Modeled after the iPhone 5/5s version, Spigen SGP’s Tough Armor for iPad mini ($40) is the first Retina mini-compatible case in its lineup. The dual-layer plastic and rubber case isn’t co-molded, but rather, splits into separate pieces if you choose. On almost all counts, it fits the criteria we’re looking for when it comes to playthrough cases, with only one real exception. It comes with a black, slate, gold, or silver backplate, on top of a black rubber skin.
Despite the fact that you can separate the case into pieces, you don’t have to do so during installation or removal. It’s easy enough to snap the iPad mini in place without really fussing with it. Inside, some hidden features help increase protectiveness, including air cushions in the corners. Like most iPad cases, Tough Armor leaves the speakers, Lightning port, side switch, rear camera, microphones, and headphone port totally bare. Large Lightning plugs can fit, but some oversized/angled headphone connectors will pose a problem. Button coverage is handled well, with angled rubber over the Sleep/Wake and volume controls. The latter are a bit squishier than we prefer, but all in all, the protection is good.
If we stopped there, Tough Armor would be one of the best playthrough cases for the mini. However, an issue carries over from the iPhone edition of the case: there’s a giant hole around the iPad’s Apple logo. A poor design decision that happens less and less these days, the hole doesn’t look particularly nice, and it leaves the metal exposed. There must be a market for it, but it’s still a major negative to us.
We really like the way Tough Armor looks and feels, especially the champagne gold version we tested. It’d likely be within range of an A- rating without the hole on the back; it compares to Speck’s CandyShell, but at a lower price and with less speaker protection. As it stands, Tough Armor merits our strong general recommendation. It’s a very good case, with only one real issue.
Company and Price
Company: Spigen SGP
Model: Tough Armor
Compatible: iPad mini