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.
Survivor for iPad mini takes after the most recent version of the case for the second-, third-, and now fourth-generation iPad. Unlike previous editions that had a rubber skin stretched over a snapped-together plastic shell, this one starts with a plastic iPad-holding tray that is then followed by the rubber, with another plastic frame snapping in place last over the front of the iPad and screen.
When fully assembled, the exterior is mostly grippy rubber, but there are two large diamonds of plastic jutting through the back, plus the frame over the tablet’s bezel. Surprisingly, some of the rubber around the exposed plastic on the back doesn’t sit as flat as it’s supposed to. This shouldn’t affect the waterproof capabilities of the case, but we haven’t seen the issue before.
Griffin’s case offers a higher level of protection than any other iPad mini case we’ve seen. Not only does it protect against drops and bumps, but it meets military guidelines for wind, rain, sand, and dust protection. Literally everything is covered to some degree: the screen is protected by a clear protector, as is the FaceTime camera, though both work as well as if they were uncovered. There are flip open covers for the headphone port, Lightning port, and side switch, plus one that rotates out of the way to reveal the iSight camera.
Each is easy to lift and secure back in place. Additionally, all of the iPad mini’s buttons are covered but maintain full tactility, even through the squishy rubber. The microphone and speakers are covered with a material that allows audio in and out. Despite this high level of protection, the case does not make the iPad mini feel too large or heavy; it’s still easy to hold in one hand. Survivor also comes with a simple hard plastic stand that fits among the ridges on the back, and can snap flat against the device when not in use.
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.