We hold a special place in our case-loving hearts for Element Case purely because it's a company that time and time again releases innovative cases that are out of the ordinary. Joining Element Case's ever expanding armada of premium cases is the Rogue AL case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5. And it's one of Element Case's boldest designs to feature a heavily ruggedized approach. Despite having a hybrid construction that offers full drop and impact protection, the Rogue AL is said to still be as nimble and as lightweight as a regular everyday case. The Rogue features some really impressive material construction that includes genuine carbon fiber and aluminum.
And to balance things out a little, we'll also be taking a look at Element Case's Flight 5 case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 - which could very well be the perfect minimalist and slim case for the carbon fiber enthusiast. Be sure to examine our full review to find out how these two cases really perform in practise.
One cannot simply ignore the Rogue AL's tactical design that encases the iPhone in what looks like heavy-duty armor. It's a beefier step up from the Sector 5 CF edition and Ion 5 cases, and pretty much any Element Case every built. The Rogue is by far and away the most protective, most rugged and toughest case Element Case has ever made for the iPhone. And surprisingly it's not as clunky or as bulky to use as it sounds. What might surprise you however, is the price. In order for you to own a piece of Rogue pie you'll need to part with $100 of your hard or easily earned money. For that you also get to pick out of three default colorways including red, black and gunmetal - the latter being the one we're reviewing. Or if you feel like customizing your very own Rogue AL case, there's also Element Case's Design Studio where you can fully deck each and every part on the Rogue AL case in your preferred color which is just so awesome. And we assume that anyone looking to grab a Rogue AL will want to create their own color scheme, because that's what we would do too.
What makes the Rogue AL so protective is the sheer fact that it offers a full 360-degree protective coverage that includes an overlaying TPU layer that covers parts of the iPhone's glass top and bottom surfaces in order to protect it from damage during one of those feared and often times devastating frontal drops. We don't see many cases these days with this type of front protective coverage with the exception of Speck's new CandyShell Faceplate case, simply because it does impede on the aesthetics somewhat. What we really like about the Rogue AL's protective faceplate coverage is that it has been seamlessly integrated into the design of the case in that it's all one piece.
The Rogue AL is an unusually complex hybrid case that features an impressive construction that consists of a shock absorbing TPU chassis with a hard polycarbonate fused together to form the faceplate that covers parts of the iPhone's glass panel. The two materials are so perfectly co-moulded together as a single solid chassis frame that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two materials until you actually touch and feel them.
On top of that, there are two aluminum side rails with a truss design that's reminiscent of Element Case's Sector 5 case, which snap over the TPU parts of the Rogue AL's chassis adding a strong reinforcement to the case as well as a touch of premium value of cold metallic metal. To that, a genuine carbon fiber backplate is added to the back of the Rogue AL that fits flawlessly and provides additional protection as well as rigidity. Knowing there's so much protection around my iPhone 5s, I feel confident enough that should I drop it or chuck it across pavement it'll be protected. And in terms of unique quality, the whole thing is one big case of awesomeness that runs circles around any standard plastic-made case you can purchase for $30 - $40, respectively.
My thoughts on the Rogue AL soon after I heard about its introduction weren't at all positive as I thought it would be just another clunky case that wouldn't hold a candle to a practical everyday protective case such as the Solace. But now that I've spent plenty of time using it, I'm happy to be proved wrong. Because the Rogue AL is remarkably comfortable to use given the amount of rugged, tactical-like protection if offers. It feels really nice when you hold it in the hand partly due to the subtle beveled backplate design; and those side TPU details that protrude out from the aluminum side rails provide you with the right amount of grip to make you feel confident that your iPhone wouldn't slip out of your hand very easily.
By no means would we consider the Rogue AL to be slim. Compared to the Tough Armor by Spigen, the Rogue AL is slightly more bulgier particularly around the back and not as uniformed as the Tough Case. But in terms of thickness, both are nearly identical. The Rogue AL is more robust and more protective than the Tough Armor, and so technically speaking it is a bulky case compared to others of lesser protection prowess. That being said, I think the Rogue AL is much more pleasing to use case than the Sector 5 due to the hybrid material construction and that slightly beveled backplate. The fact that it's also a really rigid case that feels very solid when fitted onto your iPhone 5s or iPhone 5 with absolutely no give or play anywhere. No edges to be flexed or bow out of their predefined place.
Much like the Sector 5 case, the narrow sides that suddenly curve outward into these reinforced edges make the Rogue AL quite pleasing to grasp while enabling you to really get a strong grip of your iPhone – even if you wear gloves. But because the corners are a little bulky than your average protective case, you won't be able to easily reach your whole touchscreen with just your thumb like you would if you were to use a slim case or nothing at all. Then again it really isn't that big of a deal considering the Rogue AL does its job as advertised. And simply because there really is no way around it unless you're willing to give up on rugged drop protection.
