I’m not going to pull any punches here — the SLXtreme 5 iPhone case (for 5 and 5S) is not for everyone. It’s bulkier… heavier… and definitely pulls in some strange looks. I’ve been using it now for almost a month and I can attest to the fact that I got at least a dozen odd looks every day not counting those individuals who had no issue saying something like “Man, that is ONE serious case!”
The SLXtreme 5 is, however, exactly as advertised — waterproof, battery rugged, and solar powered. Yes… solar powered. More on that in a moment.
Let’s go in order. Waterproof? Yes, it really is waterproof up to two meters (6.6ft). I wasn’t willing to dunk my iPhone 5 into a pool to test the theory, but I did perform the recommended test which was to put some dry tissue inside and then dunk the thing good and proper. I dunked it about four feet below the surface of the pool and left it there for a minute. After removing the tissue paper, I detected no moisture. I even checked around the seals on the top, bottom, and the front plastic cover and didn’t feel any water beyond what was on the outside of the case.
One interesting thing about the water-protection is you can actually see the rubber gasket running around the top of the case where you insert the phone. There’s a heavy-duty metal latch on the side that has a solid *thunk* and snap when it is secured. It pulls the lid down and locks it in place, ensuring it doesn’t accidentally pop open — tugging the release lever with your thumb requires a reasonable amount of force for it to pop up and allow for the lid to open.
For those of you who like to listen to music on your iPhone, the case comes with a special adapter that has its own rubber gasket. This is a two-part process, requiring you to twist the metal lock on the bottom to open the gasket-secured bottom hatch. This hatch protects the case’s own mini-USB charging port and the small rubber stopper that covers the headphone port. Again, during my waterproofing test, no moisture was found behind the headphone stopper. You remove the stopper by twisting it counter-clockwise (it has two tiny ridges that “lock” it into place when you turn it clockwise). Next, you close the bottom lid and re-lock it. Only then do you insert the special headphone port adapter — its rubber gasket makes a seal and then you twist and lock the adapter just as you did with the small stopper. The other end of the headphone port adapter has a standard opening for your headphones. (Oh, and the case comes with a spare stopper in a tiny rubber bobber that holds the stopper tight so you won’t lose it… a very unexpected but nice addition. That said, don’t lose the original stopper if you can manage it.)
Battery Rugged? Oh, yeah. The provided documentation states that the built-in battery in the case increases the iPhone’s normal battery time to 150%. I can only verify that as I’ve used it I’ve yet to have to recharge the phone at all from around 7am when I first unplug my phone to around 11pm or so when I plug it in at night. This is not typical of my iPhone without the SLXtreme case… I often have to charge my phone around 5 or 6pm each evening just to get enough charge to get me to bedtime.
I do remove the iPhone at night to use it with its regular charger — let me explain. First, the case itself must be charged with the included mini-USB power adapter. On the back of the case are four LEDs that blink until the case is fully charged — the LEDS light up in order as it charges, so one LED will blink… then two… all the way to four… and then the LEDs remain solid to let you know its charged. Insert the iPhone into the case and you’re basically combining the iPhone’s battery with the case battery and can expect to have more life from your phone. Oh, and you can charge the iPhone while it’s in the SLXtreme case… but you must use the included charge cable, not the original iPhone charge cable.
The case also serves as a charger, too. I had the case fully charged and ran my iPhone down to 12%. I inserted the iPhone and left it sitting for a few hours. When I came back, it was up to 80% and still climbing. I needed to use my phone, but given that there were still two LEDs lighting up when I pressed the Test button on back, I have a strong feeling it would have fully charged the phone in 20-30 more minutes. The battery, by the way, is listed as a 2550mAh for those of you interested in that kind of thing.
Finally, let me talk about the Solar Charger. The back of the charger has the small solar panel embedded in a small 4-5mm thick frame and performs as an emergency trickle charger. The documentation states that 1 hour in direct sunlight will provide 10 minutes of talk time. This was the most difficult test to actually perform — I ran my cased phone down to 0% (no iPhone charge, no case charge) and then flipped it over and set it outside for about 30 minutes. The phone booted up 3%. I placed a phone call and warned my friend that I was testing talk time and would likely cut out. We chatted for approximately 3.5 minutes before the phone died. I was satisfied, especially given that I had the phone sitting flat and could have possibly angled the solar panel better to get more sunlight. I have no doubt that sitting this solar panel in direct sunlight for an hour or two would give me more than enough talk time in an emergency.
Call quality is great — I called my wife (on her phone) while she talked into my phone in the SLXtreme 5 case; I could hear her clearly and with no muffle or echo. Power/Sleep button at top and the Home button on front all worked just fine, with no delay or having to press any harder than normal. The camera lenses are completely unobstructed, and plenty of camera tests proved it had no negative effect on any photos or videos. Rubber volume buttons on the side worked just fine, too.
Drawbacks? Just two, and one of these is extremely subjective.
1. As you can see from the photos, the case is definitely bulky. Two rubber grips on the left and right side ensure the case won’t slip from your hands, but just know the case plus phone is a bit heavier than your standard case. Documentation states with the iPhone inside, the entire thing weights 283.5 grams.
2. The rear of the case is slippery. Four small “dots,” one in each corner, raise the solar charger so it’s not scraping the table or other surface where the case is resting. But these four rests make it very easy to accidentally bump the case and have your phone slide off a table. Thankfully, on both occasions, I had great reflexes. To fix this issue, I rolled four small balls of Sugru and press one over each stand. The Sugru cured after 24 hours and the new rubber “feet” now help substantially to prevent the phone from sliding.
This is a case for phones that are to be used outdoors or in non-delicate situations where you expect drops, spills, and lots of bumps and jostles. Hikers, climbers, and runners are just a few of the folks for who this case was designed. But even if you’re not the rugged, adventurous type, if you’re looking for a case to protect that $300-400+ phone from toddlers, dogs, or a clumsy co-worker, the SLXtreme 5 is still one of the best options you’re likely to find. I have enjoyed using my cased phone in my workshop where tools, wood, bolts, and so many other items are just waiting to fall, tip, or knock against my phone. (I like to pair my iPhone with Bluetooth so I can listen to music from my WAE speaker while I work.)
The SLXtreme 5 case has a 1-year warranty and is available in Orange, Black, Yellow, White, and Hunter Camo. You can find more information on the iPhone case as well as the version for the iPad at www.snowlizard.com.
Note: I’d like to thank Madison M. and Snow Lizard for providing an SLXtreme 5 case to test.