When picking out a case for your tablet, you typically have to choose between all-encompassing protection or ease of use, and these two groups rarely overlap. But sometimes they do, and in that thin sliver where form and function marry, there's the LifeProof frē case.
I love nearly everything about my iPad mini w/ Retina, but most of all I love the design. It's tiny, sleek, and eye-catching, so if I'm going to slap a case on it, I want it to fit that aesthetic as closely as possible. LifeProof's claims that "You may forget it's there!" are a bit silly, but all-told, the case stays out of the way enough that I wouldn't mind keeping it equipped permanently.
The front of the case is of course transparent, but unlike many cases, this is mirrored on the back of the case as well. The edges of the case are thicker thanks to the rubber bumper that keeps the case locked shut and provides a water-tight seal and protection from bumps, but with just two thin membranes on the front and back, the iPad retains its thinner-than-thin feel.
Small loopholes are located on all four corners allowing you to equip the included lanyard in a number of different ways, and a small door on the bottom of the case provides direct access to the Lightning port for charging.
Touchscreen functionality is of course the most important thing of all, and it works nearly perfectly through the frē's front cover. Taps and swipes are registered promptly and I didn't notice any missed touches.
I do, however, have a mild complaint with the plastic membrane itself in that it doesn't lay perfectly flat on all areas of the screen. In the corners especially, the membrane tends to lift off of the screen ever so slightly, creating a strange "bubbly" feeling when pressing down. It's not necessarily troublesome, but it's definitely noticeable, and may take a little bit of getting used to if you use a particularly light touch when navigating
Another plus for the LifeProof frē case is that it allows all external buttons to be used just as intended. The click-through buttons on the top and over the volume controls work well despite being housed in the thick bumper, and an external lock switch carries your commands through to the built-in button on the iPad beneath.
After a dip in the sink, the water resistant properties of the case held true, though it's not recommended past a depth of 6.6 feet and I certainly wasn't about to test that. I could see it being a lot of fun during a day at the beach, and the case is small enough that it wouldn't be a bother.
The LifeProof frē lives up to its billing as an ultra-thin case with ultra-protective properties, and if your iPad mini is regularly in danger from bumps, falls, or up to 6 feet of water, I can't imagine you'd find a case better suited to your needs.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 possible stars
Taking your iPad on a hike or trip to the lakeside? How about a LifeProof frē for free? Here are the rules for the giveaway:
Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 13 and older.
To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
The entry must be made before March 14, 2014 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
You may enter only once.
One winner will be selected and will receive a LifeProof frē case for iPad mini w/Retina valued at $99.99