iPad Air heavy case showdown: Griffin Survivor vs. OtterBox Defender

Summary:Both of these armored cases are polycarbonate clamshell, silicone rubber-wrapped monsters designed to take a beating for your iPad Air or iPad mini. But which one reigns supreme?

Ladies and gentlemen... this is the battle you've all been waiting for. The iPad Air heavyweight case BATTLE ROYALE!

In the first corner, we have the competitor, the Griffin Survivor. Retailing at $79.99, but can be found at various ecommerce sites like Amazon for $39-$45, this case comes ready to rumble, or ready to go to war, if you read the pure specifications.

Weighing in at 11.5 ounces, it will bring the iPad Air to 27.5 ounces, or 1.71lb if so encased.

I absolutely loved this case. It's got excellent screen and bezel clearance, and what I think is an ideal mix of rigid polycarbonate housing combined with a very ample amount of silicone rubber.

I used the Survivor for iPad Air for about a week, and although this is without question one of the heaviest, shock and impact-resistant cases you can buy on the market, it didn't feel like I was holding a brick.

The polycarbonate and the silicone rubber seems to organically "merge" together, particularly in the way the tablet itself gets encased.

Both rubber and polycarbonate is shaved off in appropriate spots so the case has sort of a sculpted look, while at the same time removing excess material and lowering the weight as much as possible and still being highly protective, particularly on the corners. 

Like many other hardcases on the market, it integrates a permanent (transparent) screen protector. And rather than going for a shock cover with integrated easel/stand like the OtterBox Defender, it includes a clip-on, lightweight stand/easel for propping the device up to watch videos and other content.

I kind of feel like Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. Instead of reviewing $800,000 extreme sports cars, I get to review $80.00 iPad cases.

I found this accessory to be somewhat difficult to snap on and off, but it's a nice addition to the product.

Griffin's design is also very modern and attractive looking, especially if you are using one of the six different color combinations, which are matched to Apple's native animated wallpapers in iOS 7.

The Survivor is also the only hardcase i've seen that allows you to seal every single one of the ports so as to maximize dust and liquid protection. This includes the rear camera window, which can be opened and closed with a silicone rubber and polycarbonate flap.

And in this corner, we have the Defending heavyweight, the OtterBox.

I received the OtterBox Defender for iPad Air about a week after getting the Griffin Survivor, and I have both cases in-house at the moment, so we have a very close basis for comparison.

What is there to be said about OtterBox's cases that hasn't been said before? This case is a rock and is designed to take a brutal amount of abuse. It retails for $79.99 but you can get it from online sources for about $50. 

What differentiates it from the Griffin Survivor is that it uses proportionately more polycarbonate to silicone in its design, and it also incorporates a shock cover/easel to provide an additional layer of protection when carried.

As with previous models it also incorporates a permanent screen protector in the design as well.

What does this mean for your iPad Air in terms of total weight? 27.3oz or 34oz with hardcover attached. 1.7lbs, about the same as the Griffin Survivor, without the cover.

With the cover, 2.1lbs, effectively doubling the weight fo the iPad Air.  

It's also currently only avaliable in their classic "Batman Black" but as they start to manufacture it in volume, there will be three additonal two-tone color combos avalaible, a cyan/grey, a off-white/raspberry and a white/grey.

But hey, this isn't a beauty pageant or The Biggest Loser. We're talking about a product for users who are most concerned about protecting the device.

That being said the iPad Air version of the case has been slimmed down from the generation 3/4 "iProtection" model, and changes include a less severe angle of display elevation at the bezel area.

I still think it has (more than) sufficient elevation to protect the screen from a forward drop, but there was definitely more clearance in the previous model and I think the Griffin has a slight edge here as well.

However, once you put the shock cover/easel on top of the device, as I say in the video "ain't nothin' gonna break that screen".

In keeping withe the slimming down the amount of silicone has also been reduced. Again, this is in comparison with previous models, but we're still talking about a significant amount of silicone rubber wrapping on the case here.

OtterBox also sent me a Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 version of the Defender which has all of the same protection characteristics of the iPad Air/iPad mini models. If you have a klutzy wife, kid or loved one that's getting one of those tablets this holiday season, I'd strongly reccomend it.

So which case is better? I think this is one of those comparisons where it all comes down to personal preference and how you feel about the aesthetics and weight tradeoffs. It's a toss-up.

These are both excellent extreme protective case solutions for iPad Air/mini and you'd be well-served by going with either one. Griffin relies more on the silicone rubber whereas OtterBox relies more on polycarbonate in its protection recipe.

I kind of feel like Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. Instead of reviewing $800,000 extreme sports cars, I get to review $80.00 iPad cases.

This is very much like a BMW 7-series vs. Mercedes-Benz S-Class, or Sig-Sauer P226 versus GLOCK 17 bake-off, or any like comparison where you have the two top products competing in each category.

Choice is going to be a very subjective one. There's no clear "winner" here.

I do happen to like OtterBox's clean, conservative and polycarbonate-heavy design, and I plan to keep it on the device.

However, the Griffin is really a very nice case, with an attractive active lifestyle branding with a bunch of nice color combos coming out of the gate. OtterBox should definitely not sit on its laurels. 

Are you considering the Griffin Survivor or OtterBox Defender for your new iPad Air or mini? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: iPad, Amazon, Apple, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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