Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: Snow Lizard - SLXtreme iPhone case

I backed a rugged, heavyset and multifunction iPhone case on Kickstarter, before but when the design of the iPhone 4 and 5 was still in question, I chickened out of one waterproof case, but later backed another. More rugged, more functional, and more feature packed, I was relieved to see another project offered, and I had the gumption to back it, and then I had to wait.

This was the case that I backed. Billed as the Aqua Tek S on Kickstarter, and produced by Snowlizard. When it was ready for release it was renamed by popular backer vote, to the SLXtreme. Offered in a variety of colour options, I opted for the coyote-tan, surprise, surprise.

The basis of the case is that it fully encloses the iPhone 4/4s in a water, dust and shockproof polycarbonate shell, whilst still leaving the majority of functionality available to the user. During the design and manufacture process, the forward and back facing cameras, and flash, volume up and down buttons, and the main home and power buttons are all accessible whilst in the case.

 It turned out that the mute/orientation slider and earphone ports were too difficult or impractical to accommodate.

The multitouch screen, mic and speakers are faced by a thin polymer membrane which alternately allows the electrostatic use of the iPhone screen and transmission of sound from the speakers, and to the mic. I was skeptical to start with, but was pleasantly surprised both by the crispness of the control surface (no real difference than any other screen protector) and of the sound, (slightly muffled, but perfectly acceptable sacrifice for the protection offered when adventuring).

The base of the case has an access port for charging and synching the device by micro USB, with the 32pin iDevice plug being built into the insides of the case, the port being protected by a sealed flap, which is secured shut with a thumb screw. Also held in the front base of the case are a set of blue LED battery charge indicators.

The top of the case latches open and closed to accept the phone, which sits very snugly, as it is built with low tolerances, and even complying with IP68 & Mil Spec 810, but not so snug as to be impossible to take the phone in and out, even with the screen protector I have on it.

The latch has a slide lock, to help resist those "unexpected underwater openings"

The two camera ports are equally well designed, and don't significantly degrade the picture quality,

All the buttons could be described as "stiff" and the inlay to get to the edge of the multitouch display is pretty tight, but I'd rather a little awkwardness over a busted screen or waterlogged phone any day. The stiffness of the buttons only goes to reassure me that they won't break, or be a source of failure and ingress.

The case is large, it's bulky. It is very reminiscent of the old brick phones around when mobiles broke into wide circulation. This however, is not a big concern for me, given the nature of the protection offered and the additional features built in.

As well as being rated to 2m submersion, mud, dust, sand and rain proof, shock resistant and generally ruggedized, this case also packs a built in lithium ion polymer battery, providing DC 5V - 1A with 2000mAh capacity, giving an impressive boost to the standby (380-hrs), talk time (7hrs 3G, 17 on 2G), internet usage (7hrs 3G, 10hrs on WiFi) and 46 hrs audio, or 11 hrs video play.

However, the SLXtreme goes one step further in that it's back face has a built in solar panel, capable of generating 10 minutes of talk time for an hour of sunlight. This may not sound like a lot, but in a survival situation, it is plenty of power to send text messages, power up the GPS features of the iPhone, read up instruction manuals and yes, make calls as needed.

I have a lot of navigation, mapping, surveying and "guide" apps on my phone, and for the times when I am off-grid, but still want access to my data, and the stored knowledge, knowing that I have a near infinite supply of charging power, is very reassuring.

The Snow Lizard team took a lot of flak over the delays in production, from the initial Kickstarter which was successful in March 2012, till when I received mine in November 2012, and the iPhone 5 coming out in the interim. I really feel for them, but had no such concerns. Kickstarting isn't an exact science, and I'm just glad I got a product.

I am happy with my "less than newest" model of phone, and the accessories I have for it.

The case is rugged, light (at 317g including the 4s, making it a tad under 200g of battery, solar charger, water, crud and shock proofing that I can take into the field with me, do the Stampede or Tough Mudder wearing, or whatever.

Not being able to plug my headphones into it is a drawback I am willing to live with, for what I get, and I look forwards to Snow Lizard to come up wit hthe PALS/MOLLE attachment they posted mock-ups of. Till them, its off to Platatac to ask the lads what they can do with me to include this case in my loadout.


  1. wow this iPhone Case looks amazing thanks for sharing will gift it to my special friend who is addicted to iPhone Cases.

    1. good one, Amanda ... i'm really looking forwards to taking mine through the Tough Mudder on the 19th Jan ...

  2. On a recent trip to the Dragoon Mountains in Arizona, I found the image quality of photos taken with the case on were very poor.

    1. Agree, I have the same experience. One of the advantages of such a case is, that you can take pictures with it. I'm going to use a fotofilter and cut it in the form of the opening, drill a hole in the original case, and glue the filter material in the opening with PU glue. I hope this will lead to the perfect case!

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  4. This is really awesome. Looking so nice. I'd like to buy and use this for my iPhone 5. en ucuz iphone

  5. Were is the order from the Dec 9 2013? and why is you phone disconected?


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