The OtterBox Defender Series for iPad Air offers rugged protection matched with a slim profile.
Apple recently unveiled the iPad Air, their latest mobile tablet that harnesses a sleek new design as well as updated technical specifications. For most consumers, the new design was a strong selling point although it also meant their old iPad 2/3/4 cases would not support the redesigned iPad Air.
Fortunately, all the major companies who produce iPad accessories were hot on the trail and have already released updated versions of their popular cases to support the Air's sleek new design. OtterBox in particular brought their popular Defender Series case to the Air after having great success with this model for previous iPad and iPhone generations.
Priced at $89.95, the OtterBox Defender Series for iPad Air brings rugged durability and full 360-degree protection to keep your expensive tablet safe in even the roughest conditions. We were able to get our hands on a demo unit so this review is based solely on my first-hand experience with the Defender Series for iPad Air and no outside influences have affected the outcome of this review.
Harnessing a 3-piece design, the Defender Series for iPad Air greatly resembles the previous cases made for earlier iPad generations. On the inside you'll find a rubber slip cover that provides the iPad with a soft, plush material which helps to absorb impact when coupled with the external polycarbonate shell offers superior protection from bumps, drops, scratches, and dings.
The external shell has a built-in screen protector which offers full multi-touch functionality while protecting it from accidential scratches and scrapes. Included with the Defender Series is a detachable shield stand which snaps onto the polycarbonate shell and is capable of providing both front or rear protection depending on the way you use it. This shield also doubles as a stand for holding your iPad at multiple viewing angles although I'll get more into this in the next section.
The build materials are of a premium quality and I would expect each piece take a serious beating. One of my favorite parts about the Defender Series for iPad Air would be its slim and sleek design. Given the tremendous amount of protection the case has to offer, it only adds a limited amount of bulk and keeps your iPad just as portable as it was before adding the case. If you want the least amount of bulk and don't mind a slight loss of protection, you can always opt to leave the protective shield at home.
As stated earlier, the Defender Series for iPad Air packs offers a great deal of protection. With this case, you get full 360-degree protection without hindering any of your iPad's capabilities. Every port, button, and switch is still accessible via flip out rubber tabs so they stay protected when you don't need them and the multi-touch display is unaffected by the integrated screen protector.
The shield stand is an excellent accessory to this model that offers increased protection and convenience. When your iPad is not in use, the shield case can be secured over the front thus protecting your iPad's screen from any harm while in storage or transport. When you're ready to use the iPad, you can attach the shield to the back of your iPad or opt to use it as a viewing stand. Within the shield is a small fold out flap which provides two different viewing angles for your iPad to rest on. It supports both landscape and vertical orientations in each of the two angles so you effectively have four different viewing options when utilizing the shield mount.
Given the feature set that the Defender Series for iPad Air harnesses, I'd say the pricing is slightly high though it is nothing outrageous. If this case included an advanced feature like a built-in battery, waterproof capabilities, or a Bluetooth keyboard then I'd think the $90 would be more justified. While the ultra-rugged design is still of great value, I'd be more pleased to see the product priced more in the $65-$75 price range given the feature-set.
I have used the Defender Series for iPad Air for the past 3 weeks and took it with me on the road while attending this year's Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas. After adding the case to my iPad Air, I was pleased to see how limited bulk it added given the level of protection. While it does increase the thickness and weight slightly, it feels safe and has given me piece of mind that my iPad is well protected at all times. I'm a big fan of the shield mount although I could see some consumers finding it unnecessary for everyday use and it is completely optional.
Initially, I was turned off by the idea that the shield only had the option for two different viewing angles, but that was quickly fixed after some real-world testing. I'm not sure how OtterBox managed it, but the two angles they chose seem to fit every situation that presented itself (especially while on the plane) and was ideal for both gaming as well as streaming video. A small downfall of the shield is that it doesn't contain the necessary magnets for sleep/wake functionality. This may annoy some consumers, but I understand why they didn't include them given the unique design and the fact that the shield is detachable.
The polycarbonate material is grippy and easy to grab out of a bag or drawer. I mean it when I say this thing is robust. After putting it to the test, I fully expect the case to outlive the lifespan of my iPad Air. I was impress that after 3 weeks of consistent daily use and bringing it with me on a 5000+ mile trip, the case still looks brand new without any noticeable wear or blemishes. Additionally, the built-in screen protector is near perfect as it stays flush with the screen and does not affect the multi-touch gestures yet it provides optimal protection without the need for any annoying adhesive elements.
In the end, I found the OtterBox Defender Series case for the iPad Air to be solid all around and an excellent way to protect your expensive tablet. I think the $90 price tag is a bit high and believe that pricing would have been more adequate if this case had a significant advanced feature such as waterproof capabilities or a Bluetooth keyboard. Nonetheless, the product's robust build materials packed with an excellent design kept me satisfied throughout my testing and I would recommend this product to any prospective buyers.