When I first got the iPad mini, I wanted to avoid using a back case for it. Turns out that it’s extremely prone to scratching, however, so I decided that I would at least try to see how I’d like a Smart Cover compatible back case with it. I reviewed one from eBay already, but ended up using it in a DIY project.I wanted a brand name case for this use anyways, but since Incipio hasn’t made a Smart Feather for the mini (only a normal Feather, which isn’t Smart Cover compatible), I ended up ordering one from a case company I was once a fan of, but haven’t used in years: SwitchEasy. The company’s CoverBuddy case is your typical hard case with Smart Cover compatibility, and I figured that paying €20 for such a case instead of $6 on eBay would pay off. Boy, was I wrong.

In the box

One of SwitchEasy’s trademarks is putting a lot of extras in with cases. The CoverBuddy comes with a screen protector, cloth and squeegee for putting it on, and two sets of connector protectors- one for the Lightning connector, one for the audio jack. These extras cost practically nothing to add in, so it’s definitely nice to see the company add it. As we’ll see later though, it doesn’t make up for the quality of the case.

Design

The CoverBuddy is similar in some respects to the eBay case I reviewed, but it does have some unique features. Instead of cutouts around the buttons, it has flexible plastic buttons that push through to the iPad mini’s buttons. This is frankly an utterly pointless feature, as I for one had no problem pressing buttons in the cutouts of the eBay case. These plastic buttons on the CoverBuddy are just plastic waiting for a chance to break off, and I can’t help but get a flashback to breaking pieces off a model kit frame when I see how they’re attached. It doesn’t look, nor feel, like something that should, or will, be on there permanently. They also make the case look a bit weird from the sides, like something’s not been cut properly.

This overcomplicated design is also present on the bottom. Where the cheaper case had a simple, effective cutout for the speaker section, the CoverBuddy has individual holes to match the holes in the iPad mini. The problem is that since it’s not a flush fit, you end up with a tiny air gap between the mini and the case, so you get this weird muffling of the sound. You essentially end up protection a few centimeters of aluminium that doesn’t really need protection, but lose sound quality in the process.

I also have to wonder if those holes match up (you can’t tell by looking through them, they’re too small). The reason I say this is that neither the microphone cutout nor the audio jack cutout on top matches up with the actual holes on the mini. They’re not off by as much as the audio jack cutout on the eBay case was, but on the other hand, you have two misaligned cutouts instead of one. The rest of the cutouts, basically the Lightning connector, orientation switch, and camera cutouts, are however fine.

The biggest and most absurd issue with this case is the color. This is the description on the product page:

Durable rubber coating (color version) or scratch-resist UV coating (clear version) for longer durability

Based on this, and the available color options, I ordered the case called “UltraBlack.” I expected to get a fully black case with a rubber coating. What did I get? A gray-ish translucent case that neither fits the description “black” nor “rubber coating”. I even checked the box to see that I had been given the right case. Apparently, the UltraBlack version is in the same category as the UltraClear case, both in terms of finish and actual translucency. Let’s get something straight, SwitchEasy: When you put “ultra” in front of a color, it means it’s “very much that color.” Putting “ultra” in front of “black” means “very, extremely, black.” It does not, in any way, mean “translucent gray.” If you put “ultra” in front of “clear”, it means “extremely clear”, but that does not mean that putting it in front of “black” in the same product range suddenly means “clear black.” Or in this case, clear gray.

So, instead of getting a solid black case with a rubber finish, I sit here with a translucent gray case with a pointless UV coating. If it arrived pink, it would actually be closer to what I had ordered, as then it would only be the wrong color, not the wrong , color, texture and translucency. In hindsight, the images on the product page show the Apple logo on the back of the case, which I now take to mean the case is translucent. Excuse me if the complete lack of the actual word translucent, combined with the description of the color as “UltraBlack”, lead me to interpret a 3D rendering of a case (seriously, you people don’t have have a camera?) with an Apple logo on the back as a case with an actual logo on it, not as a gray translucent case that was named UltraBlack for the heck of it. It’s like calling a clear case “red” because you have a rendering of it on a red device. I also have to wonder what this case looks like on the white iPad, since it essentially relies on the device’s color to be black in any way, as easily shown by inserting a piece of paper between the iPad and the case:

Then again, considering that the description on the manufacturer page currently reads “Ultra thin PC case with tactile covered buttons,”  it’s fairly obvious that whoever does SwitchEasy’s product descriptions is very far from being qualified for the job.

Putting the whole color issue aside, there’s also a final issue with this case: Fit. I don’t know what they used to model this case, but it couldn’t have been an iPad mini, as the case seems to be designed for something that’s slightly thicker. While the cheap eBay case grips around the edges of the iPad mini perfectly, there’s some serious play around the corners with the CoverBuddy. Three of the four corners of the case I got have audible clicks from the clip-on system not being a perfect fit, essentially giving you a second “step” before the case comes off. When held normally, some light pressure on the corners of the device essentially makes it go clickety click. This is a defect that the much cheaper eBay case does not have.

The only good thing I have to say about this package is that the dust protectors that come with it are decent. I’m not really afraid of dust in the connectors of my mini, but at the same time, such protectors helps smooth the edges of the case, if you use one. I’ll keep the protectors, but probably throw away this useless case.

Conclusion

This is an epic failure of a case in pretty much every aspect of it. I got a case that had the wrong color, translucency, and coating from what I thought it would have based on the description. On top of that, the case is a bad fit, having audible clicking noises due to three out of four corners not fitting the iPad like they should. To wrap it all up, you have two misaligned cutouts, with other cutouts having been replaced by fancier, less usable solutions like plastic buttons and ridiculous speaker holes that muffle the sound.

Considering that a $6 eBay case has less issues than this, by a factor of a lot, it’s not a surprise that I won’t recommend that anyone buys this €20/$20 case. Throwing in a couple of extra accessories doesn’t make the case any less of a piece of garbage. I used to have great respect for SwitchEasy, and have used lots of cases from them, but over the last couple of years the company has come out with more and more ridiculous designs, while the old, proven designs have been discontinued. My first time back with the company seems to suggest that it’s no longer even a quality brand, so it’s a fitting time to take them off my list of case manufacturers to keep an eye on.

Obviously there’s a chance I got a highly flawed case that should never have shipped, but that still only accounts for the misaligned cutouts and corners. The stupid speaker holes and buttons, and the ridiculous color issue, can’t be explained away as easily. There’s just too much wrong with this case to blame it on chance.

I’m giving this case half a star because the included accessories are decent. The case itself gets no stars. I can tolerate some misaligned cutouts from a $6 case, or slight color issues compared to a photo. I can’t tolerate the mountain of issues you get with this case, at that price. It’s the biggest joke of a case I have ever seen.