Otterbox Commuter for NOOKcolor Review

So you’ve picked up a shiny new NOOKcolor, and you need a good case for it. Something sturdy that can withstand your day-to-day abuse. Luckily for the hardcore gadget abusers among us all, Otterbox has a Commuter Case for the NOOKcolor. Does it live up to the Otterbox name, and is it worthy of being slapped on your precious eReader? Read on to find out!

Like all the cases in the Commuter series, the NOOK version comes with three parts; a screen protector, a fitted silicon case, and a plastic shell that fits around the outside. While it does add a fair amount of bulk, it’s actually remarkably comfortable to hold and actually feels a bit better than a case-less NOOK. I think the combination of thickness and grippiness from the silicon makes it less slippery than a naked NOOK, and that’s much more comforting if you’re walking and holding it. The rubber coverings over the power and volume buttons also make them easier to find, especially if you’re busily playing “Angry Birds” in the dark. Finally, while the screen is open, Otterbox does protect the headphone jack and miniUSB port with plugs that fit perfectly, but bend easily out of the way if you need access.

My big trepidation with any silicon style case is ease of adding and removing it from the device. Otterbox uses a sturdy silicon, and in popping the NOOK in and out of it I didn’t notice any stretching or deformity. It also slid on and off easily, which is important (more in a moment on that). Snapping the plastic shell over it was a bit tough the first time, but I quickly figured out how to line it up. Getting the shell off was very easy. My one nitpick with the material is that the silicon does attract a fair amount of dust and dog hair. Granted, I have a labrador, so it seems like everything in my house has dog hair, but it’s a consideration if you’re very compulsive about keeping your stuff clean.

There are a few compromises to this case, and whether or not they’re deal breakers depend greatly on how you use your NOOKcolor. The first issue is that because this is an Otterbox Commuter and not Defender case, the screen is more vulnerable. The case is raised around the edges and you could easily place the NOOK facedown and not fear the screen getting scratched, plus there’s a screen protector in the box if you don’t already have one, but there’s not much to shield it from a direct hit. I carry my NOOK daily in a bag, and to be safe I crammed the NOOK in the Otterbox in a sleeve case. It was a tight fit, but with keys, wallet, sunglasses, and other pointy things riding shotgun it seemed prudent to make sure the screen was guarded.

The second issue is a bigger one. B&N thoughtfully included a magnetic flip-door to access the MicroSD slot, but Otterbox covers it with the case. They still left the corner open, but there’s no way to dig in and get out an SD card without disassembling the entire case. So you can’t easily hot-swap your card on the go, and if you like using the stock NOOKcolor and booting into Android on an SD card you’re going to become very proficient at popping the case apart. Now, this may not be an issue for you, and I liken it to an Android phone with the SD card slot under the battery door; it’s annoying but only a deal-breaker for certain users.

My final problem is that all the protection Otterbox offers is at a cost; this case is heavy! According to my kitchen scale, a naked NOOKcolor is 15oz. The Otterbox Commuter weighs in at 4.5oz, meaning the whole package is now over 1lb! It’s slight, but the NOOK is already a dense, heavy device, and you definitely feel the difference. I’ve been using the NOOK in the Otterbox for a week or so, and when I took it off to take a few pictures I was struck by how light a case-less NOOK felt. This might be the only time I’ve handled a NOOKcolor and thought, “Ooh, light!” So if you have a tendency towards achey wrists or are especially sensitive to heavy objects, be aware that this case adds some chunk and weight.

Now, nitpicks aside, this case is a tank. If you want a NOOKcolor case that’s svelte and skinny, this isn’t it. If you want a case that will withstand a moderate amount of abuse, and certainly gives you some extra grip, then it’s perfect. The Commuter case more than lives up to the quality standards Otterbox has maintained for years, and while it’s not waterproof it’s a tough, strong case. I’d be wary of bringing it to the beach without another layer of protection, but I would have no problems traveling with it, especially if you have a spot in your bag with non-pointy areas for the NOOK to ride!

The Otterbox Commuter Case for the NOOKcolor is available directly from the Otterbox website.

MSRP: $49.95

What I Like: Silicon/plastic shell combination feels sturdy and well designed; easy to get on and off NOOKcolor; headphones and MiniUSB port are covered.

What Needs Improvement: Heavy; adds a lot of thickness; covers the MicroSD slot

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