The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 is a large piece of iPad hardware, larger than we've been accustomed to in the past. A good case for it has to meet many expectations. It has to protect, yet be light. It has to accomodate all the iPad Pro technology, including the Apple Pencil. It has to be versatile and look great. The OtterBox Symmetry Series Hybrid for iPad Pro 12.9-inch does all this and more.
There are several ways to think about a case for the iPad Pro 12.9. Because this iPad has a large display and is capable of more professional use, it's often accompanied by an Apple Pencil and a keyboard. In turn, that means that it may find itself resting upright at some angle.
One approach in a product that I previously reviewed is the Urban Armor Gear Composite Case. It's a great case, but is on the bulky side. Suddenly, with that case, for the sake of protection and a sturdy metal stand, what had been a delightful experience, by comparison, with my iPad Air, turns into a much larger affair. A 12.9-inch iPad weighing 25 ounces (713 grams) has an additional 13 ounce (380 gram) case that adds some extra weight but a lot of bulk.
And so, I was delighted to encounter this case from OtterBox that does everything one could want and also solves the problem of protecting that massive display. It weighs more than the UAG case at 18 ounces (510 grams), but it's thinner and, accordingly, changes the feel of the iPad. That's because there's no need to enclose and protect an aluminum stand on the back. Astonishingly, the extra weight isn't felt, but the lack of bulk is. I never expected that effect.
Suddenly, my iPad Pro 12.9 is a lot more fun to handle. It's a nice, new experience for me.
OtterBox Hybrid Case For iPad Pro 12.9 is a folio case in two parts. A transparent polycarbonate and nylon back protects the iPad except for the display. Hinged onto that is the synthetic rubber cover that has a soft, felt-like interior that protects the display. The all-around grip is therefore great. That cover is removable for compatibility with the Apple Smart Keyboard. Also, the OtterBox cover folds/unfolds in a customary way to prop the iPad up at two different a angles, as seen in this video. (The video also shows the installation and removal procedure for both covers.)
Here's the formal list of features.
- Ultra slim: sleek profile follows the precision lines of your tablet
- Clear back: clearly displays your tablet while protecting from drops and scratches
- Scratch-resistant: micro texture deflects scratches and scuffs
- Detachable folio: remove folio to attach a Smart Keyboard
- Multi-position stand: holds your tablet at comfortable viewing and typing angles
- Apple Pencil holder: secure your Apple Pencil in the loop and always know where it is
- Auto wake/sleep: turns your tablet on and off by opening and closing folio
The case comes in only one color theme. I would call it charcoal and black. OtterBox calls it "Starry Night." This case is currently only available for the iPad Pro 12.9. OtterBox says they are considering the design for other products.
It's important to follow the quick start guide, wrapped around the case when the box is opened. Insert the top edge, on the hinge side, near the iPad's camera. Then complete the edge along the hinge. Then push the iPad edges into the case corners on the opposite side.
In place, the folio case feels thin and handsome. What's notable, and not true of some folio cases, is that for laptop use, the cover wraps all the way around and lays flat on the back.
Any case that's transparent and reveals the Apple logo has a warm place in my heart. That may not matter to some, but I think it's all part of supporting Apple's and the customer's joy and celebration of the product.
I found that whether the cover is folded and uses in the high-angle or low-angle mode, the cover, thanks to a magnet, stays put and supports the massive iPad Pro confidently.
Removing the iPad from the case was a bit problematic for me. I had a discussion with OtterBox about that. The video above and counsel from my rep claims that you can reverse the installation process and pry the iPad from the edges, starting on the side opposite the hinge. In fact, the stiff edges prevented me from doing that comfortably all along the outer edges.
I found it easier to pry the hinged section away, remove the cover, and slide the iPad out sideways from the back case. Others may not experience what I did, and the case comes off either way. It's not a big deal considering that the iPad Pro, once installed, is in there to stay and is not going to fall out.
Any case should complement the product and make it look good. This case achieved that. But the design should also provide for mild drop protection and protect the iPad's edges in a fall. OtterBox has a Certified Drop Protection design, and that simply means: "Symmetry Series Hybrid is NOT protective against water. Will provide added protection against bumps, drops and shock." Having reviewed dozens of cases for the iPhone and iPads, my estimation is that this case provides very good protection for those minor incidents. However, because the iPad Pro 12.9 is so large and heavy, there is no MIL-STD certification for protection from a fall of some height. Just don't allow that.
What I Liked and Didn't
This case made my iPad Pro 12.9 fun to use again. By that, I mean that its slender design, good looks and versatility protects the giant iPad Pro but also doesn't get in the way. I wouldn't call it minimalist, but I would emphases that feature #1 in the list above is not just a marketing boast. It's a reflection of the careful thinking that went into the design.
I can't say that I was fond of the quick reference strip of paper, a ribbon, wrapped around the case. It's hard to use and read, and likely to be thrown away. Later when you need to recall how to install or remove the iPad, the crucial visual hints will be gone. You'll have to go find that video that I included above. This is a nit, and I know a case shouldn't need a user guide. Still, I was mildly annoyed with the curly paper and the hunt for the right section covering case removal.
Finally, I felt that the stretch loop that holds the Apple Pencil, or some other stylus, was a bit on the flimsy side and could, at some point, tear. It was just a feeling. I would have preferred a more robust material here, befitting the rest of the design, for example, a semi-circular clip as on the UAG case I referenced above.
Warranty and Packaging
Rather than a thin cardboard box, this case comes in a heavy-duty box that will protect the case well until it gets into your hands. The warranty is standard, one year. For more information, see the OtterBox FAQ page.
The edges are thick and cushiony.
I've reviewed several OtterBox cases in the past, for iPhones and iPads, and I've always come away impressed. There is thoughtfulness, attention to detail, great selection of materials and great functionality. This particular case has completely changed the way I feel about my iPad Pro 12.9. It's subtle, functional and great looking. Even though it's a bit heavy at 18 ounces, you'd never know it because it stays out of your way and accentuates the design of the iPad. It literally fits like a glove.
The price may seem high, but remember: this is not a 2 ounce case for an iPhone. There's a lot more material here that we've been accustomed to. It's worth every penny in my mind, and I recommend it highly to protect your investment.