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Computerized Investing > March 15, 2014

Snow Lizard SLXtreme 5 for iPhone 5/5S

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$149.99

Waterproof, solar-powered battery case for iPhone 5/5S.

Even since I got my first iPhone a few years ago, it’s been protected by a case. Part of this stems from losing my last non-iPhone to a catastrophic drop. However, recently I’ve been using a battery case that pulls double duty—protecting my investment and extending its battery life. Currently, I’m using the mophie PowerSkin for iPhone 5, but I have just finished testing out a brick house of a case from Snow Lizard: the SLXtreme 5. This case can literally withstand pretty much anything you throw at it—it’s waterproof and has military-grade ruggedness, and its built-in battery is solar-powered. However, its size and price tag narrows its usefulness.

Out of the Box

Right out of the box, this case lives up to its name: it is extreme. First is the color; the company gave me a yellow model, but you can also choose from white, orange, black and hunter camo. Second, this case is a monster. It measures 5.95 inches by 2.78 inches by 0.98 inches. This adds three times the thickness to a “naked” iPhone 5 and roughly 20% to the length and width. The weight of the case and an iPhone 5 is 9.24 ounces, which is nearly 135% more than the iPhone 5 by itself.

Looking over the case, you can see it’s been engineered for extreme conditions. It’s fully riveted to make it waterproof, not just water-resistant. On the top right of the case is a locking mechanism that you unlatch to open the top cover. You then slide your phone into the case until it plugs into the Lightning connector at the bottom interior. Then you close the top cover and lock the latch. Installing the phone in the SLXtreme is rather easy, but getting it out takes a bit of an effort.

Once in the case, you still have most of the functionality in terms of buttons. The exception is the silent/ringer switch, which is covered by the top cover hinge. Otherwise, the on/off, volume up/down and home buttons work just as you’d expect them to with little extra effort. The touch screen also works perfectly underneath the sold plastic protector.

At the bottom of the case are ports for charging via micro USB and an earphone jack. Both are watertight. To access the micro USB port, you twist the locking screw to the unlocked position. At this point, you can open the bottom compartment to plug in a micro USB cable for charging, using either a powered USB port on a computer or a third-party USB charger. To re-seal the case, you close the bottom compartment and twist the locking screw to the locked position.

Snow Lizard also provides a special water-tight earphone jack extender that keeps the case sealed even when listening to earphones. There is a water-tight plug that you twist and remove to expose the headphone jack. You then insert the special extender and twist it a quarter turn to lock. The extender also has a special holder for the audio plug, and the case comes with an extra in case you lose one.

The headphone jack adapter is necessary if you plan to listen to anything from your iPhone. The case creates a cone of silence that nothing escapes. I couldn’t even hear alarms or ring tones with the volume turned up all the way. Luckily, I have the vibrate setting activated, so I could tell when I had a call. Interestingly enough, though, I had no problems hearing people when talking on the phone, nor them hearing me. However, voices come through sounding very tinny.

The SLXtreme 5 is also built for both the iPhone 5 and 5s with front- and rear-facing camera cutouts, neither of which hindered my ability to take photos with my iPhone.

Given its mass, Snow Lizard also provides a carabiner that you can use to clip the case to as well as a lanyard for carrying the case around your neck. I plan on putting these two to use this summer when I use the SLXtreme 5 while fly fishing in northern Michigan.

Performance

This is the first iPhone case I’ve used where I felt I could take my phone almost anywhere without risking damage to it. The case is certified with a MIL SPEC 810G rating, meaning it’s been designed to meet military-grade specifications. Snow Lizard claims the case can protect your iPhone from drops of up to six feet, and I don’t doubt this for a second. Dropping the case (without the phone) on hard concrete didn’t put a scratch on it.

The SLXtreme 5 also has a waterproof rating of IP-68, meaning it can withstand depths of up to 6.5 feet for up to 30 minutes. Before putting this spec to the test in the real world, it’s a good idea to put a paper towel in the empty case, seal it and then submerge it in water. If the towel stays dry, your phone should as well.

The case also has an integrated 2,500 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery, making it one of the biggest batteries I’ve seen integrated with a case. This is nearly twice the capacity of the 1,440 mAh battery of the iPhone 5 and the approximately 1,500 mAh battery in the iPhone 5S. According to Snow Lizard, the battery will give you up to 380 hours of standby time; up to seven hours of 3G network talk time or Internet usage; up to 45 hours of audio playback time; or up to 11 hours of video playback time.

On the back of the case are four LED lights that indicate the battery level as well as a battery recharge button that can start and stop the charging of your iPhone. When you connect the case to a USB charger with the phone installed, the iPhone will charge to capacity first, at which point the case will charge.

The final “extreme” feature of the SLXtreme 5 is the solar panel that covers the back of the case. This solar panel offers a “trickle charge” for emergency situations when you don’t have access to a power supply. One hour of sunlight will provide you with roughly 10 minutes of talk time. It’s not intended to fully recharge your phone, but it could be a lifesaver depending on the situation. When the solar panel is charging, the fourth LED light will flash.

Overall

The Snow Lizard SLXtreme 5 is by far the most rugged iPhone 5 case I have tested, and it’s probably the most rugged case I will ever test. That being said, this is not an everyday case. The case is too big, too expensive (more on that in a second) and, frankly, too much case to use all the time. After using the SLXtreme 5 for just a few hours I was ready to go back to my mophie case. However, I won’t hesitate to pull this case out of storage when I’m out and about this summer, or if I was going to be snowmobiling, skiing or boating.

At $149.95, this case definitely isn’t cheap compared to most of the other battery cases I’ve reviewed in this column. However, it isn’t completely fair to compare this case to the others, given its features.

For the majority of you reading this review, the SLXtreme is a novelty and nothing more. However, if you are looking for a rugged, waterproof iPhone case that nearly doubles your battery life, this is the case for you.

Pro

  • Waterproof, not just water-resistant, up to 6.5 feet for up to 30 minutes
  • Rated for drops up to 6.5 feet
  • Integrated 2,500 mAh battery nearly doubles the battery capacity of iPhone 5
  • Integrated solar panel provides “trickle charge” when away from a power source

Cons

  • Extremely bulky
  • Expensive relative to “traditional” battery cases
  • Poor call sound quality
  • Masks the sound of alarms and ring tones

Snow Lizard SLXtreme 5 for iPhone 5

$149.99

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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