Unlike the Sector 5 and Solace, Ronin and many other Element Cases the Rogue AL case is completely screw-less. Even so, installing it isn't as simple as sliding your iPhone in or out of it. Assembly requires that you first take the Rogue AL apart until you can insert your iPhone into the TPU chassis from behind. Inside you'll find that the integrated hard polycarbonate faceplate is actually lined with a soft foam padding which is difficult to see from out photos. Once your iPhone is situated into the chassis, you'll snap on the carbon fiber backplate which isn't an adhesive rear backplate but rather snaps into the TPU chassis in a clever and secure way.
Next, the two aluminum side rails also snap over the TPU chassis and effectively are what tightly secure the chassis and the rear backplate together even further creating an extremely solidly reinforced form factor.
Lastly, the four plastic locking pins slide into each corner of the TPU chassis and are designed to lock both of the aluminum rails in place for extra safety. Even without inserting all four locking pins into position, the rails will not wiggle around or fall off which is great because we don't want to rely solely on these plastic pins to keep these held in place. The fact that they exists though is a welcome addition that shows that Element Case does pay attention to reliability when designing a durable and rugged protective case such as this.
One thing to note about the carbon fiber is that it's exactly the same type of carbon fiber Element Case uses on all of its carbon fiber-featuring cases. Meaning that it's the same thin, veneer that is held on using an adhesive instead of being fused into the material it accents which is a little disappointing if you're looking for something really authentic other than carbon makeup. Otherwise the carbon fiber texture does deliver on the unique qualities of genuine carbon fiber as far as aesthetics are concerned. It has a glossy finish thanks to a clear coat, but it's also very easily scratched. The good news is that the Rogue AL's backplate compensates for that with a small elevated design that sinks the carbon fiber surface in a very subtle way to help keep it away from scuffing up against a flat surface like your desk. But if you put your iPhone in your pocket or bag along with a set of keys, it damage the finish in a matter of minutes.
As expected with all Element Case cases, the aluminum in particular is incredibly done. The finish is smooth, very refined and just has this high quality level of texture to it that we really enjoy seeing and of course, feeling too. Just to be clear while we're on the topic, we found that the Rogue AL's aluminum side rails have zero impact on signal reception.
Although there is a considerable amount of framing done around the iPhone's 4-inch touchscreen display due to the Rogue's polycarbonate protective faceplate, you'll be glad to know that you'll still be able to perform your usual iOS 7 touch gestures like pulling down Notification Center, swiping up Control Center and swiping from edge to edge as if you weren't using a case at all. You'll of course will also be able to make uninhibited use of the Touch ID fingerprint home button sensor. Element Case has indeed paid attention to the smallest details. And that includes rounding and polishing off the edges of the polycarbonate around the Tough ID button opening so that you'll feel comfortable pressing your finger around that area in a way that doesn't seem obtrusive considering there's a considerable thickness difference between using an ordinary case like the Solace or Sector 5, and the Rogue's back-to-front encasing design.
Taking a look around the left side we find that the Rogue AL makes good use of its internal TPU chassis in that it creates these integrated control buttons which are flawlessly tactile and super responsive when pressed. They're also very easy to find with your finger as they're perfectly raised and defined. The same goes of course when using the sleep/wake button. Because the Rogue AL isn't exactly the slimmest cases around as it offers unprecedented protection, Element Case made sure to go the extra mile in incorporating an integrated mute/silent switch just so you won't need to dig through a recessed cutout with your fingernail in order to use your iPhone's switch.
The bottom opening is especially wide and large so it can easily accommodate most third party Lightning cables, and many Lightning adapters including the bulky ones. Because the Rogue AL's structure is rigid throughout, Element Case was able to design such a large and seamless opening without sacrificing any material bending which is almost always what occurs when a case doesn't have addition support in and around the bottom opening area underneath the Touch ID/home button. Obviously we're happy to see that such a protective and rugged case offers complete unhindered device functionality.
Inside the box, the Rogue AL case comes with this unique bat-wing looking black belt clip called a Fuse Dek, along with a few extra locking pins underneath it. More details on what these pins are used for later into the review.
The Rogue is currently the one and only case to include Element Case's Fuse Dek multi-function belt clip system that enables you to attach and mount your iPhone onto your car windshield or clamp it onto your bike handlebars using one of four different and versatile Fuse Dek mounting accessories which are being sold separately.
