Otterbox Defender for iPad mini is well-built, rugged and surprisingly comfortable in-hand [Review]

Otterbox has a name that speaks ultimate protection and quality in the iDevice case market. Especially the Defender Series. Needless to say, when I unboxed the case, I was expecting great things from the iPad mini case, and for $69.95 (£45) you’d certainly hope it’s worth the investment.

The Defender for iPad mini is made up of four individual parts. Firstly, there’s the strong silicone outer layer that acts as an impact absorber. It’s thick and extremely durable. It also covers all the parts it can without hindering use. The Lightning connector, headset jack and mute switch are all protected by dust covers (held in place by the polycarbonate inner shell) that can be pulled out when you need access. The only exposed areas are the microphone, speakers and camera – for obvious reasons. Even the home button is protected. If any of you have had broken glass misfortunes like I have, you’ll know that the glass surrounding the home button is possibly the most vulnerable on the device.

The skeleton keeping the body rigid is the inner case made up of two strong polycarbonate shells. The back piece has two large, very thin pads of foam on the inside to add a little more shock absorption, and protect the aluminum back from being scratched by the hard case. A glance around the edges reveals 12 indicator arrows, all pointing to clips which fasten the two polycarbonate shells together. The front shell – unsurprisingly – has 12 corresponding grooves and holes for the clips to fit in to. And when the two pieces are together, boy are they secure. The largest part of the front shell is a relatively thick piece of transparent polycarbonate, stuck to the shell just underneath the bezel-protecting frame. Around the entire frame, the edges are slanted downwards towards the display, with the underside given extra rigidity by some solid construction. Thanks to the slanted edges, you can be sure that if you drop this face down, there’s a good couple of millimeters between the impact surface and your precious screen.

The 4th part – the Shield Stand – may seem like the least important, but, it’s a vital part of the Defender case. When you’re travelling, it secures in place over the front of your iPad mini to ensure your tiny tablet is completely covered in serious protection. When you’re not, it doubles as a stand, thanks to a cleverly designed and simple stand built inside. Simply push it up and one side is perfect for viewing angles, the other is great for on-screen typing. Sure, it could do with more versatility, but the fact it’s there at all is a huge plus point. A front cover is normally something you’d discard as useless when you’re not traveling. The built in stand gives it a purpose beyond shielding your device on your journeys.

Once the Defender is completely assembled, you could be forgiven for assuming it’s going to ruin the experience of holding the iPad. Apple’s tiny and lightweight device is a pleasure to hold. And, although it’s still nicer to grip without the case on, Otterbox has done an incredible job of making it as pleasing to use as possible. I used it for several hours while testing out Need for Speed: Most Wanted for my review, and not once did it get uncomfortable. The grippy texture and gently rounded edges of the outer-layer mean that it fits in your grip very well indeed.

Even the aesthetics of the new Defender for iPad mini are applaudable. Considering it’s got the reputation of being a tank-proof, industrial solution, the designers have done a good job of making it seem understated and almost minimalist. In fact, overall, it’s almost impossible to find a single fault with the new Defender. If there was no kick-stand inside the shield, I’d mock the discard-ability of that part. If it was incredibly heavy, I could have a dig at that. Now sure, there are much slimmer, better looking, and lighter cases out there. That goes without saying. But for something as protective as this, absolutely every part of the design and practicality has been thought of, and you can tell. Incredible job by Otterbox. And, my first ever perfect score for any case since we started our new TiP Rating system.

If you want to try it out for yourself, head on over to Otterbox’s order page.

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  • http://www.squidoo.com/best-cases-for-samsung-galaxy-s4 Betrand233

    The Otterbox is indeed a nice case just like the ones I found here http://www.squidoo.com/best-ipad-mini-cases-1

  • http://www.lifetrainers.net/ Allegraghf

    If any of you have had broken glass misfortunes like I have, you’ll know that the glass surrounding the home button is possibly the most vulnerable on the device.

  • ram0na

    I just want to say that I have had this case for a couple of weeks now…the home button is very difficult to press for little ones.  It makes life very difficult for parents who bought this protective device specifically because young children would be using it.

  • Tablet2Cases1

    The case doesn’t look to bulky – especially for the purpose at hand.

  • Bobo900000

    The home button is very hard to press – even for an adult – I usually have to press it with my long finger nail and wonder if that will ruin the button cover over time. The built in screen protecector is very rainbow looking. Regardless of these two faults this is still the best case for me – no regrets in this purchase.