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Monday, May 5, 2014

[Review] Otterbox Defender for iPad Mini with Retina Display

There is something very comforting about knowing that there is an Otterbox on my iPad Mini 2, and in this review I will cover what works and what doesn't. OtterBox is well known for having high quality products, but does that mean you should fork over your hard earned money for an Otterbox? Read on to find out.

The Retina iPad Mini is something that I've lusted over for quite some time. The sleek lines, and lightweight design had me drooling and saving up every penny to get the money together to buy one. When the iPad came in the mail, I quickly realized that I was going crazy trying to make sure that there wasn't any way that I could scratch 'My Precious.' 

As anyone that owned a black iPhone 5 knows, it doesn't take much to make an pristine iPhone or iPad scratched up. It got to the point where I was wiping my hand over the surface of my desk, hunting for a stray grain of sand before I set my iPad Mini with Retina Display down. It was driving me insane, and there was no way that I was going to let my little one handle the Mini without some protection. So I turned to what I know works in these situations. I called up my friends at OtterBox.

A bit of history is in order here. There is a Retina iPad 3 in my family, but I never get to see it, or play with it. The iPad belongs to my littlest, Caleb. It goes everywhere with him, and its gone through its second OtterBox Defender case. I'm always amazed at how good the iPad 3 looks when I take the OtterBox Defender off of it. The OtterBox Defender continues to do an amazing job protecting the iPad from all the terror that a 3 year-old can dish out. It has been dropped, thrown, splashed, drooled and generally put through Hell, and I could sell the iPad as almost perfect condition. Amazing job by the OtterBox team.

Lots of color combos are available 
The OtterBox Defender works by putting layers in between the iPad and the elements. There is an inner layer that snaps together. The inner layer is made of a fortified polycarbonate frame and had a soft kinda "memory foam" inside it. This ensures that the iPad isn't damaged by the plastic frame. There is also a screen protector built in to the case that makes sure that the iPad's screen isn't damaged or scratched. The inner case is encased in a rubber outer layer (or “robust silicone skin” in PR speak) that helps absorb the impact force, and also gives your hands something grippy to hold on to while the case is on the iPad. Also, not to be left out, the outer shell can be used to add another layer of protection, or it can function as a stand in both portrait and landscape views. It's really handy and this is the first time that I've used the outer shell for this purpose.

Otterbox Defender on iPad Mini 2
Overall, there isn't quite enough words in my vocabulary to describe how much I trust my devices when I have an OtterBox Defender on them. I've never had a device crack or get damaged when there was a Defender on it. The OtterBox Defender does an excellent job of both preventing damage to your electronics, and also there the peace of mind that comes with knowing that one mistake will not damage a device that costs over $500 to replace.

The iPad Mini 2 works perfectly with the OtterBox Defender. There isn't any need to 'break-in' this case, all of the buttons and switches work perfectly right out of the box. There are cut outs for the front and the rear cameras. Also along the back is a cutout for a microphone, so using the case won't diminish the active noise cancellation built in to the iPad. The front button has a clean, solid feel to it, and considering how much you use that home button, the solid feeling is reassuring. There is a flap that covers the Lightning Port, and this brings up a point that OtterBox has improved upon. The flap that covered the port not the iPad 3 was very difficult to remove. It was so bad that my wife cut the flap off. The Defender on the iPad Mini 2 doesn't have this problem. There's enough coverage to keep dust out of the port, and it's easy to open with just one finger. Great job by the OtterBox team on that. The sides of the case have the volume and rocker switch. Adjusting volume is no problem at all, but opening the flap to get to the rocker switch is still kinda hard. That might be more due to my short fingernails, but it's still much easier than it has been on other iPad cases.

It is finally easy to flip this open in the dark, while half-asleep.

There is a price to pay for that kind of protection though. The Defender does make the iPad Mini 2 thicker, and heavier. The iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air are built on the whole point of being sleek and thin, so slapping a case on such a device might seem to be counter-intuitive. However, as far as the Defender goes, I've noticed that OtterBox seems to have listened to customer feedback, and as a whole, the Defender line appears to be getting slimmer and slimmer. The difference is pretty apparent when I compare the Defender on the iPad Mini 2 to the Defender on the iPad 3. Also, Defenders seem to get lint and dust under the screen protector, so taking your device out of the case and wiping everything down isn't a bad idea every week or so. One last point is the screen protector seems to take a little bit of getting used to. The feel isn’t quite the same as it feels on glass, but it doesn’t impede the operation of the screen at all, and I’ve gotten used to the feel after just a couple of days. Don’t let the initial feeling throw you off, the screen protector works well. I have been known to tear out the screen protector and put on a wet-application screen armor product to protect the screen itself better in the case of direct impact with the screen. I will update my review if I do remove the built in screen protection.

Overall, you can't go wrong with the Defender. If you want to "set-it and forget-it" then you shouldn't look any further than the Otterbox Defender. The Defender is sturdy, it will protect against most anything you can subject it to, and it's almost impossible to get off the device, once it is on, it is on. I sometimes switch SIM cards out on my iPad Mini with Retina display, and getting the Defender on and off is a bit of a chore. Then there's the matter of cleaning it every once in awhile. However, if I am taking my iPad into the wild jungles of family gatherings, or taking it out with me to stores to do audits, I want the very best in my iPad. My first choice is OtterBox and you should consider it too. If it's been a long time since you've used an OtterBox, take another look. They've improved a lot and it really shows!
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