Review: LifeProof Nuud iPad Mini protective case

IPad Mini gets MIL-spec protection from LifeProof Nuud (October 14th, 2013)

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Product Manufacturer: LifeProof

Price: $109 as tested

The Good

  • - Good protection
    - IP-68 and MIL-STD 810F-516.5 certified
    - Actually is water resistant
    - Good impact protection

The Bad

  • - Pricey if you don't need this level of protection
    - Sound quality impacted by case
    - Be careful during installation!

Apple's iPad line is strong, but a pane of glass and a thin aluminum shell can only be so durable. One accident, and a $329 or more investment is destined for the repair shop. A pocket industry of protective cases ranging from just scratch resistance to total impact protection has sprung up around the near-ubiquitous tablet, with the LifeProof Nuud case for the iPad Mini being one of the more recent additions to the market. The case promises to protect the iPad Mini from liquid submersions up to 6.6 feet, with surviving drops from up to four feet. Additionally, LifeProof states that the case is sealed against dirt, dust, snow, and ice. How resistant is it, really?

The case is a snap-together unit, with no protection for the screen whatsoever. The case gasket itself mates with a user-cleaned iPad case to form the liquid and dirt barrier. A gasketed plug covers the audio jack, with a clip-shut door isolating the Lightning charging port. The volume and mute/orientation toggle switches have "pass-through" buttons, with a similar apparatus for the home and power switches for the iPad. Speakers are ported with what the manufacturer calls its "Sound Enhancement System."

Installation requires a bit more attention to detail than most cases, given the total-protection goals of the case. The manufacturer includes a dummy "iPad" made of plastic, and the manual demands that the user install this in the assembled case first to perform a 30-minute leak test on the case -- ostensibly to insure the case has seen no damage in transit, as it is waterproof-tested at the factory. Concerningly, our waterproof test initially failed.

The fault turned out not to be in the case, but in our installation procedure. While we thought we had securely depressed all the fasteners, in fact we had a very small gap, which allowed the insidious water to enter the protected case destroying any inserted iPad. With the lesson learned, we extracted the dummy, dried the case, reinstalled it, and continued the leak test. The second time, there was no water intrusion.

Following the test -- and with some trepidation -- we mounted the lab's iPad Mini into the case, this time double- and triple-checking all the seams. Happily, we can confirm LifeProof's claims on the case. It did in fact protect against a six-foot column of water, as well as a four-foot drop onto concrete.

The LifeProof Nuud's sound cuts back the projection and depth of the audio, but this is to be expected for the functionality of the case. The case does add some bulk to the iPad Mini, as well as about 50 percent more weight to it -- but with anything, there are tradeoffs. An unprotected device is clearly as light and small as it can be, but the added quarter-inch of depth and width added by the Nuud gives it much-enhanced durability. Want small and light? Sacrifice protection. Want serious protection? Deal with the added bulk that the case brings.

As we became more aware of the potential for damage to a device, we then swapped out the actual iPad mini for the filler dummy that comes in every package that is used for the waterproofing test that we initially failed earlier. Water penetrated the case at about 8.5 feet, we think through the headphone gasket. We're not sure of the durability difference between the blank and an iPad, but a seven-foot drop onto concrete cracked the blank -- and more notably, broke the case itself.

The LifeProof Nuud isn't cheap. At $109, it comes in as one of the more expensive cases we've tested. However, Apple depot repair or replacement is $200+, so if the case protects the device from one fatal accident or exposure, its paid for itself with room to spare. No case protects against every potential problem, but the Nuud is a device with sufficient protection for us to recommend it for those seeking a bit more device security than what is offered by more rudimentary protective cases.

by Mike Wuerthele


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