How can you not love a ruggedized iPad case with such a friendly, nonthreatening name? The Cara is a slim, folio-style cover made of a rubbery elastomer material. It's durable and easy to grasp, and the hinged top cover conveniently folds under the back. The $50 Cara kit offers full iPad 2 protection: You get a scratch-resistant polycarbonate screen shield, two portable fold-out stands, a squeegee, a microfiber wipe, two headphone-jack protectors, and two 30-pin connector protectors.

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KEM Ventures Big Grips

Here's one for the kiddies. KEM Ventures' Big Grips is a soft and squishy iPad case designed for tiny, messy, and often clumsy hands. Made of easy-to-hold foam, it's durable, nontoxic, and resistant to germs, stains, and oils. Vomit? I guess you're on your own. The frame is $35; the frame/stand combo is $50. Note: The pictures here show the Big Grips model for the original iPad, but the iPad 2 edition is coming soon, according to the vendor.

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Blackbox Bamboo

This retro beauty is sure to turn heads. The Blackbox Case is handcrafted from bamboo in Golden, Colorado. It protects your iPad 2 from drops, overstuffed book bags, and "jealous mongrels," according to the vendor's site. (You won't find a mongrel-protection clause in the product guarantee, however.) An old-school leather strap keeps the tablet from falling out of its bamboo pouch. One drawback: To use the iPad 2, you'll have to remove it from this lovely $100 case.

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Gumdrop Drop Series

One glance tells you that the Drop Series iPad 2 Case is a tough customer. Sure, it's available in pink, but don't be fooled by superficialities. With its thick rubber shell, reinforced corners, port protectors, and easy-to-grip surface, this $60 case is built for hard knocks. The replaceable screen cover snaps on easily, too.

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iPadCase365 Hard Plastic Protective Case

On a tight budget? Well, iPadCase365 sells a variety of low-cost cases, including the $9 Hard Plastic Firm Protective Shell Case (Clear Blue). This bargain security shell guards the iPad 2's back from scratches, dirt, and oils. It adds only a little bulk to the slate's slim frame. If you'd rather make a more daring fashion statement, the $20 Overlapping Double 'C' Logo Diamond Paillette Jigsaw Style case may be a better choice. Neither offering protects the iPad's display, however.