The LifeProof Fre is the tougher case but the LifeProof Nuud offers better functionality!
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From our scoring system, we gave the LifeProof Fre a score of 4.1 eh’s out of 5 and the LifeProof Nuud 4.2 Eh’s out of 5. Now you must be thinking that since both cases have similar cases, there probably isn’t a big difference. That’s not true at all. Between these two cases, we can tell you with great confidence that the Fre is the tougher case while the Nuud offers better access to your iPad Air.
To help you decide between these two cases, there’s two questions you need to ask yourself.
1. How clumsy are you? Do you drop things a lot?
2. Are you willing to pay more money for less protection?
In terms of Design, both of these cases are very similar. In fact, I bet you won’t be able to tell which case is which by looking at them sideways.
These two cases share the same back so the bulk of the two cases is almost the same except that the Nuud doesn’t feel as bulky since there isn’t a screen protector. The are thin cases but they will still double the thickness of your iPad as well as increasing the weight by 40-50%.
Installation of these two case are identical but it’s just slightly easier uninstalling the Nuud since you can just push the iPad through the front panel. LifeProof does include this orange plastic uninstall tool which will prolong the life of your LifeProof cases as it will minimize the mangling of the bottom of the case which has been a problem for us with the LifeProof cases for the iPad mini’s.
In terms of build quality, both of these cases feel very solid but I have to give a hat-tip to the Nuud since it offers the same level of water and shock protection without a screen protector. Both of these cases have been dropped and have taken those torture tests well.
In terms of protecting your iPad Air, both of these cases are waterproof up to 6.6ft or 2 m for 1 hour and shockproof from 4 ft or 1.2 m. We’ve done quick water tests for both of the cases as wells as drop tests and we have no reason not to believe LifeProofs specs. We will add that with the LifeProof Nuud, since it does have an extra o-ring on the front panel, there is a higher chance that the case might fail if dirt/debris gets between the o-ring and the touchscreen. Cleaning your Nuud by rinsing it letting it air dry would be a worthwhile doing before bringing the case near any large bodies of water.
The biggest difference in protection between these two cases deals with the screen and it’s simple. The Fre has a screen protector, the Nuud does not. The screen protector on the Fre feels very similar to the Fre on the iPhone 5S and if that’s the case, it’s fairly tough. We’ve discovered that using a kitchen knife.
With the Nuud, the only screen protection that the case provides comes from the distance between the touch screen and the edge of the case which is about 1/4 inch.
In terms of functionality both these cases allow you to easily access the lightning port connector, the headphone jack as well as the all the buttons on your iPad Air. The headphone jack is fairly large so you can easily use other headphones. The sound coming from the speakers isn’t muted and it does make it a bit louder.
When it comes to using the touchscreen, both the edges on the Fre and Nuud are enough away from the touchscreen that they don’t get in the way of accessing the swipe menus of iOS7. With the screen protector on the Fre, if you’re really fussy, you will notice the gap between the touchscreen and the screen protector and this results in the rain-bowing effect that we’re going to talk about next. The gap doesn’t diminish the sensitivity of the touchscreen.
The Fre performs quite poorly when it comes to screen view-ability. Between these two cases, the Nuud comes out on top because it doesn’t have a screen protector AND because the view ability of the Fre really diminishes the quality of the iPad Air’s retina screen.
The Fre suffers from a rain-bowing effect, the glare coming of the screen protector is quite significant and if you look closely at the screen, you’ll notice a bit of diffusion. It may be hard to see in the video but the screen protector makes it look like there’s lots of little pixels. From my opinion, this screen protector is the biggest drawback of the Fre.
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