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Exclusive: Whoops, Griffin's tough iPad case fails drop test [video]

by Doug Drinkwater

August 15 2012

The damage to the iPad 2's display is obvious after a 4 foot drop onto concrete
The damage to the iPad 2's display is obvious after a 4 foot drop onto concrete

There are many rugged gadget accessories promising 'military-grade' or 'serious' protection. But as TabTimes painfully discovers, sometimes even the best of devices fail to live up to their billing.

They aren’t as common as dancing cats on YouTube, but you can find plenty of videos showing one high tech gadget or another being crash tested or abused in some “don’t try this at home” manner. 

Still, just because gadget X survived being run over by a car, dumped in the bath tub, or thrown against the wall, it doesn’t mean it won’t be damaged the very next time it’s tested. This sadly proved to be the case when TabTimes tested Griffin's heavy duty Survivor iPad 2 case.

​​Survivor fails concrete test

The Griffin Survivor is certified for use by the U.S. Department of Defense and is rated, as Griffin's website notes, as able to survive a drop of 6ft (1.8 metres) onto a concrete floor, making it ideal for military, construction staff and engineers.

But our review of the iPad case last week came to an abrupt end when a quick test cast doubt over the case's durability.

Testing conservatively, we dropped the iPad 2 (when secure in the Griffin Survivor) from just 3.5/4ft onto concrete. The first two drops went well; the iPad once fell flat on its rear, and then onto the display, and emerged unscathed each time.

Sadly, the third run was not nearly as successful. The iPad turned in mid-air, falling on the display, which smashed on impact.

We've wondered if this a design fault, but Griffin has stressed that this incident is ‘extremely rare’ and says that no similar incidents have happened when the case has been used by workers out in the field. The firm says that its product managers will be looking at our video to see what went wrong.

The good, the bad and the broken

The Survivor iPad case ($79.99) is part of Griffin’s Survivor collection and has generally received positive reviews since its launch back in September 2011. Available for the iPad 2 and new iPad, the case has a silicon exterior and houses the tablet in a plastic insert which has its own display shield.

Our review of the case had gone well up until the failed concrete test. So, in the interest of fairness (and the possibility that, as Griffin says, this was an extremely rare incident), here's a breakdown of the good and bad of the Survivor for iPad 2 case:

Advantages: The iPad feels secure in the case; the touchscreen works fluidly behind the screen overlay; connections and cameras are protected by discrete rubber flaps; the case is not overly heavy.

Disadvantages: The case somehow failed a simple concrete drop test; the rubber flaps can obstruct charging the tablet; the included stand has limited movement; and the Survivor is not cheap.

Conclusion: In many respects, the Griffin Survivor has everything you want from a rugged iPad case. It's tough yet light, keeps the iPad secure, and claims to protect from short falls and water damage.

However, for all of that, the case failed its most important test and for that reason we cannot recommend the Survivor.

Thinking about this experience more broadly recalls the car company ads that claim high gas mileage, but are also followed by the aside, “your mileage may vary.” When it comes to ads for protective cases, perhaps the accessory industry needs a similar caveat.

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