4th Design is known for its one of a kind CNC machined aluminum cases and accessories for Apple's portable gadgets. What you may have not known is that 4th Design has made the first ever aluminum bumper case for the iPad 2. Even ElementCase, thought to be the current market leader when it comes to aluminum cases, hasn't even though about creating an aluminum bumper for the iPad 2. The demand for metal bumper cases has been tremendous for the iPhone 4, with many of them priced well over $100. 4th Design's iPad 2 aluminum bumper may not come cheap at $119, but it does present itself as a premium luxury item some may find really attractive. We've got one to test out for you before you drop your greens, so be sure to jump past the break for the full review!
There isn't much included with 4th Design's $120 aluminum bumper other than a hex tool with two additional hex screws for backup. Out of the box, the 4th Design iPad 2 bumper comes separated in 4 parts including 2 side parts and two top and bottom parts that you'll need to assemble onto your iPad 2 using the supplied 4 hex screws. Installation takes time because of the many parts this bumper has, but it isn't anything hard to complete and very straight forward. Removing is even more simple because you can unscrew only the top part of the bumper and slide your iPad 2 out.
Taking a close look at the inside of the 4th Design iPad 2 bumper, you'll notice that there are black silicone pads at each of the 4 corners that are placed there in order to keep your iPad 2 from getting scratched by the aluminum construction of the bumper itself as well as to add some shock protection. I'm not so sure that these silicone layers will do much in case you drop your heavy iPad on the ground, so I wouldn't suggest this bumper if you're after drop protection. It's also worth mentioning that these black silicone corners aren't enough to completely eliminate aluminum to aluminum contact. However, after thoroughly using this bumper, I haven't noticed any scratches or damage done to my iPad 2.
After everything is said and done, the end result is simply stunning to look at. It almost like the iPad 2 has transformed into a whole nother tablet with a much beefier aluminum bezel, in this case we've got the silver 4th Design bumper, that really complements and extends the iPad 2s design even further. Some may like the more substantial look and feel this aluminum bumper adds to the iPad 2, and you can definitely count me in on that. People have constantly stopped me to ask about my iPad 2 having the 4th Design aluminum bumper installed. I wouldn't be surprised if people mistake this for the original iPad at first glance.
Initially I was a bit disappointed in the aluminum finish. While the aluminum finish of the 4th Design bumper matches up with that of the iPad 2, I would have liked to see 4th Design leaving those micro CNC machines serrations on the aluminum for that extra exciting feel and look we all loved so much on the Blade bumper and on the M2 bumper. Having said that, I think the iPad 2 bumper version from 4th Design looks fantastic from any angle. Overall I really like the clean look the 4th Design bumper adds to the iPad 2. Screen protectors will not be affected since there is no contact with the iPad 2's front glass surface. There's an ever so slight lay-on-the-table designed edge over the screen, but then again this bumper was designed so that you actually lay your iPad 2 screen side up.
Around the back, there are 4 black rubber feet at each corner to help elevate the iPad 2's exposed back from any type of flat surface you set your iPad 2 on to keep it from getting scratches as well as add a better traction against slippery surface like that expensive granite bar of yours. If it hadn't been for these rubber feet, the iPad 2's back side would have been completely exposed. It also makes it much more comfortable to lay your iPad 2 on a table and have that rubbery thump absorb the contact without that annoying clank sound..
And because this bumper isn't going to add any thickness to your already ultra slim iPad 2, the feeling of holding your iPad 2 feels as if you don't have a case on at all. Of course there is the addition of the thicker bezel all around the iPad 2, but it really isn't noticeable and it only adds a better place to grip your iPad.
As far as port cutouts go, I found it was fairly easy to reach both the volume and sleep/wake buttons while I found the cutout at the bottom for the dock connector port to be a bit too tight and I could barely fit my Apple sync cable into my iPad 2. All of the cutouts make the ports and buttons recessed due to the thickness of the aluminum bumper. Instead of 4th Design creating complete cutouts, the decides to keep the clean looks of the bumper's store front while they created deep back cutouts to match the slanted theme of the iPad 2. Sadly, you won't be able to fit any third party accessories and cables into your iPad 2's dock connector port with this bumper case on.
On the other hand, I could fit only the slimmest of my headphone plugs into my iPad 2's headphone port including the L shaped 3.5mm plugs of the most recently reviewed BlueAnt Embrace headphones and others such as the entire Beats By Dr. Dre line of headphones. One last cutout that is found on the 4th Design bumper is for the iPad 2 3G model's SIM card tray. Not to worry, this aluminum bumper will not affect your signal reception unlike the iPhone 4. Nor will it affect your WiFi reception.
Let's just say that if you're looking for that extra push and you're all about the looks, I think this isn't such a bad solution. Though the price is definitely on the high side and should be lowered to at least $80. On the other hand, an aluminum bumper such as this one isn't good at all for protection if that's what you're after. Not to mention that it isn't very practical when you need to use third party accessories. I did really dig how the iPad 2 remained true to its slender self while having the 4th Design bumper installed on it. At the end of the day, I don't see this aluminum bumper for anything other than a pricy show-off accessory. You can currently pick it up in silver, blue or gun metal for $119.