Otterbox Defender and Commuter cases for Pixel XL review

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otterbox case 1 e1482110866283Of all the tools, toys, gadgets, etc., my cell phone is the one device I couldn’t survive without. I’d sooner get rid of my car than my cell phone.

That may seem extreme, but my phone functions as my calendar, camera, music player, photo album, and GPS; not to mention, I occasionally use it to communicate with others.

Unfortunately, the most important device in my gadget arsenal is also my most fragile. This is why I – like many others – insist on having a case on my phone at all times.

Shortly after purchasing my Pixel XL, I was given the chance to review two Otterbox cases, the Defender and Commuter. I was pretty excited because Otterbox is one of, if not the biggest, names in the phone case business.

Defender Case

The first case I decided to test was the Otterbox Defender case.

For those of you not familiar, the Defender series is Otterbox’s toughest cases. According to Otterbox, the Defender has been through “24+ tests and 238+ hours of testing“.

There are four parts to the Defender.

The first two pieces make up a polycarbonate shell that surrounds the phone. This shell also has a built-in screen protector. The third piece is a rubber cover that slips over the polycarbonate shell. The final piece is a holster to secure the phone to your belt or pocket.

It only takes a few minutes to put the Defender on your phone.

When the cover is on, your phone is fully encapsulated. The only unprotected areas are the speakers, camera, and fingerprint sensor.

The charging port and headphone jack are both protected by rubber covers.

The covers are easy to open, but secure enough that they won’t randomly open when you don’t want them to.

The included holster allows you to insert the phone with the screen facing in either direction.

Once the phone is placed into the holster, you can attach the phone and case to your belt.

otterbox defender 16

After using my Pixel XL with the Defender, I can say that the case doesn’t affect the function at all.

While the case definitely adds bulk to the phone, it doesn’t prevent you from accessing any of the buttons or the fingerprint sensor. The built-in screen protector doesn’t impair the touchscreen’s performance either.

The Defender is an excellent case for anyone that is rough on their phone or works in a field that may increase the odds of damaging the phone. The only possible negative is the price of the case; although, while $59.95 is a lot of money, it’s nothing compared to the cost of replacing a $769 phone.

Lastly, the Defender is available in three colors: Black, Borealis (light greenish), and Marathoner (gray).


Next up is the Commuter case for the Pixel XL.

This is Otterbox’s slimmer, yet still rugged case. Like the Defender, the Commuter has been through “24+ tests and 238+ hours of testing“.

The Commuter is only made up of two pieces.

The first piece is a rubber cover you place directly on the phone. The second piece is polycarbonate shell that goes atop the rubber cover. Unlike the Defender, the shell doesn’t cover the entire phone.

Additionally, the Commuter doesn’t offer any screen protection.

It takes about a minute to put the Commuter on your phone.

Aside from the screen, the Commuter protects the same areas as the Defender.

The Commuter provides the same rubber covers over the charging and headphone ports. They too are secure, without being difficult to open.

The Commuter doesn’t add nearly the bulk the Defender does but still feels like it offers substantial protection; although, it offers absolutely no screen protection. The function of the phone isn’t impaired in any way by the Commuter case.

The Commuter would be great for anyone who doesn’t abuse their phone or run the risk of doing so. It offers a good amount of protection while leaving some extra bulk behind.

At $49.95, the Commuter is slightly more affordable than the Defender, but not by much. Again, it’s still far cheaper than replacing your phone.

The Commuter is available in two colors: Black and Rosmarine Way (Pink).


As I said before, Otterbox may be one of the most recognized names in the phone case industry. You don’t get that sort of name recognition by making a flimsy product.

Both the Defender and Commuter are excellent cases for the Pixel XL. Depending on your needs, I would feel comfortable recommending either of them.

Personally, I’ve gone back and forth on which to use. I started off using the Defender. I then tried the Commuter but received a minor scratch to my screen. I then decided to go back to the Defender.

To some, the cost may be a negative, but I believe they are both worth every penny.

One last thing of note, Otterbox makes identical versions of these cases for the Pixel as well. While I didn’t have a Pixel to review those case with, I would expect them to perform exactly the same.

Source: The samples for this review were provided by Otterbox. Please visit their site for more information and Amazon to order.


Product Information

Price:Defender $59.95 / Commuter $49.95
  • Pixel XL (or Pixel)
  • East to install
  • Great protection
  • Defender has screen protection and holster
  • Expensive

5 thoughts on “Otterbox Defender and Commuter cases for Pixel XL review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I thought you shipped your Pixel XL back. I must have missed the update. How are you liking it? I’m considering pulling the trigger on a Pixel for myself and my wife. We upgrading from a 1st gen Turbo and a 1st gen Moto X. I’m a little hesitant because they are both still solid phones and the Turbo was finally updated to Marshmallow. Thoughts?

  3. I had a 1st gen Moto while back and really liked it, but the Pixel XL blows it away.

    If you’re ready for an upgrade either of the Pixels would be a great choice. The phone is smooth and fast, plus all the updates are direct from Google.

  4. I have not found a comment page for the Defender for the iPad Pro. I would like to see a Defender case made for the pro iPad WITHOUT the opening for the key board. I use mine without the the key pad and would like to protect mine as I did my mini. I love the Defender. All of my Apple products don’t come out of packaging unless I have my Defender to protect them. Please give your customers owning the iPad Pro the option of open case for key board or close case. Thank you and I await your response.

  5. I have a Defender for my M8 and it exhibited that old “trampoline effect” because the screen protector did not lie flat on the phone. It also allowed a LOT of dust ingress in the speaker holes in the cover, and properly cleaning them meant removing the case. Removing the case eventually resulted in the outer rubbery jacket not seating snugly into the groove around the inner case.

    1. Any such “trampoline effect” noticeable on the Pixel XL?
    2. Any homegamer remedies suggested? I’m thinking silicone adhesive around the speaker holes and adhering the rubbery jacket to the case in the groove.
    3. How does the opening in the camera line up with the holster? I drilled out my holster on the M8, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll just cut off the corner. (I use the holster as a dash mount)

    Thanks in advance!

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