If you're looking to protect your device—looks be damned—look no further than Otterbox's rugged $70 Defender series case for iPad mini. This case certainly isn't going to win any prizes in the "sexy and sleek" department, but it will protect your mini better than most. It's a four-part case with a heavy duty cover that doubles as a stand, so it's also pretty usable. Getting it on and off can be tricky, but Otterbox provides a simple-to-follow instruction video.
The Defender comes in several parts. First, there's a slim, two-piece plastic shell that snaps onto the device. This shell features soft strips to cradle the back of your mini, as well as a thin plastic screen protector. The shell leaves all of the iPad's ports and buttons open, giving you access to everything—there's even a small cutout at the top for the microphone.
Next, there's a black silicone layer that fits around the plastic shell. This piece is stretchy and flexible, so it's easy to put on. It locks over four protrusions on the shell, and covers the mini's Home, volume, and Sleep/Wake buttons with rubbery press-through overlays. It also features rubber flaps that cover the mini's Lightning port, headphone jack, and mute switch. The silicone layer is well made—it's rigid when it's stretched over the shell, but the button covers are easy to press and the flaps are easy to remove when you want to access the ports.
Finally, there's an additional piece to the Defender: a thick, hard plastic cover that doubles as a stand. The cover is the easiest to get on and off, as it only attaches at the four corners of the mini. It can go on the back or front of your iPad, but it seems to make the most sense on the front for added screen protection when your iPad is not in use. Inside the cover, there's a stand that pops up and allows you to prop up your mini in landscape orientation, at an upright, movie-viewing angle, or a lower typing angle.
The Defender definitely offers protection, and it's relatively sleek compared to a lot of other rugged cases. The two-material construction means that the case is better at withstanding drops, since the silicone layer absorbs the shock, while the plastic layer protects from dings. The built-in screen protector is a nice touch, and the mini's screen is still responsive through it. However, since it's not attached to the mini's display, there is the issue of dust getting trapped underneath it.
If you're looking for a rugged case to protect your iPad mini, the Defender series will do an admirable job. It's not the prettiest case I've seen, but it looks and feels sturdy, and the extra-sturdy cover/stand combo is actually quite usable. Of course, if looks are what you care about, this is not the case for you.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.