Select the right tablet case to protect it while boating.
August 8, 2014
$129.99; lifeproof.comFunctionality: 3/3 Ease of installation: 2/3 Volume: 2/3 Skid Factor: 2/3 Impact Ratio: 3/3 Photo Clarity: 3/3 Bonus*: 3/3 Total: 18/21 *IP68 waterproofSpecifications Weight: 0.7 ounce Waterproof Rating: IP68 Impact Rating: mil-std-810F-51 Available For: iPad Gen 2, 3, 4, Air and Retina Mini Warranty: one year Highs
Nuud design gives direct touch to screen for the full iPad experience. $20 optional device warranty ($75 deductible) against water damage. Light weight and low profile add minimal bulk to the device. Clear back for easy watertight inspection. Back rim is rubberized and skid-resistant. Fits both iPad and Ram brackets for flexibility in mount options. Lows
Not compatible with some aftermarket charge plugs. Detachable faceplate does not shut off screen. It has the longest, most complex installation process due to aligning the waterproof gasket. Decibel and clarity output is reduced, scratchy but discernable; Lifeproof explains it is a warrantable flaw, and shipped a replacement.
$99.95; otterbox.comFunctionality: 3/3 Ease of installation: 2/3 Volume: 3/3 Skid Factor: 3/3 Impact Ratio: 1/3 Photo Clarity: 3/3 Bonus*: 2/3 Total: 17/21 *Extra rugged clamshell coverSpecifications Weight: 15.8 ounces Waterproof Rating: not waterproof Impact Rating: bumps, shock, drop, dust Available For: iPad Gen 2, 3, 4, Air and Mini Galaxy Tab, Tab2 10s Warranty: one year Highs
Rugged look with Realtree Camo and Hunter Orange ($10 upcharge). It’s designed for iPad Gen 2, 3, 4 but fits the original iPad. Great access to all functions both screen and tactile. Standard faceplate converts to easel. Charge port allows for aftermarket charge plugs. Lows
Realtree color pad was slick and the least skid-resistant at only 4.5 inches of lift. Speaker and mic are not splash-resistant. High skid rating only achievable when nested in faceplate. Faceplate does not turn off screen.
New Trent Airbender Mini
$40.95; newtrent.comFunctionality: 3/3 Ease of installation: 3/3 Volume: 3/3 Skid Factor: 3/3 Impact Ratio: 0/3 Photo Clarity: 3/3 Bonus*: 0/3 Total: 15/21 *Included keyboard is handy but no warranty cancels itSpecifications Weight: 15 ounces Waterproof Rating: not waterproof Impact Rating: not rated Available For: iPad, iPad Gen 2, 3, 4, Air and Mini Warranty: not warranted Highs
Bluetooth keyboard makes it as convenient as a compact laptop. Clamshell arrangement protects screen, functions as screen easel. Fair skid factor improved with the keyboard attached. All functions easily accessible. Charge port allows for aftermarket charge plugs. Lows
Not warranted? Oh, my. Read newtrent.com/terms-page. The microphone and speakers are not splash-protected. Our hinge cracked while opening the case and mounting the iPad.
Griffin Survivor IPad Mini
$59.99; griffintechnology.comFunctionality: 3/3 Ease of installation: 3/3 Volume: 3/3 Skid Factor: 2/3 Impact Ratio: 3/3 Photo Clarity: 3/3 Bonus*: 3/3 Total: 20/21 *Protective membrane over speaker/mic portsSpecifications Weight: 7.75 ounces Waterproof Rating: rain protection Impact Rating: mil-std-810 Available For: iPad, iPad Gen 2, 3, 4, Air, Mini, Galaxy Tab 8, 10 Warranty: one year Highs
Extra-large swing-away camera port eliminates glare from case rim. Padding on the inside of case protects from vibration, shock. Exterior silicone jacket is well-secured by faceplate and won’t droop or sag. Charge port is oversize and allows for aftermarket charge plugs — a feature many iPad and iPhone cases lack. Lows
It’s just almost waterproof (darn it). Detachable easel stand could be lost. Silicone jacket picks up more pet hair than a wool suit. Silicone “tab straps” are too thin, but only vulnerable during installation.
$49.95; urbanarmorgear.comFunctionality: 3/3 Ease of installation: 3/3 Volume: 3/3 Skid Factor: 3/3 Impact Ratio: 3/3 Photo Clarity: 3/3 Bonus*: 0/3 Total: 18/21 Specifications Weight: 8 ounces Waterproof Rating: not waterproof Impact Rating: mil-std-810G-516.6 Available For: iPad Air, Mini, Galaxy Note II, 3 Warranty: one year Highs
Easiest installation by simply pressing the iPad into the case. Excellent skid resistance was surprising benefit since the surface seemed more like leather than rubber or silicone. Closing the cover turns off the screen-saving battery power. The New Trent was the only other one to do this in our tests. Integrated easel won’t get lost and does not add bulk to the case. Rugged but business stylish look good at the office, but it protects in the outdoors. Lows
The case features none of the water protection we hoped for. Fold-over faceplate doesn’t latch or snap.
Mounting System Lifeproof iPad Universal Cradle ($49.99)
(with RAM Tough-Claw rail mount; $27.09) This custom cradle still needs a mounting system and RAM Mounts is the go-to place for them. We liked this one on the 1-inch Tough-Claw rail mount. Nonscratching claws are available for tubes from five-eighths-inch to 2¼-inch diameters. Ball systems with 1½ inches add more G-force durability for rougher rides.
Mounting System RAM Mounts Tab-Tite Cradle ($37.10)
(with dashboard Universal holder) The Tab-Tite cradle firmly gripped all of our cased iPads. Permanently affixed pedestal mounts and suction cup mounts are available with 1- or 1½-inch balls. The system allows infinite mounting options and angles. Select individual ball plates, elbows and base plates, each at nominal prices.
Tablets are ubiquitous, and we don’t even have to distinguish between iPad and Big Chief when we use the term. Thanks to the many boater- and angler-friendly apps available, tablets are squeezed on board between the life jackets and the sunscreen. Some boaters are forgoing even the most rudimentary navigation gear in their favor.
So after taking a peek at tablet apps last issue, we wanted to test some useful cases for keeping tablets safe and handy on board.
How We Tested
We scored our tablet cases on seven categories we thought most important to boaters. We chose tablet cases that we found useful on and off the water and set up tests to give the nod to those that worked best for boaters.
Does everything about the tablet work from inside the case? Are volume and touch screen responsive? Are the charge port and headphone port easily accessible? If it tested yes to all, the unit got a high score of 3.
Ease of Installation
We used a stopwatch to time the installation after practicing to get the installation process down for each case tested.
Some cases are known for reducing volume and clarity of sound. Those that did not muffle or distort sound scored a 3.
When the boat rocks and rolls, the tablet should not. We put our cased tablets on an 18-inch acrylic panel and tilted them until the tablet began to skid down the incline. Our low scorer slipped at a 4-inch incline. Our top scorer held its ground on a 17-inch ramp.
We weren’t into tossing iPads around so we took the manufacturer’s word for it, awarding a score of 3 if they tested to either IP or mil-spec or mil-std ratings. Nonrated claims for impact resistance received a 2. No impact protection received the minimum score of 1.
We’ve seen too many phone and tablet cases cause a halo or sun-glare effect on images. If clear, glare-free images were rendered through our cases, they scored a 3.
By golly, we were surprised that only one offered a waterproof case. It scored a 3 in the bonus category. One offered a Bluetooth keyboard on the clamshell lid, but it still scored 0 because the manufacturer offered no warranty.