A noteworthy little detail regarding the actual locking mechanism of the Fuse Dek is that the Rogue AL features a small indentation made to the middle TPU grip detail which is also mirrored on the opposite side of the case so that you can clip the case into the Fuse Dek in either direction. It also helps lock and secure the case into place, requiring just a light pull on the tip of the Fuse Dek release latch to remove the case. This kind of integration is only found on the Rogue AL case despite the fact that Element Case claims that it's also compatible with the Solace and Sector 5 cases.
As far as belt clips go, the Fuse Dek is a really well made attachment accessory and one of the best clip systems we've tried. Not only does it look great, it has a low-profile design and offers a secure in-and-out attachment operation. The Fuse Dek can also be purchased separately to be used with either the Sector 5 or Solace cases. However, after testing out the Fuse Dek with a Solace case, it's obvious that the Fuse Dek was designed to fit the Rogue natively as it works best and fits more snugly with it. Around the back, the Fuse Dek features a useful and convenient flip-out kickstand that places your iPhone at a horizontal viewing angle as a hands-free stand.
Element Case's Flight 5 case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 shares a very similar genuine carbon fiber design around the back of it, but is vastly different in every way. For starters, the Flight 5 is a much more simple case with a back snap-on style construction designed to add little to no bulk when encasing the iPhone. And it really does feel as slim yet still strong and durable. It's made out of a "impact-resistant" hard polycarbonate plastic featuring a matte textured finish that has a very subtle soft-touch rubberized feel to it. While the Flight 5 is a slim and low-profiled case, it isn't as slim as Spigen's Ultra Hybrid, Saturn, Crystal Shell and Ultra Fit S cases. Then again, you aren't getting the same kind of visual flair that you otherwise get with Element Case cases.
When you hold the Flight 5 in your hand, the smooth and well polished body not only provides superb grippability despite the slippery matte carbon fiber back surface, but also makes holding your iPhone really enjoyable to the point where we can say that it actually enhances the feel of iPhone's otherwise sharp industrial geometry. That being said, you'd really need to love the way genuine carbon fiber looks because as minimalist and as basic of a case the Flight 5 is, it will cost you $50. You can choose between gray and black colors as of right now, and suffice it to say we don't think Element Case will be introducing any other colors besides the ones currently offered. So if you don't like grayscale, the Flight 5 probably isn't going to appeal to you all that much.
Granted this is a well made case that feels great to use, but it offers little protection. There's a low-profiled lip that goes around the iPhone's front glass to help keep it from coming in contact with a flat surface, however, I don't feel nearly as safe using the Flight 5 as I am using the Rogue AL. A drop inside this case will most likely result in screen damage in the event of an unfortunate frontal impact.
The fit is really tight. Which means that getting your iPhone out of the Flight 5 can be challenging, however, snapping it into the case is very easy to do. Once everything is in position, the Flight 5 tightly hugs the iPhone even though it barely shows it as it surrounds the edges of it whilst exposing large parts of the bezel like Apple's hard leather iPhone 5s Case.
Over to the right hand side of the case, you'll see that the Flight 5 features Element Case's iconic truss opening design that gives the case its tactical look while also making things a little more interesting. The color of the iPhone's aluminum will be visible through the side of the case, so be sure to pick a color that will complement it nicely.
Around the bottom, the Flight 5 features a uniquely designed speaker and mic grille vents and a tighter Lightning connector port opening than the Rogue AL. We couldn't fit bulky or other third party Lightning connectors into that opening sadly. But fortunately the Flight 5 does have a wide enough audio port opening to allow the use of all slim and angled 3.5mm audio jacks that we know of.
Inside the box, the Flight 5 does come with an Element Case branded wrist lanyard which you can attach to the bottom left corner of the case.
Unlike the Rogue AL, the Flight 5 is such a slim case that it doesn't offer any button coverage. Instead, there are really well cut openings around every button and switch that allow easy access without you even noting you've got a case on.
It's easy to highly recommend the Rogue AL case even when knowing that it does come with a heavy price. There's nothing like it out there that you can purchase for less, and for that reason we think Element Case unlocked yet another achievement award for designing a highly protective case that arguably looks sublime if you like the whole tactical-esque theme of it, and most importantly it's stupendously over-engineered in a good way, feels amazing to use even when choosing it as an everyday case and provides unobtrusive crucial screen protection.
Alternatively, there's also the Flight 5 case if you don't need all of that power and protection around your iPhone and are just looking for that edgy, sharp looking slim case that's as enjoyable to use as the Rogue AL, albeit not nearly as impressive for the price you pay. If you don't care much for aluminum, but instead you want genuine carbon fiber accenting a slim yet strong case that won't degrade your iPhone's sleek profile, look no further than the Flight 5.
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