Being Fre isn’t bad, going Nuud is best!
[toggle title=”Watch the LifeProof Fre vs Nuud for the iPad Air Video Comparison”][/toggle]
Before be get into the details of our LifeProof Fre vs Nuud for the iPad Air comparison, 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. Our scores are based on the average 9 criteria that we rate against and we do this for ALL of our cases. We do this so that we can give you the best information before you drop either $110 or $130 dollars on a case. 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.
- How clumsy are you? Do you drop things a lot?
- Are you willing to pay more money for less protection?
[toggle title=”Design-Your iPad will not be ashamed in these cases”]
When looking LifeProof Fre vs Nuud for the iPad Air in terms of design, both of these cases are very similar. These two cases share the same back. From what I can tell, there is no difference between the two backs. 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.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Protection-Go ahead, give your iPad to your kids”] 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. [/toggle]
[toggle title=”Functionality-It’s like there isn’t a screen protector”]When comparing the LifeProof Fre vs Nuud for the iPad Air 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.[/toggle]
Now, we wouldn’t be as hard on this case if this was the first time that we’ve seen this but the same problems have occurred on the LifeProof Fre for the iPhone 5, the 5S and the iPad Mini so we’re a little disappointed that these issues haven’t been resolved.
So going back to the original questions:
How clumsy are you? Do you drop things a lot? If you’re not great with not dropping things, go with the Fre. It offers better overall protection for your iPad Air. If you’re good with your electronics, consider getting the Nuud because it offers unparalleled access to your iPad. We’ve been reviewing cases for a while and I’ve touched a lot of screen protectors and there’s really nothing better than the naked feel of an iOS touchscreen.
Are you willing to pay more money for less protection? The Fre is $110, the Nuud is $130. They are not cheap cases but the case that is less protective is 20 dollars more.
For me personally, I’d go with the LifeProof Nuud. I’m not a big fan of screen protectors and if they’re not great like the Fre is a big issue for me. In terms of paying more for less protection, I’d pay the premium for less protection because the functionality of my iPad is very important to me. We pay lots of money for these devices and the things that cover them shouldn’t diminish what we can do with the devices. Especially when it comes to the touchscreen.
Have questions? Please ask them on our Google+ page or on our Facebook page.
May 28, 2014 at 10:38 pm
I own an iPad Air and bought a Lifeproof Fre case for it. The case is great. I added the Lifeproof cover and there are problems. First the fit is not very precise. Secondly and most important to me is that it doesn’t put the iPad to sleep when closed. Lifeproof has kindly sent me another case and cover that gave the same result. I took the iPad to Apple and they put one of their covers on it and off to sleep it went. Contacted Lifeproof again and they are sending me the Nuud case and cover. It was their idea as I’m not a fan of the Nuud’s lack of screen protection. They also claim to not have any other complaints of this type. I would be very curious to hear of customers who are not having this problem.
May 29, 2014 at 5:19 pm
Thanks for the comment. We haven’t taken a look at the LifeProof accessories. Is the cover suppose to put the iPad to sleep? If not, is there a mod or hack that you could to the cover?
May 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm
The cover is supposed to act the same as an Apple Smart cover. We have a Lifeproof on my wife’s iPad Mini and it works fine. Lifeproof support says it should work the same way. While at Apple, we tried the cover without the case and it didn’t work that way either. It seems to me that the magnets are not located correctly. Tried putting paper clips on the covers to see where they stuck or didn’t vs the Apple cover. Lifeproof support seems convinced that the case somehow weakens the magnetic field. Didn’t seem to grasp that if the cover wouldn’t cause sleep sans case, then the case is in no way part of the problem.
June 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm
I have the iPad mini nuud case with lifeproof’s portfolio cover. My cover does not put my ipad to sleep. And I am very disappointed about that. I will be contacting lifeproof about it.
June 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm
That’s no good. Let us know what LifeProof says!
June 16, 2014 at 1:26 am
Well, Lifeproof has sent me a third case. They are for some reason still convinced that the case somehow is weakening the power of the magnets.
It seems that the vast majority of 3rd party covers will not work with the iPod Air. This is due to Apple having relocated the Hall Effect magnets on the Air to a completely different location, and has their polarity reversed for good measure. The following link actually shows a talented individual’s recipe to make a functioning cover for the Air: (http://www.instructables.com/id/IPad-Air-auto-sleepwake-case-mod/).
