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Griffin Survivor case for tablets review: Griffin Survivor case for tablets is tough, but not rugged

The Survivor protects well against small drops and tumbles, but extreme adventurers should keep looking.

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Xiomara Blanco
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Xiomara Blanco Associate Editor / Reviews - Tablets and monitors

Xiomara Blanco is an associate editor for CNET Reviews. She's a Bay Area native with a knack for tech that makes life easier and more enjoyable. So, don't expect her to review printers anytime soon.

5 min read

A good quality case can quell the anxiety of casually dropping your favorite portable gadget, so it's no surprise that Griffin extends its durable line of Survivor cases to a few popular tablet models. Slate owners who desire extra protection for their devices will find the cases to be a cheaper investment than replacing a broken tablet, but the security offered from the Survivor cases is limited.

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6.3

Griffin Survivor case for tablets

The Good

The Griffin Survivor case is available for select Apple, Amazon, and Samsung tablets. It ships with a sturdy removable stand and provides a healthy amount of padding to protect from drops.

The Bad

The back and front panels are susceptible to scratches, the plastic screen protector makes displays hard to see in bright environments, and the clear silicon wrap discolors quickly.

The Bottom Line

If you need an extra layer of durability, the Griffin Survivor cases protect well against small drops and minor spills, but those who need a rugged case which can take more of a beating should look elsewhere.

The Griffin Survivor cases can't withstand extreme conditions -- they're not waterproof and can only endure a 6-foot drop -- so they work best to protect the tablet from minor spills and falls. They still prove to be sturdy and durable, however, if you're looking for a case to make your slate indestructible, keep looking.

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The plastic screen protector makes the sharp and colorful screens look dull. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Design

The Survivor cases consist of three separate pieces: a polycarbonate front panel with a purportedly scratch-resistant screen, a polycarbonate back panel with internal foam shock pads, and a silicone cladding that wraps around the entire thing like a loving group hug.

The cases fit like a glove for each specific model. If you're lamenting the lack of availability for your non-Apple, Amazon or Samsung slates, understand that the individual cases cater each particular model and are purposefully designed to maximize the usability of the tablet while ensconced in the Survivor case.

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Foam padding on the inside of the case helps absorb shock. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The silicone cladding provides specific port covers for connections; the Apple iPad models have sealed, removable port covers for the rear camera, Thunderbolt connector, the silent/screen rotation button, and headphone jack, while the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX model has two for the Micro-USB port and headphone jack.

Buttons on the cases take on shapes similar to the buttons on the tablets -- including the capacitive set of menu, home, and back buttons on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 -- and protrude enough to be easily found. The Survivor case for the Kindle Fire HDX includes grates for the Dolby powered pair of speakers on the rear, however the iPad model doesn't have anything similar.

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Sunbathing after a good wash. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

In order to put the tablet in the case, first, you place it inside of the back panel, then you wrap the silicone cladding around the entire thing and stretch it so its edges meet the front of the tablet. In order for the front panel to snap on well, the silicone cladding has to wrap around the entire back panel.

This assembly takes some time, but if you don't do it correctly, you run the risk of damaging your tablet. The times I incorrectly snapped the case on, the front panel consistently flew off after a short drop.

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The scratch-resistant design was a challenge to be met. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The Survivor cases also come with a removable stand that's sturdy when propped up correctly. It easily clips onto the case and can be left there for frequent use. There's only one viewing angle -- it props the tablet up to about 100 degrees -- so it's best for video watching.

The selection of bright and colorful designs are fun, but I preferred the look of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX case; its girthy utilitarian design is reminiscent of the HDX's all-black angular body, and it makes the small tablet look tough, kind of like a child with a beard.

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The clear silicone cladding became discolored after making mud pies in Big Sur. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Performance

Griffin says loud and clear that it will not take responsibility for your broken device, no matter what it was wearing at the time of the accident. Those who have had the unfortunate experience of breaking a gadget understand that the destruction of a device can be caused by a myriad of small incidents. So instead of evaluating the unpredictable protection of the tablet, this review looks at the durability of the case.

I tested the cases capacity for wear and tear by letting them soak in the run-off of a waterfall, tossing them around a beach like a frisbee, and gracefully dropping them from small inclines. After the mild torture testing, the tablet cases lived up to their name, for the most part.

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Separation of screen and frame. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

If assembled correctly, the Griffin Survivor case seals out dust and dirt, with minimal protection against water. Dirt and sand easily get caught in the crevices of the case and beneath the protective screen, so if you're taking your tablet camping or to the beach, a good cleaning once you're home is necessary to avoid any scratches on your device.

I tested how well the silicone cladding and foam padding protected from falls by dropping them on a variety of surfaces. The drop tests were conducted with tablets in the cases for a better idea of real-life performance, and the cases dutifully absorbed the shock from the drop, sometimes resulting in an extra bounce or two before surrendering to gravity.

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Scratch-resistant, not scratch-proof. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The plastic screen on the front panel can make it difficult to see the screen outdoors, due to glare, and it makes the super-HD screens on the iPad and Kindle Fire HDX appear a little dull. It also attracts a lot of smudges -- cleaning both sides thoroughly requires taking the case apart -- but touchscreen response was impressively swift and consistent.

I bent the screens as much as I could without feeling sadistic, and they proved as bendy as the rumored sapphire screens on the upcoming Apple iPhone 6 . Unfortunately, after a rough weekend with me, part of the screen on the front panel of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX case started to separate from the plastic frame. It's an easy fix, but could result in water damage if it goes unnoticed.

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The Survivor cases are only available for select slates. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Conclusion

The Griffin Survivor cases add a welcome layer of durability -- and slight peace of mind -- for some of the most popular tablets available. Those with butterfingers or tech-savvy children in the household will benefit from the extra protection, but the case isn't indestructible enough for those who need a truly rugged case for their tablet.

There's only one tablet that includes durability as a feature (the waterproof Sony Xperia Z2 ) so any tablet owner has to decide how they will protect their device. The Survivor cases add a bit of bulk to the slates, but considering it's a defensive shield the heft is more acceptable. If you want more protection than your average tablet cover, the Survivor case is one of the few options available, but it will only satisfy the cautious and accident-prone.

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6.3

Griffin Survivor case for tablets

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6
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