iPhone Life magazine

Top 7 Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPad mini Cases

Update 12/16/2013: Check out Siva's new roundup of rugged cases for the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display

With the introduction of the iPad mini last year, Apple once again changed the way we interact with mobile technology. Smaller and more portable than its more cumbersome older sibling, the iPad mini is a device designed to come with us wherever we may wander. As a result of the mini's superior portability, it's also far more likely to be in the line of fire.

At such times, a reliable protective case not only comes in handy to ward off scratches and scrapes. A good, heavy-duty protective case can make the difference between a catastrophic, life-ending event for your iDevice and a mere bump in the road. With that in mind, check out these ultra-protective iPad mini cases, each with its own unique features and advantages, yet all designed to absorb and redirect the shock and potential damage your valuable iPad mini will likely encounter.

My Basic Criteria:

* The case must provide a significant amount of impact and compression protection;

* It must be able to withstand a 6-foot drop to concrete with no damage to the iPad mini;

* Any added protection, such as an IP-rating, meeting military standards, a built-in screen protector and/or port covers are extra bonuses I take into consideration.

1. Case-Mate Tough Xtreme ($50.00) 

This one really surprised me. I didn't expect a case by a manufacturer not especially known for heavy-duty iDevice cases to perform so well against other rugged iPad mini protective cases. And yet, here we are. Indeed, the Tough Xtreme has become my favorite go-to iPad mini case when top quality protection is a must. Case-Mate’s entry into the field of extreme protective cases steals the show. I've put this case through the paces and for the most part have only good things to say about this one.

Along with a built-in protective screen cover, the Case-Mate Tough Xtreme also boasts excellent port flap covers, effectively sealing most of the potential points of entry where dust and debris might sneak into the headphone jack or Lightning connection port.

The design of the Tough Xtreme incorporates both a hard, polycarbonate infrastructure covered with a durable, shock-absorbing silicone rubber. The silicone outer layer also is subtly textured to provide extra traction to help avoid accidental slippage and allow for extra grip in your hands.

Another big plus is its foldout back panel, which conveniently and quickly converts into a stand for your iPad mini. The stand makes movie watching much more comfortable.

As an added bonus, the Tough Xtreme adds a bare minimum of extra bulk and comes in a selection of unique color tones. Case-Mate manages to make this tough, durable iPad mini case seem more fashionable and stylish than perhaps any of the others in its class.

Good looks aside, I can definitely attest to the durability of this military-standard iPad mini case, as I have personally beaten the living daylights out of my Tough Xtreme iPad mini. It also is the best value for a rugged iPad mini case, providing the highest level of protection relative to its very reasonable $50.00 price tag.

2. Otterbox Defender ($69.95)

The Defender is one of the most popular rugged iPad mini cases out there. And with good reason! This case can take a beating, while keeping your iPad mini safe and sound within its protective embrace.

The Defender has a shatter-resistant, hard inner skeleton with an extremely resilient, tear-proof, rubber outer skin. It also comes with a useful dual purpose, snap-on cover panel. When you're not using the mini, or are toting it around in a bag, the cover clips securely to the front of the device, providing total front screen protection.

 

When your iPad mini is in use, the cover panel can either clip on to the device’s back or convert to an iPad stand for convenient viewing and typing.

Otterbox is no stranger to fabricating some of the world’s best and most versatile iDevice cases, and continuing its tradition of reliability and excellence, the Otterbox Defender military-standard case certainly shines as a favorite for the iPad mini.

3. Griffin’s Survivor ($59.99) 

The Survivor is built tough and with integrity like a military tank or Hummer vehicle. The Survivor is far and away one of the best protective iPad mini cases currently on the market.

Griffin built this gladiator of cases with great consideration to the stresses an active or outdoor lifestyle can subject an iPad mini to.

In fact, of all the cases I included, Griffin's Survivor provides the best, most thorough protective seal from any intrusion of debris, including water, dust, sand, mud, etc. It has cover flaps over the headphone jack, microphone, camera, and charging port. It also sports a unique feature; a thin, water-resistant membrane covering the speakers, offering protection unlike anything else currently on the market.

    

The Survivor also comes with a tiny, unobtrusive clip-on stand that allows you to use the iPad mini in landscape mode. When not in use, it snaps discreetly onto the side of the mini.

