Ever since the original conception of the tablet, the Otterbox iPad case team have brought out cases with the intention of having the edge on the competition in one key area – protection (hence the name Defender, smart!). As you would expect, the Otterbox Defender iPad 3 case is no different, offering that same sturdy construction that should keep your iPad safe from most day to day clumsiness (and by the feel of it, a few nuclear explosions).
This sturdy design is the result of a four-panel construction. First off, you have a polycarbonate faceplate that fully encompasses the glossy edging to your iPad 3′s screen, while additionally providing scratch prevention through a built in screen protector. This is a pretty neat setup, and saves you from doing that awkward “sticker placement” task which all too often left me with annoying bubbles and fingerprints under the protector surface.
Clipping onto that and covering the back of your iPad is the same polycarbonate deal, so your tablet is essentially being given an initial base-coat of scratch-preventing, shock absorbing plastic complete with ergonomic holes for unrestricted camera use and button access. However, in an effort to prevent your tablet from getting scratched within that plastic casing, memory foam pads accomodate the back panel to ensure that any slight jostling the iPad 3 might do whilst inside the undisputedly snug case will not be reflected with hairline scratches on your iPad’s silky smooth metal underside.
Too many times have I gone for the strictly-plastic case (both on my iPhone 3GS and iPad 1) solely based on the styling, to be left in tears months later upon discovering the huge amount of hairline scratches these cases produce. Fortunately, you can scratch that concern off your list.
Next up behind that rear polycarbonate panel is a silicone jacket that completely covers the back of the tablet once again. However, this silicone isn’t accompanied by a front-plate, but instead compensates for that by providing a rigid silicone lip around the frontside edging of your iPad 3. In other words, if you were to go ahead and drop your iPad face down, that silicone edging would cushion the brunt of the fall and leave scratch prevention to the polycarbonate faceplate.
The final part of the Otterbox Defender case comes in the form of a shield stand. This stand has two main uses, firstly providing a sturdy way of holding your tablet at an angle for ease of typing or ease of viewing. Secondly and importantly, for those who do a lot of commuting with their iPad in tow, the shield can be clipped onto the front of the iPad 3 to protect the screen further during transit.
This shield isn’t simply a further piece of plastic to be carrying around with you though. On the contrary, it is actually kitted out with magnets so that when you do go ahead and tuck your iPad up in its protective outfit, the shield will automatically put the device to sleep. Similarly, when you then remove the iPad from the shield again, it will return to life once more. For those of us who can often be forgetful when turning our iPads off before stowing them away, this is an excellent solution to prevent battery-rinsing.
Now, you can’t have a review without some negatives, and the first flaw that might unnerve some is the sheer size of this case. Now, I’m not saying it’s a monstrosity, but it certainly removes that sleek aesthetic styling that makes the iPad 3 so attractive in the first place. It also adds a fair bit of weight to the initially lightweight tablet, but to be fair, these are two compromises you’re going to have to make if you want the massive amount of scratch protection and shock resistance offered by the Defender case.
A further concern is the price point, with an RRP of $89.99 which, to most, is rather high for a case (although Amazon are currently doing a deal on the standard black model, reduced from $89.99 to $48.91).
My conclusion is that for those of us who rarely leave the house with our iPads, this is slightly overkill. Sure, it provides a fantastic stand for watching movies, playing games and typing, but the price and the size of the case could well put off the casual users.
On the other hand, if you’re putting your tablet through its paces, whether that’s on the commute to work or university, or on the go between sightseeing and coffeehouses, the Otterbox Defender will have your iPad 3′s back well and truly covered. Quite literally.