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.
Unlike previous iPads, the iPad Air 2 has exactly the same bezel sizes, but the thinner form means that many cases compatible with the original iPad Air simply won't fit the new model.
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:
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After spending hundreds of pounds on your new iPad Air 2 - far and away the best looking tablet on the market - we'll forgive you for choosing to cover it up in a case as stylish - and expensive - as the Access Case from Nodus. Made from luxurious leather in either a 'chestnut' brown, or 'ebony' black, this is the kind of case you could happily wrap your iPad in while taking it into a board meeting or any other classy setting. It allows you to read your iPad like a book or prop it up for Facetime and watching videos. As well as adequately protecting your tablet, the Access Case includes a utility pocket to hold cash, cards or a business cards.
Some people would rather their tablet look, well, less like a tablet when they're carrying it around. For all those folk, the Pad & Quill Aria is the perfect case. Forgoing plastics and other materials, the Aria case wraps your tablet in a hand-finished solid birch frame, and can be easily removed using the signature 'bookmark' ribbon. On the outside, real American leather in 'Whiskey' brown or 'Dark Chocolate' hues is about as luxurious as it gets. Despite all this pricey opulence, the magnetic auto wake/sleep hasn't been forgotten, and there are still rear camera aperture and holes to provide access to all the buttons and sockets.
Incipio has become a well-regarded name in quality, good value gadget protection over recent years, and its Tuxen snap-on folio case for the iPad Air 2 is no exception. There might not be the plush leathers found in some of cases featured here, but the 'Plextonium' polycarbonate hard shell has a soft touch, making it comfortable to hold on the outside, while a suede-like material treats your iPad kindly on the inside. Like so many other cases, the cover folds back to allow it to stand upright for hands-free video, or lay down at a slant for easy typing. As you would expect, there is also the magnetic clasp that keeps the front cover closed and is compatible with the iPad's sleep/wake function.
With credentials that would make Bear Grylls happy to pack his iPad, Otterbox's Defender case features triple-layer protection, a built-in screen protector and optional port plugs to keep out unwanted dust and dirt, while adequately protecting from almost anything life would throw at your iPad - short of a full-on aquatic dunking. Despite all this protection, the camera and all ports and buttons are still usable. Otterbox has also included a snap-on stand that allows for comfortable typing or video viewing. Taking this high level of protection and the three colour choices into account, the Defender Series case is keenly priced considering how much it'll save you if your iPad goes for a gravity-powered flight.
This is an expert round-up from TechRadar - a list of all the best iPad Air 2 cases we've seen on the market at the moment. However, it's by no means exhaustive and we'll be adding more to the list through updates in the future.
If you've seen any iPad Air 2 cases you want reviewed, let us know in the comments below and we'll get them in for review!