Otterbox jumps into mobile gaming accessories at CES 2021
The popular maker of mobile accessories like smartphone cases expands its reach into gaming with some clever new products, most notably for Xbox players.
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Otterbox is well known for its phone cases and other
. Now -- like everybody else -- Otterbox wants to get into gaming, too, with the Otterbox Mobile Gaming Clip, Gaming Carry Case, Easy Grip Controller Shell, Easy Grip Gaming Case and Gaming Glass Privacy Guard: No fancy branding here, just what it says on the tin. But rather than cranking out me-too products, Otterbox has clearly put some thought into its debut gear, most of which is part of the Designed for Xbox program; they're all made to work variously with Microsoft's Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S and the Xbox Elite Wireless series 2 controllers.
The $30 gaming clip has some notable advantages over many competitors. The clamps that hold the phone, for instance, don't grip it directly on the sides. They have rubberized pads and tilt over the sides, so they don't press directly on any of the buttons; that means you can balance the phone in the center rather than off to the side to avoid the power button and volume rocker on any phone.
It also has a level of articulation that lets you easily adjust its position above the controller, via a combination of tension and for extra control for optimal balance. It folds relatively flat, partly the result of its uncommon design, which clips over the controller rather than underneath. And that's what makes it more controller-specific than most clips as well; there's a cutout surrounding the central buttons. It's not bad, but it does feel like it slightly obstructs them.
So, attaching over the front rather than under the back keeps it from blocking the battery compartment completely. But you still have to remove it to open the compartment, and I'm not sold on how it partly obscures the buttons in the center.
The $40 Easy Grip Controller Shell provides Xbox controllers with the type of rubberized grips that have long been available to gaming enthusiasts. They're designed to clip on and off easily -- which they do, once you get the hang of manipulating all the pieces together -- so that you can clean the grips, which also have basic antimicrobial protection and offer some protection against being dropped or bumped. I haven't checked to see if it passes the rage-throw test, though.
It comes with two pairs of grips, one with a slightly coarser texture than the other. Otterbox claims they're also sweat-reducing, but it feels more like they just don't slip when my sweaty palms come into contact. I do wish they wrapped a little farther around the back, though.
You can get them in black with translucent gray plastic (Dark Web), light gray with translucent clear plastic (Galactic Dream) or purple with translucent purple plastic (Dreamscape). The Galactic Dream model has glow-in-the-dark edges on the grips.
The $45 Carry Case offers molded, water-resistant, hard-shell protection and storage for your controller, along with pockets for small accessories like cables, extra batteries or your extra grips, and is designed with a cutout to accommodate the clip (and possibly other clips that are higher when folded down). It also has a pass-through opening for a USB cable so you can charge your controller while it's in the case.
One of the niftiest features of the case is the stand on the top of the case, which can flip up to support your phone. It's somewhat awkward to use such a large case for propping up your phone, but it's nice to have in a pinch.
And, of course, it's Otterbox, so there have to be phone cases. When it ships, the $55 Easy Grip Gaming Case will be compatible with the
11 Pro Max
, iPhone SE (2nd gen)/7/8. Select Android devices will follow (most likely ones with the word "Galaxy" in the name). For the moment it comes only in a brownish black (Squid Ink).
The Easy Grip phone case, too, has basic antimicrobial protection and a rubberized, sweat-resistant texture and is MIL-STD-810G 516.6-compliant for drop protection (it can survive 26 drops from 4 feet high onto 2 inches of plywood on top of concrete).
But the most notable gaming feature is its CoolVergence tech, a heat-dissipating layer designed to improve performance by keeping the processor running cooler, which theoretically means it can run faster. I couldn't test it because I didn't have a case designed for any of my phones.
Watch this: CES 2021: What to expect as the show goes all-digital
The last product in Otterbox's new gaming stable is a variation on its existing privacy shield, the $50 Gaming Glass Privacy Guard. The biggest difference is that instead of reducing the viewing angle while the phone is in portrait mode, it reduces it for landscape mode.
It's a nice group of intelligently designed accessories for Otterbox's gaming debut for Xbox and Xbox cloud gaming fans.