LifeProof Nüüd for iPad mini
It seems LifeProof has a pattern down now. After introducing the initial version of a case with a built-in screen protector, it follows up with a different edition that leaves the display exposed, and for some reason costs a few dollars more. We’ve seen it done with the full-sized iPad, and iPhone 5/5s, and now there’s Nüüd for iPad mini ($120). Coming in at $20 more than Frē, it maintains an almost identical design. The only exception is what’s over the front of the tablet, so this review is heavily based on that earlier piece. Released before the announcement of the iPad mini with Retina display, it’s notably lacking an opening for the new model's rear microphone. A removable shoulder strap is included.
Although it’s not quite identical to LifeProof’s earlier iPad and iPhone cases, Nüüd borrows elements from both designs. Incredibly easy to install on the iPad mini, it combines a plastic front frame with a mostly clear plastic back. The part of the back that’s not clear is rubberized, and includes button and microphone protection, plus removable strips along either edge allowing for compatibility with the company’s accessories. To install the case, you simply snap the front and back pieces together on your iPad mini, a simple process. Although it more than doubles the thickness of the mini to 15.9mm, Nüüd doesn’t make the device feel bulky at all. You can still easily hold it in one hand, or slip it into a bag without issue.
Once you’ve snapped the case together, the buttons and ports are all protected. Starting at the top, there’s a rubber protector for the headphone port, a special mesh covering the microphone, a glass lens cover for the rear iSight camera, a mechanical side switch cover, Sleep/Wake and volume button protection, speaker protectors, and a flip-open Lightning port protector that also doubles as a mechanism for locking the case. For the most part, everything works well. Music coming out of the speakers does sound somewhat muffled, but not terrible, a fair tradeoff given that this case is waterproof. Notably, issues with early runs of Frē that impacted the Sleep/Wake button have been fully addressed, and present no problem here.
Leaving the screen exposed is an active decision, not an oversight on LifeProof’s part. The big benefit is that there’s nothing to interfere with the touch controls, nothing to dampen the sensitive or affect how the screen looks. And despite the lack of active protection, the mini is submersible thanks to an airtight seal that runs all the way around the screen. Unlike Frē, there’s plastic Home Button coverage built-in. While we can appreciate why some people might prefer this level of screen exposure, it’s less than ideal for a case that’s supposed to be “LifeProof.” We’d prefer the higher level of coverage, especially since the company has pretty much figured it out on its other cases, and charges less when it’s there.
Nüüd is almost exactly what we’re looking for in an ultra-protective, everything-proof iPad mini case. It’s attractive, not too big, lives up to the promised level of protection, and is easy to use. The $120 asking price isn’t ideal, but it’s in the range of what people have come to expect from properly-tailored and fully waterproof iPad cases. We still prefer screen protection though, and thus see this as a step down from a properly-functioning Frē. For that reason, Nüüd earns our general recommendation.