Apple released the iPad Air 2 to great fanfare in October last year, bettering its predecessor by shaving off precious millimetres to take it down to a dizzying 6.1mm thick; improving the screen's colour and fidelity; including the Touch ID sensor, and bumping up the power with Apple's latest A8X chip to round off the winning package.
With the new svelte form and lighter weight of just 437g, you'll no doubt be tempted to whip it out at any available moment, so keeping that beautiful aluminium shell and glass screen protected is even more crucial than ever.
There is an almost bewildering selection of iPad cases available on the market; some are simple yet effective screen covers like Apple's own Smart Cover, while others will give your iPad the appearance of a mini Apple laptop with the inclusion of a full qwerty keyboard.
Before you plump for a new case, think about how you'll be using the iPad. Is the addition of a physical keyboard really that important to you? Do you need an adjustable kick-stand? Are you planning on taking your iPad with you on an outdoor adventure but fear you might drop it? Would you prefer real leather, plastic, silicone or something altogether more unique?
As it stands, here are our favourite iPad Air 2 cases for a range of budgets, tastes and requirements:
The ClamCase Pro
Price: Around £120
Buy: ClamCase Pro on Amazon.co.uk
If you saw an iPad Air 2 equipped with the stylish ClamCase Pro all-in-one keyboard case and stand, you would be forgiven for thinking that you had just clapped eyes on some kind of Apple netbook. The ClamCase Pro is a pricey combination that justifies its price tag with an excellent chiclet-style physical keyboard which connects via Bluetooth, and a hard polycarbonate shell into which the iPad snugly fits. It also has a full 360° hinge which allows for a range of viewing angles, automatic iPad wake and sleep functionality, a range of special function keys while also keeping the ports easily accessible.
The ZAGG Slim Book
Price: around £120
Buy: Zagg Slim Book on Amazon.co.uk
If the idea of a physical keyboard companion appeals, but you aren't sure that you want it as a permanent addition to your iPad Air 2, then the ZAGG Slim book tablet keyboard & detachable case might be the right duo for you. The Slim Book has a backlit Bluetooth keyboard with a moveable hinge that gives you a variety of viewing angles - comparable to the similarly priced ClamCase Pro, but with movement more restricted to just 135°. The Slim Book does however make up for this with its variety of 'modes'. You can either use it like a laptop in 'keyboard mode', Flip the case around into 'book mode', face the tablet away from the keyboard in 'video mode', or do away with the keyboard entirely in 'case mode'.
Apple Smart Case
Price: around £40
Buy: Apple Smart Case on Amazon.co.uk
It's no surprise that Apple knows its consumers well enough to offer a wide range of cases alongside the iPad Air 2 on their online store, but despite the price being higher than some very similar unofficial cases, none is more popular than the official Smart Case and Smart Cover. Unlike the Smart Cover, which only protects the screen, the Smart Case provides full coverage by also protecting the back with the same dyed leather material. As you would expect, the front cover is compatible with the iPad's automatic wake and sleep features, and can also roll back to also act as a two-way stand. It can either support the tablet upright for watching a film or using FaceTime, or alternatively be used to tilt the iPad Air 2 into a usable typing position.
MOFRED Ultra Slim Leather
Price: around £10
Buy: MOFRED Ultra Slim Leather on Amazon.co.uk
Looking for something similar to Apple's official Smart Case, but at a fraction of the cost? MOFRAD's Ultra Slim Leather case might just be the perfect alternative. Priced at less than half that of the official product and available in a wider range of colours, this case provides full protection for your iPad Air 2 while capable of exactly the same automatic wake and sleep functions. It can also be used as a stand in the same two ways as the official case. Unlike the official model which has an all-leather exterior, MOFRED's case has a hard-shell case that clips onto the iPad, but provides just as much protection, and still has all the necessary cut-outs for access to buttons, charging and the camera.
Price: around £47
Buy: Gumdrop Hideaway on Amazon.co.uk
The medium-priced silicone Hideaway from Gumdrop is billed as a ruggedised case that offers maximum protection for an iPad Air 2, while including a 'hideaway' stand that offers two different positions for viewing or typing. As long as you are happy to eschew the stylish looks of Apple's latest tablet, the Hideaway encases it in a grippy, textured silicone, with a rigid polycarbonate frame inside to absorb the impact of drops and shocks.
Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro
Price: around £130
Buy: Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro on Amazon.co.uk
The QODE Ultimate Pro case from Belkin is another ingenious case for the Apple iPad Air 2 that combines the smarts of a thin and light Bluetooth keyboard with the convenience of a detachable hard-shell case. The magnetic hinge is quite a different design to other keyboard cases we've featured, but holds the iPad securely and means that the tablet can be used in either portrait or landscape modes. Belkin claims some unique features such as a full year of battery life from one charge, a backlit keyboard, and the ability to easily switch between two connected devices.
Price: around £29
Buy: Tactus MagnaTuff on Amazon.co.uk
Can a case care? If so then it's safe to say that the Tactus MagnaTuff cares about your iPad Air 2. Why else would it cocoon it in not just a hard shell to protect it from bumps and falls, but also a soft inner lining? As well as doing the utmost to keep your iPad Air 2 safe, the Tactus MagnaTuff also has a flip-stand, like most good cases, allowing you to stand it on any flat surface, so you can operate your iPad without holding it, or even just settle back and enjoy a movie. With a built in auto shut-off magnet the MagnaTuff will also make sure your tablet isn't wasting away battery when it's not in use. Handy.
Price: around £71
Buy: OtterBox Defender on Amazon.co.uk
OtterBox makes cases for just about every major smartphone and tablet around and its Defender series is designed to offer superior protection. It's a little bit bulky, but with not one, not two, but three layers of protection the OtterBox Defender keeps your iPad Air 2 safe from bangs and falls and with shock absorption and port covers it does a good job of keeping the internals safe from damage too. There's even a stand, which doubles as an extra layer of protection when not in use and a built in screen protector ensures the display is kept safe too. The OtterBox Defender isn't cheap, but it's a whole lot more affordable than a new iPad Air 2, which could be the alternative if you don't keep it adequately protected.
ESR Illustrators Series Smart Cover
Price: around £19
Buy: ESR Illustrators Series Smart Cover on Amazon.co.uk
Protection is all well and good, but it seems a shame to cover up something as beautifully designed as the iPad Air 2 with a plain case, or worse, an ugly one. The ESR Illustrators Series is designed to add a bit of flare to your slate. Sure, you'll be covering up the metal, but in its place you'll be showing off a giraffe smoking a cigar or a dog in a jumper. Style aside it's a fairly solid case too, keeping both the front and back of your iPad Air 2 protected and as the cover is magnetic it stays shut and keeps your screen off when not in use. Plus it's usable as a multi-position stand, so you can stand your iPad up to watch a movie or angle it to type on.
Inateck Felt Sleeve
Price: around £27
Buy: Inateck Felt Sleeve on Amazon.co.uk
Most iPad Air 2 cases are hard, but the Inateck Felt Sleeve is a softer solution, with grey felt and brown leather. It looks good and stands out from the crowd of hard shells. Yet it's still strong enough to protect your tablet from scratches and absorb shocks, plus it's weather-resistant, so you don't need to worry about light rain soaking through it. As it's a sleeve you have to take the iPad out to use it, but once you do it can also be folded into a handy stand and it means that when you're actually using your iPad Air 2 you can see it in all its glory, rather than have it be obscured by a case.