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Is your tablet a big part of your daily routine? If so, you’ll be interested in the Otterbox Agility Tablet System. Available for Apple iPads and coming soon for several Samsung Galaxy models, the Otterbox Agility is designed to put an end to the routine of struggling to pop tablets in and out of different cases for different tasks, propping the devices up in an attempt to get a good viewing angle and even eliminates cable clutter.

The Tablet Accessory Shuffle

Ever since tablets started gaining in popularity, a steady stream of cases, adapters and mounts has been offered as well. Many of these work quite well for their intended purpose, but if you use your tablet in different ways throughout the day there’s a good chance you’re compromising much of the time. 

For example, I really love the Apple Smart Cover I put on my iPad Mini for casual use. However, when I want to take the tablet anywhere that calls for more aggressive protection I remove the Smart Cover and pop it into a protective case. The protective case doesn’t have a built-in kickstand, so if I want to use the iPad in the kitchen to review a recipe, I end up propping it up against something. I have a stand on my desk where the iPad can be nicely seated so I can see the display, but using it requires removing the protective case (too bulky) and it doesn’t have a cutout to accommodate a charging cable so I have to make sure I have some battery life left, too.

It’s all bit of a pain.

Otterbox Agility diagram.jpgOttberbox Agility: It Really Is a System

Otterbox has a well-deserved reputation for making effective and well-designed smartphone cases (including the popular Defender series) and the company has turned its expertise to the problems facing tablet owners. The goal of the Otterbox Agility Tablet System is to give a tablet owner the flexibility of many different accessories, but without the compromises and swapping usually required.

Agility is based on a series of components that work interchangeably. You don’t have to buy all the components —just the ones you need. But if you want to expand your capabilities, you don’t have to start from scratch looking for something that does it all, you just add another Agility component.

Otterbox breaks Agility into three primary components.

Shell: Provides the basic protection for your iPad or tablet while also serving as the anchor for various Agility components. This is the key piece of the Agility system.

Folio: The Case that provides display protection while also acting as a stand for activities like viewing a video or typing.

Accessories: Add-ons including a wall mount and a power dock.

Agility System in Action

I set up my iPad Air using the Otterbox Agility components that would help to solve some of my particular use-case scenarios. I chose the Portfolio (with included Shell) and the Power Dock.

Getting the iPad Air into the Agility Shell included with the Portfolio was a piece of cake —it slips under the soft edges easily enough. The shell is sturdy and provides a nice rubberized grip. The back is hardshell plastic with a cutout for the Apple logo that serves as an anchor point for magnetically mounted accessories. Note that the magnet fastens to a metal plate embedded in the plastic shell, not to the back of the tablet, so there’s no worry about scratching.

I have no doubt that a tablet encased in one of these stands a far better chance of survival than one without protection. 

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On the downside, the Shell does make the iPad considerably bulkier and removing it was tough. In fact, it was one of the more difficult tablet from case extractions I’ve had to do.

Once in the Shell, it’s a simple matter to slip the iPad into a Folio —in this case the Agility Portfolio. The inside back of the Folio has a round magnetic mount corresponding to that cutout in the back of the Shell, and this securely attaches the tablet. 

The Agility Portfolio was attractive enough and wrapped around the iPad to provide full protection. The back panel folds to convert into an effective, two-position stand. The Folio was more along the lines of my Apple Touch Cover, although the net effect is much thicker because of the Shell.

Next I tried something a little more interesting, the Power Dock —one of the Agility Accessories.

inside power.jpgThe Power Dock solves several problems at once. It has a hidden USB power adapter with three ports and the ability to charge up to three devices simultaneously. Trading three power cords and the need for three power outlets for one is always a win in my books.

The top of the Power Dock is hinged, and inside it has rubber clasps to keep USB cables organized. I plugged in my iPad Lightning to USB cable, bundled it up, fed the Lightning connector through one of the openings and closed the lid. All the cable mess is now hidden inside.

Next, a hinged mount is added to the top of the case. It doesn’t snap on, but fits fairly securely. I I had to hold the base down while adjusting the hinge angle to keep it from lifting off the lid, but once adjusted it stayed firmly in place. Which is a good thing, because the next step is to attach the iPad.

The tablet remains in the Shell that was included with the Portfolio. And the entire thing connects snugly to the Power Dock, providing an almost infinitely adjustable stand for the iPad, complete with power access and cable management.

I took the below sequence of photos that show the iPad Air mounted on the PowerDock in portrait mode, connected to its power cable. I don’t want the cable hanging off the side, so when I switched to landscape orientation, I disconnected it. And from there, I was able to adjust the iPad from horizontal to vertical and everything in between.

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Otterbox also offers a wall mount that uses that same Magnetic connection to the Agility Shell to let you stick your tablet on the wall. The mount itself is attached to the wall with 3M Command Strips (included). If you’re hesitant to entrust your $500 tablet to the holding power of removable adhesives, Otterbox also incorporated two recessed holes so you can use screws. 

folio.jpgVerdict

The Otterbox Agility System isn’t for everyone. If one of the things you love about your tablet is its ultra-thin form factor, for example, you may not be happy about having to encase it in the fairly bulky protective Shell —a requirement to make use of the Agility system and something that’s not easily removed at a whim.

But if you can make use of the protection offered plus the range of compatible accessories and cases, the Otterbox Agility System solves a lot of problems and makes for a pretty compelling interchangeable solution for those who use their tablets a lot.

Otterbox says the Agility Tablet System is  currently available for iPad Air, iPad Mini (with Retina Display), iPad 2/3/4 and coming soon for Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) and Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. 

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Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.