If you're looking for a heavy-duty case that is adventure-ready and able to handle whatever you throw at it, this military-standard titan might be just what you need.

4. G-Form Xtreme ($59.99) 

If you're looking for impact protection, the G-Form Xtreme is for you. You may already be familiar with G-Form's products as the company has made a name for itself by subjecting its iDevice cases to some pretty extreme abuse. To give you an idea, G-Form has dropped an iPad to Earth from the lower reaches of outer space and has driven over a G-Form-protected iPad with a truck, among other things. Its YouTube channel will make any iDevice-lover cringe while also giving supreme confidence in the Xtreme's ability to easily withstand a beating.

The Xtreme is made of a G-Form-exclusive material known as RPT, which instantly and momentarily stiffens on impact. It not only protects the mini from all types of shocks, compression, and impacts, it also has a great feel to it. This case is super-lightweight and has ample knobby surface features so the risk of dropping it or letting it slip from your hands is minimal. The case also comes with a useful tri-fold smart cover, allowing you to stand the iPad up in either landscape or portrait mode when it's not covering and protecting your iPad’s touchscreen.

The G-Form Xtreme is perfect for anyone who wants reliable protection without added weight. I consider the G-Form Xtreme for the iPad mini as one of the best protective cases you can find for your iPad mini, though perhaps not as well-suited for extreme outdoor adventuring as some of the others in this roundup since it doesn't cover the charging port or headphone jack.

5. Ballistic Tough Jacket ($59.99) 

The Tough Jacket is designed to withstand some serious impact. It has a shock absorbing inner silicone layer, which slips into a rigid polycarbonate exoskeleton, combining to deliver a high level of security for your relatively delicate iPad mini.

As an added level of protection, the Tough Jacket comes with a sturdy front screen cover, which snaps on over the iPad’s touchscreen, keeping it safe when not in use, traveling, or carrying it in your backpack. When you are ready to use your iPad, you can snap the cover panel onto the back of the device, or use it as a stand, propping your iPad mini in landscape mode.

This case is designed primarily with impact protection in mind, and does not have port covers built-in; therefore I wouldn't suggest it for extreme outdoor use. It’s not designed to keep debris away from the iPad’s internal electronics. If it got wet or fell in the mud or sand, it would be too easy for debris to enter your iPod through the exposed openings.

6. Hard Candy’s ShockDrop ($49.95) 

The ShockDrop is the one of the more affordable of the rugged cases featured here. With its extra grippy traction it reminds me of a tractor's tread, allowing for a secure grip as well as a high level of shock absorption.

 HardCandy ShockDrop

The screen protector keeps your iPad mini’s touchscreen safe from scratches and cracks. It has tear-resistant rubber flaps, which snugly and securely seal the main port openings of the headphone jack and charging port.

This case definitely provides well-rounded protection from most of the drops and shocks that go along with the day-to-day rigors of an active lifestyle. If you are looking for one of the more affordable, rugged iPad mini cases that can handle some rigorous hardships, be sure to check this one out!

7. Cygnett’s WorkMate ($39.99) 

The WorkMate is an excellent option for someone looking for rugged protection without adding bulk, and who doesn't mind having exposed iPad ports.

The least expensive of the rugged cases in this roundup, the WorkMate is ideal for anyone who may be a little clumsy, accident prone, or who may occasionally expose their mini to precarious environments. If you want protection from everyday hazards but don't want to shell out big bucks for a more extreme heavy-duty case, look no further, the WorkMate is the deal.

If there is one thing I've learned from years of reviewing iDevice cases it’s that my list of the “best cases” is a fluid and changing one. Just because so-and-so made one of the best cases last year, or even for two or three years running, doesn't mean theirs is still the "best case" on the market. New cases keep entering the market, changing the equation. I'm looking forward to seeing what some of my favorite case makers bring to the table in the near future for the iPad mini.

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Siva Om's picture
Siva Om is a freelance writer and blogger. He's covered the latest trends and developments in mobile tech for over a decade. Siva founded iDoc Tech Support computer services in 2002. He has been an avid gamer ever since getting his Atari console in 1977. When not working, Siva enjoys adventuring off the beaten path.