Review: The Joy Factory aXtion Pro for iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)
Compared with LifeProof's $100 Nüüd, The Joy Factory's aXtion Pro for second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads ($150) is a bulkier solution for protecting your tablet from the the worst abuse it might face. It fills the same general niche, though, offering fully waterproof and shock-proof coverage from the elements. Additionally, it can connect to the company's range of accessories such as handles, straps, and carbon fiber mounts.
Like many heavy-duty cases, aXtion Pro separates into front and back halves. Both are mostly plastic, with extended rubber corners to help soften the impact from drops and falls. A soft foam ring around the interior of the front helps form an airtight seal when the pieces are connected, with a series of six latches around the edges and a port cover at the bottom locking it in place. It’s great that these mechanisms are easy to close, and they ensure that the seal is tight, but make the case somewhat less elegant than Nüüd. It’s also about 30% thicker. Most important, however, is the fact that the case does its job; in our testing, it kept water out.
Despite the protective body, The Joy Factory’s case doesn’t block access to any of the iPad’s controls: each is protected in some way. The speaker and microphone, for example, are both exposed through special mesh that allows sound in or out, but not water. We noticed some muffling, but overall, the quality is acceptable. As suggested above, the iPad’s Dock Connector or Lightning port can be reached by flipping open a door on the bottom of the case. The headphone port is protected by a notched hard piece of plastic that can be removed or reinserted using a coin. If you’re using anything with a larger plug than Apple’s headphones, or with an angled connector, you’ll likely need an adapter; in any case, removing the plug may require you to yank on the headphone cabling.
One of the more unique elements of the case is how the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are handled: they’re still accessible, and covered in rubber for protection. But the case is so thick that they’ve actually been moved from the iPad’s edge to the case’s back, with inner mechanisms to trigger the buttons. This takes some getting used to, and doesn’t have the same pleasant tactility, but it works. Also on the back is a clear plastic window exposing the iSight camera. There’s no access to the side switch, though.
Finally, there’s the screen. In the name of full protection, aXtion Pro covers the iPad’s display with a sheet of permanent plastic film. Often times this type of material can be an issue with Retina-quality screens, creating a prismatic effect wherein you’ll notice a rainbow of pixels, especially on white screen elements. This one thankfully doesn’t have that issue; it’s crystal clear. Despite a tiny amount of air between the screen and the protector, the touchscreen’s performance isn’t hindered at all—even very light touches are registered properly. The FaceTime camera is covered, but not obscured. Our only real issue with the protector is that it covers the Home Button, reducing tactility.
Comparisons to Nüüd are inevitable in evaluating aXtion Pro, and LifeProof’s case that comes out on top in that matchup, for a few reasons. aXtion Pro is significantly larger, and costs 50% more. It’s button protection doesn’t feel as good, and the side switch is completely covered. There are elements we do prefer, namely the integrated screen protection and easy locking mechanism, but taken as a whole, aXtion Pro is less refined than LifeProof’s, and comes at too high of a price premium. While it’s not a bad case, and is a viable option for iPad users who want a case compatible with The Joy Factory’s mounts, it merits a C+ rating on its own merits.