Tech review: My first move after buying an iPad was finding a protective case with the right combination of price and quality. Here are three I tried out.

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I scored a sixth-gen iPad during the monthlong Black-Friday gotta-have-it-thon for $100 off the regular price, if there is such a thing as a regular price. My first move — even before I turned it on — was finding a protective case with the right combination of price and quality.

Sifting through dozens of highly rated cases on Amazon was like baling hay on a 500-acre Minnesota farm. I read the reviews, both five-star and one-star, and weighed whether I wanted to spend less than $15 or more than $50.

Three cases caught my attention: The $11 Soke case, the $28 Antbox case and the $55 Zugu case. All promised protection from drops and scratches, and all had holders for the Apple Pencil.

I disqualified the $85 armorlike OtterBox case. It makes little sense to have a svelte iPad covered with a thick case, although I can attest that the OtterBox protected an iPhone 6 from a fairly significant drop.

I also had to disqualify my favorite Speck cases because they don’t have Pencil holders. The Speck cases I’ve used on several iPhones were thin and saved my iPhone X from disaster when it was dropped on a concrete floor. If you don’t have an Apple Pencil, also consider the $27 Devicewear case. It holds the iPad snugly, and even looks good.

So here goes:

Low-price case: The highly rated (on Amazon) Soke case costs $11 and offers drop protection. The cutouts for volume and speakers are slightly off, but not so much as to make them unusable. But the turnoff for me was the flimsy rubber around the volume and speaker cutouts. I had to wonder whether the rubber would break.

Medium price: The Antbox is hefty enough to protect the iPad but is not so heavy as to be burdensome. Its sleep and wake feature works much more reliably than the one on the Soke case. Like the Soke case, the cutouts for speakers and volume are flimsy. I like the latch on the Antbox. Unlike the Soke, the Antbox case feels secure, and the Pencil fits snugly in the inside top of the case.

High-price: The Zugu case gets rave reviews on Amazon, but I’m not among those who rave. Its selling point is its strong magnet that keeps the case at any angle securely in place. The magnet is so strong that the iPad can be hung from a refrigerator. That’s an interesting feature, but I’m not about to hang my iPad on my fridge. I couldn’t figure out how to use the Pencil holder. It’s sticky inside and there’s no room for the charging adapter.

But the case looks and feels substantial, like it would protect an iPad very well. With the Zugu you’re getting a well-made iPad case with attention to detail like cutouts. But then there was the deal-breaker: The soft inside cover that protects the screen becomes the base of the case when it’s put at an angle. It’s too easy to get dust and other debris on the microfiber inside cover/base. So, back it went, on my dime. For 50 bucks, design flaws should be obvious — and fixed.

I settled on the $28 Antbox, which comes packaged beautifully, and includes a microfiber cloth to clean smudges on the screen. It’s sturdy, relatively lightweight and gets rave reviews on Amazon. Count me among them.


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