Review: OtterBox Agility Tablet System for iPad Air
OtterBox has released a modular-based case and accessory collection for iPad Air, the Agility Tablet System ($30-$70). OtterBox has a well-known reputation for producing quality cases for users looking for rugged and tough protection for their devices; here, the company has created a multi-piece system designed to have you covered in all uses for your Air throughout the day. Users can buy the pieces separately, and can get as many or as few as desired. Though OtterBox products are known for protection, the OtterBox Agility Tablet System is generally too big, detracting from the overall appeal of the iPad Air.
The OtterBox Agility Shell ($40) is the epicenter of the entire Agility system; none of the products in the Agility line will work without the Shell, as the large hole on the back of the Shell is designed for attaching the other accessories in the system. The Shell is made of hard plastic and doesn’t feature a rubber lining as seen in other OtterBox cases. Nothing is subtle with the Agility Shell — it’s huge, hard, tough, and too pointy. The corners and deep crevices for button and connector access are an interesting design feature, and they’ll probably provide enough of a defense if the iPad is dropped, but without screen protection or button protection, there won’t be the complete protection you’ll find in many other OtterBox cases.
Mounting an iPad Air to the wall with the Agility Wall Mount ($30) accessory is an interesting option. There are holes for screwing the mount to a wall, though the screws are not included. The Wall Mount also has two small grooves designed for included 3M adhesive tape to quickly mount to a surface. It’s worth noting that the magnet in the Wall Mount is ultra powerful — almost too powerful. We had to use a little bit of effort to disconnect the Agility Shell from the Agility Wall Mount, but better safe than sorry.
The basic cover for the Agility Shell is the Agility Folio ($50), which comes in gray. The Folio connects to the rear of the shell with a magnet and easily holds up to normal usage of the iPad. With a basic plastic exterior and microfiber interior, the Folio feels a bit low-end, but provides enough coverage to adequately protect the device. The Folio is designed to fold into a two-position stand for viewing. We did notice that when held by the hinge, the fold of the front cover would flop over. We were a bit surprised that there wasn’t a magnet or another connection/latch built into the Folio cover.
Users who are looking for a fancier option would likely gravitate toward the Agility Portfolio ($70), a faux leather folio case that fully protects an iPad. Folding into a variety of positions, the Agility Portfolio can be used for landscape or portrait viewing. Although the Portfolio boasts complete coverage, an unfortunate amount of thickness is also added to the ensemble. Measuring in at exactly 1” thick, the Agility Portfolio removes the “Air” from the 7.5mm thick iPad Air.
iPads need power, and the Agility Power Base ($50) is equipped with three USB ports, which are connected to a hub and powered by a standard wall outlet. The Power Base is designed so users can stack the Agility Dock on top of it — creating a super dock of sorts. We connected an iPad Air, iPad Mini and first generation iPad to the Agility Power Base and all began charging as expected. Naturally, cable management comes to mind with an accessory that charges three devices; the Power Base has clips for cable management.
The previously mentioned Agility Dock ($50) is a hinge-based dock made of plastic, with a piece of metal in the base for added weight. The Dock enables users to swivel the iPad for viewing in portrait or landscape mode. Like the Wall Mount, the magnet on the Dock is so powerful that you can spin your iPad like a propeller. Should you spin your iPad like a propeller? We’ll leave that up to you, but ... probably not.
The OtterBox Agility Tablet System is large — in a number of ways. From the sheer number of accessories, to their physical size, to the high price tag for the pieces, it’s all large. Companies have been working towards developing case ecosystems for some time, and this system certainly provides users with all the a la carte accessories they could want. If one were to buy all of the Agility accessories we discussed, he or she would spend $290, before tax. The OtterBox Agility Shell is substantial enough to support older iPad models, and it achieves its goal of protecting your iPad, but we have to wonder what user would want to turn the svelte iPad Air into a bulky behemoth. The variety of accessories generally achieve their intended uses, but the entire concept of this case system seems excessive. There are many standalone, higher-quality options that can be had for much lower prices. In the end, we don’t see much point for anyone to buy into this expensive, clunky system.