Cheapism: Best budget iPad cases

STM Skinny for iPad
STM Skinny for iPad

A naked iPad practically demands to be clothed. Merely setting its sleek aluminum body on a tabletop invites scratches, not to mention nudges that could send it clattering to the floor. Visions of dinged corners and cracked glass spiderwebbing across the screen spur iPad buyers to pay extra for a protective case before they even take the device out of the box.

Many default to the cheapest Apple-made offering, the $39 Smart Cover, whose popularity has spawned a host of knockoffs. However, it covers only the glass front of the iPad, leaving the back and edges exposed. A sleeve is another common solution but must be put aside when the iPad is in use. For about the same price as a Smart Cover, consumers can get a case that protects the iPad on all sides at all times, without compromising quality or convenient features such as a stand.

Here are the top picks from 

· The STM Skinny for iPad (starting at $35) appeals to consumers who want to safeguard their devices without adding a lot of bulk -- no easy feat, but reviewers say this case pulls it off. The STM Skinny features a hard outer shell, water-resistant fabric, and microfiber lining on the underside of the cover. A tongue-and-loop closure holds the cover securely in place, whether it’s protecting the screen or folded back to act as a stand. (Where to buy

RELATED: Best tablets under $200 

· The Joy Factory SmartSuit 3 (starting at $40) is similarly unobtrusive and protective. Like Apple’s Smart Cover, the front folds into a triangular stand to prop up the iPad for viewing or typing. The cover also magnetically clings to the back instead of hanging open when the iPad is in use, an uncommon and much-appreciated touch. Reviewers admire the case’s sophisticated look and high-quality feel. (Where to buy

RELATED: Best cheap smartphones under a penny 

· If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the OtterBox Defender iPad case (starting at $60) promises superior protection and has amassed hundreds of five-star reviews. Users tell cringe-inducing tales of how they (or, more often, their kids) have mistreated their iPads, only to find them unharmed inside this case. The multiple layers of protection include a polycarbonate inner shell, a silicone outer layer, a built-in screen protector, and, for good measure, a shield that doubles as a stand. (Where to buy

RELATED: Best inexpensive iPhone cases 

These cases fit the iPad 2, 3, and 4 and come in smaller versions for the iPad Mini. They also share a key feature: a so-called smart cover that employs magnets to automatically wake up the iPad when opened and trigger sleep mode when closed. That may seem like no more than a nifty convenience, but it keeps the iPad from powering on accidentally when it’s bumped or jostled around inside a bag, so it doesn’t emerge with a drained battery. Although plenty of other iPad cases sport the same capability, it doesn’t always work as advertised.

More from Cheapism:

Full report on cheap iPad cases 

More from TODAY Money:

Follow business on Twitter and Facebook