When you’re spending at least $800 on an iPad Pro, it’s important to invest in a case that will protect its scratch-prone aluminum body. Although there aren’t many standout cases for the 11-inch iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 10.9-inch iPad Air, we have found a few options that offer a much better value than Apple’s official folio case.
The best cheap case: ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case
ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case for iPad Pro 11-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
Best cheap case
ESR’s Rebound Slim Smart Case offers more protection than any other affordable case, without sacrificing your ability to use the Apple Pencil.
Why it’s great: The ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case for iPad Pro is one of the only cheap cases we’ve seen so far that offers full edge protection while leaving enough room to charge and sync the Apple Pencil. This isn’t a terribly exciting case, but among the limited selection of available cases, it’s the best cheap option.
The ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case consists of a TPU (a flexible plastic) shell with a trifold cover attached, and it stands out from the other cheap cases we tested in a few ways. The slightly soft case material is better than the rigid plastic the company uses for some of its other cases (which can chip or crack). Whereas most cheap cases have cutouts for the buttons, the Rebound Slim Smart Case has integrated button covers that provide a pleasant clicking feeling. This is one of the few cases we tested at any price that allows a full charging and syncing connection for the Apple Pencil, without sacrificing protection for the other edges. And it has individual cutouts for each hole of all four speakers, rather than long strips of exposed aluminum, as seen on most other cases. The case for the iPad Air has the necessary opening to use the Touch ID sensor in the power button.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case feels like something that costs $15. Its materials don’t seem like they’ll break easily, but they are thinner and lighter than the materials of more-premium cases. The cover doesn’t come close to approximating even faux leather and instead is just a generic, synthetic rubbery material. The ESR Rebound Slim Smart Case won’t turn any heads, but it will get the job done. If you have a 2018 iPad Pro, the case’s camera opening will be larger than necessary, but not in a way that’ll affect performance.
Also great: Zugu Case The Alpha Case
Zugu Case The Alpha Case for 11-inch iPad Pro
Function over form
This case offers lots of angles, great protection, and Apple Pencil support, with a distinct design.
Why it’s great:
Zugu Case’s The Alpha Case offers more viewing angles than any other iPad Pro case we’ve seen, and it’s just as functional. This case is very protective, and it holds the Apple Pencil and allows it to sync and charge. Also, its buttons are super-clicky, which makes them pleasant to use. This case’s design is utilitarian, but its features are unmatched.
The Alpha Case is a rather slim, standard folio-style setup, with a faux leather exterior and a rubber bumper around the outside edges. What sets this case apart from others is the series of recessed ridges on the front cover—eight on the 10.9- and 11-inch versions, and 10 on the 12.9-inch model. These ridges, in conjunction with a fold-out stand on the back, are used to hold the iPad Pro in various stand angles, ranging from just shy of perpendicular (which is great for watching a movie) to about 30 degrees of your desk (which works for typing). Each stand angle is stronger than we expected, thanks to a combination of the feet fitting into the ridges and magnets in both ensuring they snap into the right position.
This case allows the Apple Pencil to magnetically stick to the iPad Pro’s side. What’s unique is The Alpha Case doesn’t leave the metal edge exposed but instead uses thin enough rubber that the wireless connection isn’t blocked, so you can still sync and charge without risking damage to the aluminum. Instead of a magnetic flap to secure the Pencil in place, there is an elastic pocket on the back to securely hold the Pencil while you’re traveling. This works well, but it’s not very elegant.
One additional small touch we liked is how the cover nestles neatly into the lip around the tablet’s screen—and stays in place—thanks to magnets. A small tab above the right speaker makes it easy to lift out, but the lid will otherwise stay in place.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: You may not love the way The Alpha Case looks. Instead of the clean, flat surfaces we’re used to with most cases, there’s a lot going on here! From the ridges to the pockets to the fold-out stand, the functional features aren’t hidden. If you’re more concerned with having useful features than with showcasing the simplest design, you likely won’t mind. But if aesthetics are a priority, this may not be the case for you.
What about the Apple Smart Folio?
Other than the keyboard cases, the only case Apple makes for the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros and the iPad Air are the Smart Folio for iPad Pro 11-inch, the Smart Folio for iPad Pro 12.9-inch , and Smart Folio for iPad Air (4th generation). But “case” is a generous term: The Smart Folio consists of a cover that sandwiches the tablet between two thin pieces of polyurethane, using magnets to attach to the back but leaving the top, bottom, and right edges of the tablet exposed. Apple’s price for this case is exorbitant, considering how little protection it offers: It was $80 for the smaller version and $100 for the bigger one at the time of publishing.
If you love the Apple Smart Folio design, we suggest that you save a lot of money and choose ESR’s Rebound Magnetic Smart Case for iPad Pro 11-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch, or iPad Air (4th generation). The Rebound Magnetic Smart Case is a nearly identical model that offers the same looks and functionality for a fraction of the price, and it even includes a magnetic flap to hold the case shut. We don’t normally recommend such obvious knockoffs, but this time we think it’s justified considering Apple’s pricing.
