When I ordered my iPad mini, I immediately started looking around for a sleeve for it. I planned to get the Smart Cover for it (for the review, at least), but I find those don’t protect my device as well as I’d like while it’s in my bag. I wanted a sleeve that was just big enough for the mini, but it seemed like most of the sleeves I found said they would fit the mini, but they also would fit the regular-sized iPad. I have an iPad sleeve from Built (used to be called Built NY) that I got with the original iPad and have used since then for both my various iPads and a little netbook I have. (Check the related posts at the end of this article for that review.) I checked out Built, but found they had nothing yet for the iPad mini specifically. I noticed their Neoprene eReader/Tablet Envelope for 7-8″ devices and wondered if it would work with the mini. I hadn’t received the mini yet, so I used the measurements listed for it at Apple and compared it to the size of various eBook readers and small tablets Built listed would work with this sleeve. I finally decided that it might work, so I placed my order and waited for the sleeve and the iPad mini.
All images can be clicked for a larger view.
You can see the front of my Built sleeve in the top picture. I purchased the City Grid pattern, but it’s available in several other colorful patterns and in plain black. Each has a contrasting color interior, and my sleeve has a bright orange interior. The bag measures 8.9″ wide X 6.5″ tall X 1″ thick. It weighs 4.3 ounces. The neoprene used in Built products feels denser than some neoprene cases I’ve seen. I think it will be more protective than some cheaper sleeves.
This is an envelope-style sleeve that holds the iPad horizontally. The front flap has a black-and-white grid design, and there’s a bright red “Built” logo at the upper left corner. The edges of the flap are bound with black fabric. The bottom part of the front is solid black neoprene.
The sleeve has a vague dog-bone shape. The cinched in areas grip the tablet securely, while the puffed out corners offer a bit more protection in case of drops or bumps.
Open the flap to see the bright orange interior lining. You can also see the Velcro closures. There are pieces of the hooks side at the outer corners of the flap, and the loop sides are sewn onto the front near the bottom. The Velcro does make that characteristic rrriiippp! sound, but the pieces are small and the noise is over quickly.
There’s also a small zipper pocket on the front of the sleeve. This pocket is big enough to hold your phone or a charging cable. You could even fit the charger in there, but I’m not sure I’d want something that big and hard pressing against the mini’s screen.
The zipper head is metal, and it has a huge black plastic zipper pull. The pull doesn’t store away nicely in the zipper channel. It’s always getting twisted up and causing a bulge you can see through the front flap. The bulge doesn’t bother me, but it just shows that the hard plastic lump is being pressed against the iPad mini’s screen.
I received the Built sleeve a few days before the iPad mini was released – and I still didn’t know if it would even fit the mini.
It does fit the mini, but it was a very snug fit at first. Taking the mini out was made even more difficult because of the way the front flap folds over to form the front of the sleeve. This fold will help keep out rain, but it’s in the way when you insert or remove the iPad mini. After a few weeks of use, I’ve found the neoprene has stretched just a bit, and I’ve learned to turn that fold back just a bit before removing the mini. It seems to fit the mini much better now, but it’s still very snug. I certainly don’t have to worry the mini could just fall out of the open case.
I tried the sleeve with the Smart Cover on the iPad mini when I first got it, and it was such a tight fit that I was afraid I was going to crack the screen trying to pull the mini back out. After the neoprene has loosened up a bit, it’s easier to put the covered iPad in the sleeve, but it’s still a really tight fit. I put the Smart Cover’s hinge end first, because the Smart Cover slides and buckles and gets pushed back over the screen if you try to push the open end in first.
I love the Built Neoprene eReader/Tablet Envelope 7-8″ with my iPad mini. I’ve used it every day since I got the mini. It works great to protect the mini when it’s in my purse or when it’s just laying on the night table. It also makes a nice cushion between the edge of the iPad and my chest when I prop the mini on my chest to read in bed. It doesn’t serve as a stand, but I still think it’s a much better deal than the Smart Cover.