After learning last week that all three OtterBox cases (Defender, Commuter, and Impact) were officially available for HTC EVO 3D, I decided to give the readily-available Defender Series ($49.95) a test drive.
This is likely the most protective case you can find right now, but that protection definitely comes with some trade-offs.
Like many others, I want to be able to let my EVO 3D run free without a case to cover its beauty. That said, I also know that one unprotected drop can ruin my fun. Having used the Commuter Series case for my EVO 4G, I had grown accustomed to the level of protection that comes with the OtterBox products. I was also used to a slightly larger case than simple shells.
However, I was completely blown away by the size of the Defender Series case.
OtterBox has continued to refine the strengths of its cases over the years, and I would say that this model is an improvement over the EVO 4G case, due in part to the design changes HTC implemented as well.
For example, anyone who often found themselves shaking their head at the "chin" found on the bottom of the EVO 4G cases will enjoy the new design. With HTC moving the microUSB and micro HDMI (now combined) ports to the left side of the phone, the chin is gone.
As it has been in previous models, the Defender Series is made up of four pieces: a two-piece "top-quality polycarbonate" plastic case, a silicone skin that is placed over the plastic, and a thick plastic holster. The quality of these pieces seems very sound and once assembled, the device definitely feels like it is thoroughly protected.
The plastic case snaps together very tightly and getting it off again takes work.
A smooth clear plastic screen protector is attached to front of the case and it covers everything on the front of the phone with the exception of the earpiece, front camera, and sensors. I normally run with a Zagg on mine but this would do the trick instead. It does not interfere with touch operations, but it and the plastic do reduce the screen area you can functionally interact with (more on this later).
Since the camera pod is larger than it was on the EVO 4G, there is more to protect. The rear plastic piece has small openings for the two camera lenses and the LED flash. These are all protected with a sheet of plastic covering the crystal. As long as there is no dust/debris on the screen guards, visibility and responsiveness remain unaffected.
Getting the silicone skin installed over the plastic cocoon does take some work. Once on properly, it provides a nice barrier keeping lint, etc. from getting into the assembly.
The included holster appears to be virtually the same as the previous model, allowing you to securely stow the EVO 3D facing in or out. The 360-degree ratcheting belt clip now serves a new purpose. Since the phone doesn't have a built-in kickstand, the clip can be locked open to serve as a very adequate substitute.
I still love OtterBox products but a few issues would prevent me from keeping this case:
(1) Size/Thickness. OtterBox describes the Defender Series as "perfect for people who need hardcore protection" and they meant it. It is not very pocketable and definitely awkward to wear with the holster. The photo below gives you a good idea of the size with the case next to a naked EVO 3D.
(2) Lint. The silicone shell will find any/all particles it can and collect them. It's not hard to find the lint on these photos, and that was within minutes of installing the case.
(3) Access to the edges of the screen. The front case provides a tall barrier protecting the screen. However, the case itself creeps right up to the screen edges, and with it being so tall, it is almost impossible to touch the screen properly in apps that have buttons/icons in that space. For example, I couldn't tap the check boxes in Gmail (it would open the email instead) and I couldn't bring down the notification shade when in landscape mode. This may be resolved if you take the screen protector out, but that would seem to defeat the purpose of this case.
All in all, if you want complete peace of mind and are willing and able to bulk up the phone, this case may be for you. I expect I will be much more at home with the redesigned Commuter Series once I get my hands on one.