By Dig Om on Thu, 03/13/2014
I've referred to Snow Lizard’s SLXtreme iPhone cases before as the case to use in a survival situation. If you’re an outdoorsy or military type, or an extreme adventurer or survivalist, the SLXtreme for the iPhone 5/5s ($149.99) is without a doubt a perfect case for you. Its rugged design, with its high level of impact protection, waterproofness, and the solar panel incorporated into its backside, which charges a built-in 2,550 mAh battery, make this a superior case for extended use when traveling to wild and challenging environments or for extended treks off-grid. While its size and heft may make this case too big and heavy for the average, casual iPhone user, for the person who requires the reliability and protection of one of the most rugged and dependable cases on the market, this particular case should fit their needs nicely.
Significant Improvements to Original iPhone 4/4S Design:
While I appreciated the solar panel built in to the original SLXtreme, the original SLXtreme for the iPhone 4/4S had no headphone port built into the case; if you wanted to get at the iPhone’s headphone port, you had to open the hatch where the phone slides in to get at it. The SLXtreme for the 5/5s has a built-in headphone access port and comes with an adapter that attaches to your favorite pair of headphones so that you can plug in through the case. Unlike some other waterproof cases on the market, this case is not considered waterproof with the headphone port opened even with the adapter attached.
Another improvement over the original 4/4S model, is that the SLXtreme for the 5/5s has a simplified and improved opening and closing system. The polycarbonate latch that allows the iPhone to slide into the case has been beefed up and modified (though personally I appreciated the added protection of the secondary safety latch that the iPhone 4/4S version had) and the panel that seals the charging port has a vastly improved closing mechanism. The new panel for the charging port features a finger-twist, wing-nut style locking feature, versus the iPhone 4/4S SLXtreme which had a screw that required a screwdriver or coin or similar accessory just to gain access to that case’s charging port.
I didn't give the iPhone 4/4S SLXtreme case the highest ratings, but the iPhone 5/5s version has definitely made up for the shortcomings of its predecessor. The SLXtreme has come into its own with this versatile and ultra-rugged case. If you asked me what case I'd recommend for any and every kind of a survival situation, where the safety of your phone and the ability to keep it charged is of utmost importance, this would be the one.
I used the SLXtreme for a week before I damaged it. It fell from 3.5 feet (my jacket pocket) and landed on a concrete floor just so, cracking the hinge of the main access door. It was still totally useable, but it's a reminder that even the best of rugged cases is only really designed to protect your iDevice reliably from one hard fall. These military-grade cases that say they will protect your iPhone from six-foot drops don't mean that they will protect your iPhone from from multiple and repeated six-foot drops.
- Perhaps the most reliable case I've reviewed. If I had to pick one case to face the zombie apocalypse (of course, who cares about an iPhone when if the world goes all Walking Dead, I'm just making a point) it would be the SLXtreme.
- A built-in solar panel that charges a powerful surplus battery is this case’s signature feature and goes a long way to making this case as reliable as it is.
- Fully waterproof to 6 feet, and designed to protect against 6 foot drops.
- For the unprecedented level of protection and off-grid longevity this case is both relatively compact and relatively inexpensive, considering the return you get from your investment.
- Access to the iOS Control Center, Search, and Notifications is hampered by the high beveled edge surrounding the touchscreen. This case was presumably developed prior to iOS 7, so I'm thinking that its next iteration will take into consideration iOS and Control Center accessibility. Camera and flashlight are handy to have access to via control center, especially out in nature, and putting those apps on your first page screen or dock row is always an option.
- No Touch ID support, which, depending on the user, may be less of a priority for the kind of off-grid action this case is likely to see.
- Volume buttons hard to interact with.
- Hard to hear folks you are talking with, likewise its difficult to be heard with the iPhone in this case.
- While effective, the solar panel only provides a slow trickle charge. You get about 10 minutes of talk time from an hour of sun charging on a bright day, which is great, but don't look to the solar panel to perform like a wall charger.
- If you use the iPhone’s speaker for listening to music or speakerphone you'll find that the SLXtreme really mutes your acoustic output.
- If you use the solar panel to charge you battery on a hot day, you will likely have to wait until your iPhone cools down enough for the iPhone temperature message to go away and for it to return to usability.
While this may be the perfect case for a Bear Grylls, special forces, outdoor-survivalist type it's likely a bit of overkill for anyone looking for rugged protection without the bulk of the solar panel and external battery combined. For anyone looking for reliable protection in a less bulky format I'd suggest taking a look at Otterbox’s outstanding Preserver. However if having the most dependable and reliable heavy-duty iPhone case available is a priority, even one that may limit some functionality while providing you with the assurance of knowing that you iPhone will be protected and useable when you need it most, then the SLXtreme is probably the case for you.