Review: Hard Candy Cases ShockDrop for iPad mini
Hard Candy Cases was the first company to deliver an iPad mini case from a name brand manufacturer: the new ShockDrop ($50) is quite similar to the company's iPhone 5 and second/third-generation iPad case of the same name, but scaled to fit the new tablet. Like the others, it's composed of a hard plastic front frame and a heavily textured rubber back that together provide substantial protection against drops and the elements.
Just as with the recently reviewed iPhone 5 edition, assembly of the case starts by snapping the iPad mini into the plastic frame that includes integrated screen protection; the tablet is held in place with strategically placed clips around the edges. The black plastic also covers all of the side bezel, and about half of the top and bottom. Thankfully the screen protection lives up to our expectations from the company, and doesn’t interfere with using the Multi-Touch display in any way—there’s no horrible prismatic effect, either, given the iPad mini’s non-Retina screen. We would still prefer the option to remove the protector, though, as some users would prefer anti-glare protection to glossy film.
The next step is to wrap the thick rubber skin around the plastic and aluminum; it has the same tire tread pattern and squared-off corners as the rest of the family. We found it to be a bit tricky to get the rubber to line up properly with the matching indentations that hold it to the plastic, but with a little bit of patience and after a few times moving our fingers around the perimeter, we were able to set it up correctly. The result is a wholly covered device with the only portion exposed 100% of the time being the iSight camera. Everything else is hidden under either a rubber door or can be accessed by pressing through the case. The chunky volume and Sleep/Wake button covers feel great, as does the Home Button cover.
We did notice one issue: there’s no hole for the top microphone, but rather a depression in the rubber that hasn’t been punched out. We tested to see if audio input would be affected and found that sound recorded with the case on is somewhat diminished—not inaudible, but what one might expect from a microphone covered with a thin layer of plastic. Additionally, dictation using Siri was about 30% less accurate for one of our editors, while the other saw no difference whatsoever. The rubber might be blocking certain frequencies, and if it turns out to be an issue, can be physically punched through.
Ultimately, we’re not surprised by the quality of ShockDrop; it’s right up there with versions we’ve seen before. For those who seek extra protection for an iPad mini, it’s a very smart choice and looks pretty nice, too. The price falls right in the middle between the iPhone 5 and iPad versions, which seems totally fair. Our only objection is the blocked microphone, and even this wasn’t as big of an issue as we thought it might be; it’s a solvable problem, though Hard Candy really should address it on subsequent production runs. That being said, ShockDrop is still good enough to merit our strong general recommendation. It’s a well-made case that will certainly keep the iPad mini safe.