Urban Armor Gear came out of nowhere when we first encountered its really unique and extreme composite iPhone cases. But now the UAG name rings a bell thanks to Urban Armor Gear's incredibly awesome iPhone 5 cases that instantly became one of our favorite protective cases mostly because of their rugged styling, tough military-inspired armored casings and terrific fit and finish. And now there's a new version of the UAG composite case made for Apple's iPad mini, and we've got the review to show. That iPad mini of yours sure looks like it could use some gains, so why not give it a boost with this mean piece of protection?
Although I would have really liked Urban Armor Gear to remain true to its originality of its past iPhone case designs, the iPad mini composite case takes a different path with its gaudy styling that I personally think looks somewhat childish and overdone like someone tinkered around with a bunch of Photoshop settings and came up with this design. It looks vastly different when put next to the more robust and solid looking iPhone 5 variant. You either love the new idea, or you really want to pass onto the next case solely because of that nonsense of a grille dead center. But before you say what's on your mind, there's more to it than meets the eye.
To sort of embrace the iPad mini's curved body, the UAG adapts itself to that form with a flatter back design that hugs the mini's curved edges. There's less of an impression made on the hard polycarbonate shell like there is on the iPhone variant, so you get a smoother tactile feeling when you're holding the iPad mini as oppose to the iPhone with a UAG case on. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I kind of wished I did get more of that military-esque pattern conveyed by the iPad mini composite case. The finish is a mixture of granular textured plastic, or what we call sand blasted plastic, and black rubbery TPU that can be found on every one of Urban Armor Gear's cases which is an absolute joy to use when it comes to hard plastics.
Thickness wise, the UAG composite case for the iPad mini is barely any slimmer than the iPhone 5 version. In fact, they're nearly identical in thickness at their thickest points. The iPad mini of course having a tapered design, does give it the advantage in feeling slightly slimmer than the UAG case for the iPhone 5.
Compared to previous iterations, some extra thought went into making the iPad mini UAG case like these three-dimensional vents at the back. While they may be there for show, they're in fact work as a fully functional ventilation "system" that lets air circulate around the back of the iPad mini so to let it cool rather than having it fully encased where heat would otherwise transfer onto the case, and eventually cause discomfort during long periods of use and handling. As someone who experienced the warmth, and at times even heat coming from the back of the iPad, I must say this is a brilliant feature that actually works to keep your hands and fingers cool as could be.
These vents obviously aren't ventilated vents when they're covered by one of the two optional backplate grille inserts, but even so, the UAG case does a good job isolating the iPad mini's back side from fully touching the case itself because of the air pocket created by the UAG's composite shell. That small clearance forms enough heat dissipation on its own that you'll still be able to enjoy customizing the look of your UAG case using the included backplate inserts. As of this review, the UAG composite case for the iPad mini comes in white and black colors with a gutsy retail price that's even slightly more costly than Speck's CandyShell cases at $50.
One of the new additions to its iPad mini case, Urban Armor Gear thought it would be pretty cool to let you customize the look And I must say, I love the idea and it works flawlessly in practice too. Each UAG composite case for the iPad mini includes two interchangeable cardboard-like backplate inserts in black and orange colors with a textured knurled-pattern on the back that shows thru the vents to create a subtle detail. Changing these up is a matter of simply placing one facing down in-between the groves that keep it from moving while inserting the iPad mini into position. Not the most elegant implementation, but it's one that simply works.
And if you're feeling a bit more artsy, you can of course cut your own shape that fits into the back of the case in different colors and patterns like a simple piece of heavyweight colored paper. Currently, there are only two colored inserts available to the UAG composite iPad mini case which aren't yet available to purchase separately. So don't lose yours.
If drop protection is what you need, the UAG composite case is without a doubt an option worth banking on
But while the styling changed, the construction hasn't. And that means the UAG composite case for the iPad mini still rocks that amazing dual-layered injected design in that it combines a hard exterior "armored" plate with an interior layer of shock-absorbing TPU material which also extends into creating corner bumpers for additional drop protection in these critical points. Protection ties in greatly with the extreme snug fit of the UAG composite case. The fit is really great with no side flexing at all thanks to the dual-layered reinforced build quality.
If you drop your iPad mini encased in this case, you could bet it will remain safe even if it lands screen side first. The rugged build and extra dampening spots around the UAG case makes it a definitive drop protective case that's less bulky than say a Griffin Survivor, but a lot more comfortable to use on a daily basis. Extreme lay-on-the-table design goes without saying really.
As for grip, your thumb rests on that magnificent raised edge which sort of replaces part of the iPad mini's thin bezel and provides your thumb a very comfortable, and firm resting place which makes you feel confident in that you're in control of that slate you're holding onto. The best part about the UAG case for the iPad mini is that it enhances the way you grip your iPad without having to worry about touching the screen or slipping off of the slender bezel. Like I mentioned before, the sides are reinforced to stay put under stress.
The UAG case for the iPhone is similar in that regard, but when heavier devices like tablets are concerned, cases should be heavily reliant on their structural integrity so to avoid any unwanted flexing where users naturally put thumb pressure, and I think the UAG case nailed this better than any case we've seen so far. The iPad mini is so thin as it is, and adding some meat to the bone with the UAG composite case isn't at all bad, and instead a welcome bit of bulk your fingers can appreciate.
Side volume buttons are covered up by a thin layer of the moulded rubbery TPU and remain tactile, whereas the sleep/wake button offers a less than satisfying mushy feedback I'm not thrilled about whatsoever. The rest of the cutouts are nice and wide so you shouldn't have any issues plugging stuff in unless of course, you're using accessories like a charging dock or Apple's 30-pin to Lightning adapter. In order to keep a rigid form all around, the UAG composite case leaves no vulnerable areas where the TPU rubber would flex out of place. This means that there's individual cutouts for each port instead of one wide opening that in most cases, will accommodate more accessories.
Having spent a considerable amount of time using it, I've become really fond of Urban Armor Gear's iPad mini composite case not so much because of how it looks around the back, but more because of the way it performs as a case. But is an iPad mini version of the UAG really worth the cost of $50? I think it's a toss up between protection and style. At Amazon's more affordable $37 or so price point, the UAG composite case is easily highly recommended. The benefit of having interchangeable backplates and durable drop protection in a well constructed dual-layered case is what makes the UAG composite case for the iPad mini a winner on our list of great cases.