Review: OtterBox Reflex Series Case for iPad 2
OtterBox is practically synonymous with dramatically protective cases for Apple's mobile devices, even while it has started to introduce scaled-down options that are slimmer and sleeker. The company's Reflex Series has been a testing ground for some of these streamlined designs, and the latest entry is Reflex Series Case for iPad 2 ($70). This case shares the same general design concepts as its smaller counterparts for the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G, but in an obviously larger size. It introduces a combination cover/stand not seen with the previous models, and also includes a screen protector film, applicator card, and cleaning cloth.
Reflex Series Case is mainly composed of hard black plastic, with a coating of rubber running about an inch from the edge along the entire perimeter. Unlike most iPad 2 cases, this one is a slider: it splits into halves right at the middle, and slides off with some resistance. A soft felt lining on the inside helps to prevent scratching, which would otherwise be a concern when the tablet is being inserted and removed. The shape isn’t quite rectangular, as the corners are raised a bit higher than the rest of the case, creating a concave effect on the edges. We like the lip that the case forms around the touchscreen; it’s not too deep, but should provide some protection in the case of a drop.
Both the Sleep/Wake button and volume rocker are covered by the rubber, and although it takes more force to press them, they’re still very clicky and not squishy at all. Openings for the headphone and Dock Connector ports are rather tight, so while most modern accessories will fit without issues, certain older ones may not. There are also holes for the rear camera, microphone, and speaker—the latter is actually a wave guide with openings on the front, and it does its job well. Unlike the iPad 2’s default rear-firing speaker position, Reflex makes sure that audio is clearly directed at the user, rather than away.
OtterBox has developed a penchant for combining lids and stands together for its iPad 2 cases; we saw the same sort of thing with the earlier Defender Series Case. The one that ships with Reflex Series Case is better thought out, although it’s still somewhat cumbersome: made of frosted clear plastic and black rubber, it has a flexible bending point about a third of the way in. A clip of curled-up plastic on that smaller section wraps around one side of the encased iPad 2, while rubber corners fit on the opposite side. The cover doesn’t allow you to touch through to the display, and due to its shape, one corner of the bezel is always exposed. More importantly, it’s inelegant to use by comparison with the magnetic-, suction-, and tab-based lids we’ve seen from other companies, requiring more force to attach and detach.
Transforming the lid into a stand is simple, although not immediately intuitive. Because the rubber allows the case to fold in either direction, it can take a try or two to right way to position it. In the correct setup, a plastic clip fits into a small slot and holds the stand shape. Depending on how it’s positioned, it creates either a typing angle or a viewing angle—the former is at a pretty high angle, while the latter is closer to that of most other stands. While the functionality is nice, we wish there was an option to purchase Reflex Series Case without it. It feels less like an integral piece of the case than an unwanted additional accessory, and could be a pain to keep track of when not in use.
Judging the rest of the product on its merits, we really liked Reflex Series Case: it’s slim, very nice looking—especially compared to many of the company’s cases—and uses a combination of materials that work well together. The fact there aren’t many slider-style cases for the iPad 2 and that OtterBox pulled it off so well is impressive. As for the lid-and-stand, it’s kind of ugly, but it works. We wish it was a cleaner implementation, though, something similar to Speck’s CandyShell Wrap—a case that cost $15 less. OtterBox’s solution is functional, but could also be cumbersome. Taken as a whole, the price is too high but it’s still a very nice case and because of this, we offer a general recommendation. It’s a smarter buy for most users than the $90 Defender, but OtterBox still has a way to go before its cases deliver the sort of value for the dollar that its top rivals are offering.