Thank Apple for the unspoken of redesign, and Lifeproof et al for not doing their homework. A simple test should have caught this before any single cover shipped from any 3rd party vendor.
It should also be noted that some of the earliest Air and Apple Smart Covers did not mate properly. Seems that the attaching magnets in the Air were located in such a way that the Smart Covers would not line up with the screen. This is direct from the Apple Support forum.
June 17, 2014 at 2:39 am
Hmm. That’s good information. Thanks for the heads-up!
June 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm
The YouTube reviews were great. I work as a forensic investigator and having the extra protection especially when I am working is less than optimal conditions i.e. rain and snow, the fre is the case for me.
Thank you for your expert reviews
June 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Your reviews were great. I work as a forensic investigator and at times I am working out doors in less than optimal conditions, i.e. rain, snow. The Fre case is perfect for my uses. Thank you again for the reviews.
June 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm
Thanks for the awesome comment!
June 14, 2014 at 2:55 pm
You’re very welcome.
It’s your reviews Aaron that made made my decision on the purchase of the LifeProof case. Keep up the great work.
June 16, 2014 at 9:54 am
Is there a way to get rid of the rainbow/oil slick patterns?
I heard some folks using baby powder.
Just want your opinion first.
They are all over my screen
June 17, 2014 at 2:38 am
I have heard the baby powder solution but haven’t tried it yet. The rain-bowing on my Fre is gone now but I’ve left the case un-installed at the office for several weeks so it’s gotten covered in dust (similar to the baby powder) so I’m guessing it would probably work.
June 17, 2014 at 9:19 am
One more question Aaron,
How many times can you remove the cover before you start to damage the integrity of the case. I have removed this a few times already.
June 18, 2014 at 3:34 am
I wouldn’t be concerned about that. I’ve personally taken apart my LifeProof cases over and over again and they do hold up. If you’re concerned about the integrity of the case, just do a water test every once in a while to see if its still good.
June 19, 2014 at 11:22 am
Thank you for the quick response.
July 1, 2014 at 6:15 pm
I am having the same non-locking issue with the fre for the iPad Air. Waiting on replacements the might go another route.
July 7, 2014 at 1:11 am
Well, here’s the way things have ended for my troubles with LifeProof on the iPad Air cover situation. A different (Danielle) rep emailed me that she was sorry, but in fact the cover for the iPad Air was never supposed to put it to sleep in the first place, and that all of the information and attempts by 6 previous reps to rectify the situation were totally in error, and a return label to send back the cases they had sent me. I as civilly as I was able informed LifeProof (who is now part of Otterbox apparently) that I would no longer purchase nor recommend their product line (my immediate family alone has 7 and at least 10 more bought by friends on my assurance that it was the level best product of its type). Their reply (from Daniel) was that they were sorry I felt that way, and, oh yes, have a nice life. There was no offer to refund any of the purchase price for the iPad Air case and cover which were purchased directly from LifeProof. I really hope that you fare better than I did. I have been spreading the word to local retailers when appropriate, and have seen the local Best Buy store has pulled the iPad Air covers from their shelves after a demonstration of the problem with items from their stock.
November 20, 2014 at 9:35 pm
I just wonder which one I should choose. Not sure if I should choose nuud even though I really want too.
Because I use my iPad in work and I work in a iron ore mine in Sweden. It’s a tough environment where it is a lot of dirt dust and water. So I need some good protection for my iPad but I don’t want to loose the functionality. I really love the feeling of the naked screen and how quickly it responds. But still I need the protection. So should I go with fre or nuud or maybe a different case?
November 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm
It depends on how careful you are with the screen protector. You can buy a cover for the Nuud so that when you’re not using it, it’s covered up. The Nuud might still be able to take a glass screen protector on the iPad if you wanted to stick with the Nuud.
January 5, 2015 at 4:33 am
hey , what about a review of the thule x3 case por ipad and ipad mini, it will be great, tanks
January 8, 2015 at 10:38 pm
I had to sell all my iPads to get the new iPhones. Hopefully in a couple of months I can start doing iPad reviews again.