Nearly two years ago, Apple first introduced the Smart Cover it developed alongside the iPad 2 calling it a magical cover. The Smart Cover went on to be Apple's official protective accessory for the iPad 3rd and 4th generation, and now a new mini-me version was designed for the iPad mini. The new iPad mini Smart Cover is a shrunken down replica of the original we reviewed way back when with all of the standard features you'd expect out of the trifolding cover, however, what Apple didn't shrink was the price. The question is, will a mini Smart Cover be worth $39 this time around? We instigate it all in our in-depth review down below!
People familiar with the original Smart Covers will be greeted to a deja vu of an experience this time around. As if it were a surprise, the iPad mini Smart Cover brings with it all the things you loved and hated about the original, only in a smaller package. You'll find that Apple did nothing imaginative to protect the back of the iPad mini, and while we were fans of the ever so protective Apple Smart Case for the iPad 2,3 and 4, there isn't one made for the iPad mini and that's a bitter aftertaste for all of us who loved the idea of a Smart Cover married together with a proper folio type case. What was Apple thinking? Nonetheless, we're here to talk about this mini Smart Cover.
We're not to happy about the $39 price tag for what feels like a step backwards in terms of materials and of course size while the original Smart Cover still costs the same. This really should have been a price reserved for the iPad mini Smart Case instead. The iPad mini Smart Cover is also only sold in the polyurethane variant with a selection of six colors, albeit the basic black is missing from the bunch. No leather Smart Cover options means you'll have to resort to third party offerings if you're looking to treat yourself to some good smelling, natural materials. With that being said, the polyurethane mini Smart Cover isn't all too bad. The rubbery smooth texture does feel really nice to hold. Naturally we opted for the red Smart Cover that has a deep and contrasty look when coupled with the black iPad mini.
Although it remains a true Smart Cover for all intents and purposes, the iPad mini Smart Cover has in fact seen a small redesign of its core structure. Gone is that premium aluminum hinge for a more minimal all-polyurethane hinge design that we actually think is somewhat of an ironic upgrade. The smaller size is easier to handle and there's no metal and moving parts that weigh it down. Even though we do miss the premium look and feel of the original Smart Cover's aluminum hinge which started this all, the iPad mini Smart Cover will never in a million years scratch or scuff your iPad mini. Something that was an issue with the original metal hinge. It's worth mentioning that the entire interior including the hinge is covered with this microsuede material that feels soft to the touch. It will not clean your iPad mini's screen despite Apple claiming that the interior lining will.
As for the magnetic auto-align feature, it doesn't work as well as the original Smart Cover and you'll find that you will need to pay more attention to aligning the cover dead center yourself to make a proper magnetic connection with the side of the iPad mini. Otherwise the mini Smart Cover will simply stick off-center.
Using the iPad mini Smart Cover couldn't be any more simple. It really is back to basics with this. Built-in magnets will instantly wake your iPad mini from sleep when you open the cover's flap, and vice versa. One note about the built-in magnets inside the cover is that they're as strong as the ones found in the original. This means the cover will secure itself onto the iPad mini's screen with plenty of down force so to not accidentally open by itself. The same goes for the magnetic hinge. The connection is strong enough to support the dangling iPad mini's weight when holding the cover alone.
This time, using the mini Smart Cover is much more comfortable to navigate around the back of the iPad mini as it actually stays rather flush with the mini's back and magnetically stays attached near the right-hand side. Because it's more lightweight, the flap at the end manages to magnetically stay clung to the back side of the iPad mini when the cover is flipped around the back. This makes handling the cover around the iPad much easier than it is using the large iPad. There's no excess cover protruding out the side either. But don't be fooled, this isn't some feature Apple built-in.
The magnets inside the cover aren't designed to intentionally cling to the back of the iPad mini. Nevertheless, you'll find that it's significantly better handling the iPad mini whilst your Smart Cover is tucked around the back. That microsuede fabric provides an ample amount of warmth and grip covering the cold aluminum. This also is a great way of keeping the black finish on the iPad mini's aluminum back scratch-free when setting it on a table.
Unlike its larger brother, the mini Smart Cover is so small it only has three narrow segments that fold into a triangle to from a stand. The magnets do their job to keep the tri-fold design intact, but we noticed that the structural integrity of the iPad mini Smart Cover isn't nearly as robust as the original Smart Cover with its four segmented design. But then again, when we put it to the test, we didn't find any drawbacks with actual usability and performance because of the size and weight of the iPad mini.
The bread and butter of the Smart Cover is that it can fold into two different stand positions. The first is the very useful horizontl viewing stand oritentation that's great for viewing videos, movies and displaying your favorite apps. What Apple changed with this new Smart Cover is the angle in which the iPad mini is situated at. No longer is the angle awkwardly steep like it was when we reviewed both the original iPad Smart Cover and Smart Case. Both suffered from an almost upright angle that wasn't very practical. On the other hand, the iPad mini Smart Cover does it perfectly. You can fully use and tap anywhere on the touchscreen while your iPad mini remains stationary without falling back. It may rock a bit and will spring back right away like the rubber-band finger scroll effect in iOS, but otherwise it really is a solid stand. Unfortunately there's no portrait stand capability.
Typing is of course much more grounded feeling as it should be, and the Smart Cover provides a comfortable slanted typing position to use with the on-screen keyboard. There's really nothing more to it.
All in all, the iPad mini Smart Cover may be expensive, but we think it's actually is the best Smart Cover version Apple has made. It might be the size or the redesigned hinge, but one thing is for sure, this is how a Smart Cover should perform. If having back protection for your iPad mini is a must, the Smart Cover is not for you unless you already own a compatible case or a skin. But if you're looking for that minimalist Smart Cover charm of a beautiful way to put your iPad mini into a standing, typing and idle positions with a quick option of detachment, the Smart Cover is a pretty nice accessory that'll do the job flawlessly. We would much prefer a Smart Case over this for 360-degrees of protection, but some may only need the basic features of a Smart Cover without covering up the fantastic design and slim form factor of the iPad mini. In which case the iPad mini Smart Cover is worth a try.