How we picked and tested
We tested 18 cases for the iPad Pro using the same criteria we used for other iPad case models, ultimately finding two designs we liked.
Here’s what we looked for in a great iPad Pro case:
Once we had narrowed down a list of competitors, we tested each one on both iPad Pro sizes, checking for fit and function.
OtterBox redesigned its Symmetry Series 360 Case (our former favorite) for 2021 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models; the iPad Air (4th generation) model remains the same. In place of a flap to hold the Apple Pencil, the case now uses a slide-out mechanism that (though conceptually kind of cool) introduces an unnecessarily breakable element.
Tomtoc’s Vertical Case for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd and 4th generation), 11-inch iPad Pro, and iPad Air is one of the few cases to support a portrait orientation, which you may prefer for certain applications. We found it to be a little thick and the cover more unwieldy than we’d prefer. But it’s fairly affordable and not a bad choice if you want the functionality this case offers.
Pitaka’s MagEZ Case is made to work in concert with the Magic Keyboard, providing the protection the keyboard accessory lacks. Unlike our picks, this mostly plastic case doesn’t have a lid; it snaps onto the tablet, leaving the screen and the left edge exposed but covering up the other edges and the buttons. Across the back there’s an inlaid panel of aramid, the same fiber used to make Kevlar. There are three metal contacts in the rear panel that match up with the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector, which is necessary to connect to the Magic Keyboard. It’s nice to have the extra coverage when using the keyboard or when you take the iPad Pro out of it. But the MagEZ Case’s price tag makes us appreciate the concept more than we do the actual product.
As we mention above, Apple’s Smart Folio for 11-inch iPad Pro and Smart Folio for 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Generation) don’t offer enough edge protection and are laughably expensive.
Speck’s Presidio Pro Folio 11-inch iPad Pro Case and Presidio Pro Folio 12.9-inch iPad Pro Case each have a Pencil holder along the right edge. But they won’t let you sync or charge the stylus without removing the case; it’s an otherwise nice-looking and nice-feeling design.
Speck’s Balance Folio and Balance Folio Clear come only in 11-inch versions, and neither case offers sync or charge access for the Pencil.
The design of the MoKo Case Fit iPad Pro 11″ 2018 and MoKo Case Fit iPad Pro 12.9″ 2018 is very similar to that of our budget pick from ESR. But the Moko doesn’t offer button protection. And rather than providing precision-cut holes for each speaker opening, it leaves long strips of exposed surface.
Luvvitt’s Clarity Case for the 11-inch iPad Pro and the version for the 12.9-inch 3rd-generation iPad Pro don’t have a front cover, and their Pencil cutout isn’t large enough for syncing and charging. The company’s Back Cover with Pencil Holder (in 11-inch and 12.9-inch 3rd-generation versions) and Case with Pencil Holder (for the 11-inch iPad Pro) have the same issues.
ESR’s Yippee Premium Trifold Case has a too-small Pencil opening, leaves large portions of the top and bottom edges exposed, and comes only in an 11-inch size. The company’s Intelligent Premium Business Case and its Urban Premium Folio Case (in Knight, Brown, and Twilight versions) both offer more-thorough protection but otherwise have the same faults as the Premium Trifold.
ESR’s iPad Pro 11 Yippee Premium Trifold Case and iPad Pro 12.9 2018 Yippee Trifold Smart Case are very similar to our budget pick, with an admittedly more-pleasant-feeling soft-touch finish and a cover that doesn’t pretend to be leather. But they leave the iPad’s top and bottom edges exposed, which means tablets are more likely to get dinged.
ESR’s Urban Premium Folio Case for the 11-inch and for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd and 4th generation) have a nice fabric exterior; this makes them among the better-looking inexpensive cases we’ve come across. And they include full edge protection, save for a Pencil cutout. Unfortunately, they lack any sort of typing angle, and the two viewing angles aren’t very sturdy.
The Moshi VersaCover—for the 11-inch iPad Pro and for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd and 4th generation)—is conceptually similar to the OtterBox Symmetry Series 360 Case. This case has a translucent plastic back, rubber around the edges, and room for the Apple Pencil to sync and charge. The origami-like folding lid offers a portrait-viewing angle, in addition to the standard landscape typing and viewing positions. But we found that the case’s corners pop away from the tablet during normal use, which is very annoying. Though we don’t think the case will just fall off, you should pick one that stays on better.
About your guide
Nick Guy is a senior staff writer covering Apple and accessories at Wirecutter. He has been reviewing iPhones, iPads, and related tech since 2011—and stopped counting after he tested his 1,000th case. It’s impossible for him not to mentally catalog any case he sees. He once had the bright idea to build and burn down a room to test fireproof safes.