Rusi Concepts The Handle Aluminum Bumper for iPad 2 & iPad 3rd Gen Review

Aluminum bumper style cases are one of the most popular categories of cases for the iPhone 4/S currently. It seems like every time you turn around, another company is releasing their take on this concept. Hoping to push Apple aficionados’ love for aluminum bumper cases in a new direction, Rusi Concepts has taken this concept, with an interesting twist, over to the iPad with the Rusi Concepts Handle for the iPad 2 and the new iPad 3rd gen. Should this be an iPad case that is worthy of your consideration? Head past the jump to find out.

The review sample we received did not come with any formal retail packaging, so I’m assuming the company is working on finalizing that as we speak. What the unit did come with was the Handle case, 3 hex head screws (2 for use and 1 spare), and an a hex key wrench for installation. 

As you can see, the most immediately noticeable feature of this case is its namesake characteristic…the handle it adds to your iPad 2/new iPad. The case itself is a 2-part CNC machined aluminum bumper style band that adds a carrying handle to the left side of your iPad. As unconventional of concept as this may seem at first, it’s an idea that’s actually been visited before by ColorWare with their Grip case for the original iPad, which we reviewed here.

Installation of the Handle was a little tougher than I initially expected. The case itself was made to extremely tight specifications, meaning there’s little wiggle room during installation. To begin, you slide your iPad into the larger C-shaped portion of the Handle, but the close fit means you have to line this up exactly, or risk catching the case itself on the iPad. To compound this, the Handle was designed with no padding on the inside of the frame to cushion your iPad, so you have the aluminum of the Handle case sliding along the unprotected aluminum of your iPad…the perfect recipe for scratching the Apple device’s finish.

In fact, in sliding the Handle case on my iPad, my sleep/awake button was damaged a bit. Not a good start already. After wrestling with the larger portion of the Handle case, the actual handle side goes on relatively easy, having just one hex head screw at the top and bottom to fasten the two halves together.  

Once installed on your iPad, the Handle completely wraps your device in a very nicely finished (matte black anodized on our review model) band of aluminum. Along the right side you’ll find one large cutout for the silent switch and volume buttons. Up top you’ll find cutouts for the sleep/awake button and headphone port as expected. You may encounter headphone compatibility issues with the headphone opening, as it has a fairly small diameter, and rather deep due to the thickness of the case itself. This potential accessory incompatibility issue may rear its head again with the dock connector at the bottom of the case. It’s depth will pretty much rule out any type of dock for your iPad, but it should be cut wide enough that at least most, if not all 3rd party charge/sync cables fit. 

The lip formed by the Handle case at the front of the iPad offers very good lay on the table protection for the front screen, but, sadly, doesn’t offer the same for the back of the iPad. Inexplicably, the Handle offers no lip at all at the rear of the iDevice, at least not on the 3rd gen iPad. When installed in the Handle and placed back-side down, the iPad’s back directly touches whatever surface it’s set on. 

As much as I like the concept of an aluminum case with integrated carrying solution for my iPad, that idea fails in execution with the Handle case. Quality materials and finish just can’t overcome a poorly thought out concept. The case’s integrated handle is great for carrying the iPad, but the moment you need to actually use the device, the Handle’s usefulness ends. You just end up with this big, rigid metal handle sticking off the side of your iPad, constantly getting in your way and just being a real nuisance.

There’s no way to comfortably hold the device in portrait orientation and not have the handle interfere with use. You also have zero scratch protection for the back of your iPad. Toss in the incredibly tight fit that leads to an unnerving metal on metal grating when installing the case, and it just seems like this product wasn’t thoroughly tested before coming to market. It’s essentially the ColorWare Grip all over again. For the price of the Handle ($140), I fully expect a case that adds real usefulness, some level of protection, and doesn’t have the very real risk of damaging my iPad during installation.