Review: OtterBox Defender Series Case for iPad mini
Although there are other competitors, Griffin and OtterBox have consistently released some of the best heavy-duty cases for the past few generations of Apple devices. Their respective Survivor and Defender lines are generally priced within $10 of each other, and come with the same sort of plastic and rubber pieces that snap together with integrated screen protection. The release of the iPad mini has followed the same pattern, as Griffin's Survivor ($60) and OtterBox's Defender ($70) are now available. They look similar, although each has its own advantages. Griffin's case offers a higher degree of protection, while OtterBox's is sleeker.
Defender takes many design cues from OtterBox’s version of the case for the full-sized iPad, and makes one improvement we’ve been requesting for years. Two plastic halves snap around the front and back of the tablet, creating a protective shell. That’s then augmented by a rubber skin that fits flush with the rest of the unit, creating a cohesive case. The back is mostly flat, save for two ridges towards the edges, and we liked the smooth rubber, which provides appropriate grip without adding too much extra bulk. We were also thrilled to see that OtterBox has finally covered up the exposed Apple logo it left on previous cases.
Whereas Griffin’s Survivor is rated to military specifications for protectiveness, Defender is designed more for average to heavy use. It’ll prevent damage from most drops and falls, but leaves some openings exposed to liquid and particulates—namely the speakers, microphone, and rear camera. Flip-open covers protect the Lightning port, headphone port, and side switch, while all four buttons are covered by rubber. The volume buttons require a bit more pressure than normal, but the others maintain full tactility. Permanent screen protection is built-in to the front frame, and thankfully it doesn’t detract from the usability of the display or its appearance. Like previous versions, a snap-on shield that doubles as a fold-out stand is included. It’s useful, although a bit bulky.
For those looking for the highest level of protection without sacrificing a practical size and weight, Survivor is the winner. While it’s a little bulkier than Defender, it provides more complete coverage at a better price. The look may not have as broad of an appeal because it’s not as plain, but we don’t find it to be objectionable. It’s still expensive as cases go, however, and not everyone needs so much protection. As such, Survivor earns our strong general recommendation. Defender is still a good choice, and some will find it more attractive. The higher price and lower level of coverage bring down the value a bit, though, making it worthy of a flat B rating.