Sometimes styling its name as ÜZBL, Uzibull is back with its latest iPad case, ShockWave ($59), which features a very similar aesthetic to the last products we saw from the company. This one’s far more ruggedized, though, matching the general style and concept of cases such as Griffin’s Survivor. The case splits into three pieces, with a hard plastic frame to hold the tablet, followed by a rubber outer layer that protects the back, sides, and front edges, then a plastic removable screen cover.
Included with our review unit of ShockWave was an instruction sheet, with all seven images dedicated solely to snapping the iPad into the plastic frame. We can’t ever recall a company providing so much information about what is normally such a basic part of installation. It walks you through which end to start with—“short end port side”—all the way to inspecting that the iPad is seated properly. While useful information isn’t a bad thing, the fact that so many instructions were needed is one of two signs that the design was a bit too complicated. Once the iPad is in the tray, the next layer is the rubber skin, and then the screen protector. Snapping that last piece in place takes some patience and a few tries, as does removing it. Uzibull actually says on its instruction sheet that “the case is intentionally not easy to remove,” which seems more like rationalization than reality.
When it’s all put together, the case is pretty large, but that’s to be expected from a design of this type. The rubber extends out at the corners, adding extra drop protection, while ridges on the back add some grip. We’d feel totally comfortable handing a child a full-sized iPad in ShockWave, or putting it in a situation where it might otherwise get knocked around or dropped. One of the better thought-out aspects of the case is the rubber foot on the bottom of the built-in stand. It holds the tablet at a 55° landscape angle, preventing it from slipping or scuffing. The stand snaps securely into the back of the case when it’s not in use, sitting flush against the plastic surrounding it.
For the most part, Uzibull got button and port protection access right, although it isn’t as protective as it could be. Its raised Home Button works just as it should, even for double clicks. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are deeply recessed beneath the material, but raised protectors help maintain a good degree of tactility. Headphone and Dock Connector/Lightning port coverage is set up in a similar way. Neither is covered to prevent dirt or splashes from getting in. The ports are deep down there, but you should be able to connect most plugs; there will be some limitations with large, angled headphone connectors. There is one place where the thickness of the material presents a real issue though, and that’s with the side switch: the opening is so narrow and deep that you mightn’t be able to flip it. We were only able to do so with a pinky, and even that was hit and miss.
ShockWave’s screen protector thankfully doesn’t impact the touch sensitivity of the iPad’s display. It does feel more plasticy, but it doesn’t miss any inputs or swipes. Although the material itself is clear, a grid of dots over the entire surface is clearly visible, and creates a prismatic effect—despite our removal of a dotted temporary protector that came pre-installed on the plastic. If not for these issues, the protector would have been better.
Compared to the $80 Survivor, Uzibull’s $50 ShockWave offers many of the same features and aesthetics, although does miss the mark in a few ways. The lack of any port protection, the inability to access the side switch, the dots on the screen, and the installation/removal difficulty all detract from its appeal. But, there are advantages too, such as the built-in kickstand and the markedly lower price. Because this kind of protection simply isn’t seen at such a low price point, ShockWave earns our general recommendation. If you’re willing to make the sacrifices, it’s a good choice, but a little extra polish could have gone a long way towards making it better.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)