In the past, we have put numerous aluminum machined iPhone, iPod touch and even iPad cases through testing. One case company stood out like a white knight in shining armor. Element Case is considered by many including us to be the best of the best when considering a case made from the 13th element. Elite cases like the Vapor Pro and Vapor Comp were truly a pair of groundbreaking offerings in the world of high-end protective iPhone accessories. Element Case went above and beyond with its latest hardcore case for the iPhone 5. The Sector 5 is an aluminum bumper-style case that tops off the amazingly curvy Draco 5 with its complexity and pure unadulterated awesomeness. If you were to tell us it was from another dimension, we'd believe you. So lock n' load, it's gonna be a bumpy in-depth review!
Element Case is known to be the harbinger of what can be referred to as high-performance cases. There's no question the company is ahead of the curve when it comes to aluminum machined iPhone cases. And the latest case to come out of the American brand is a case in point. The Sector 5 for the iPhone 5 is perhaps one of the most sophisticatedly designed CNC machined aluminum cases we have had the pleasure of reviewing.
We commend Element Case for having the balls to create an entirely new, refreshing case for the iPhone 5 instead of very easily rehashing and continuing its line of highly successful iPhone 4S case offerings. Unlike many case manufacturers who slacked off, Element Case reengineering its thinking of making rather simple cases with the Sector 5. But before we move on, there's the price. While the Sector 5 is an impressive creation, what we aren't very keen on is the price. iPhone 5 users looking to score an aluminum made Element Case will have to set foot on a much higher step. The Sector 5 will set you back $140, that's $40 more the Element Case's previous more affordably priced entry iPhone case offerings such as the Vapor Comp - our favorite iPhone 4S case from EC.
Like with many things in life, there are some people who don't get the idea or the reasoning behind such extravagant, and expensive cases when there are tons of great plastic cases at reasonable or more appropriately referred to as - economy prices. But we get it. Like you, we are adrenaline junkies. And we can't think of any other case that is able to provide us with such thrill as the Sector 5 can. The $140 price tag becomes all the more reasonable when you experience the Sector 5 first hand. It's a brilliantly designed piece of engineering; from fit to finish.
Design wise, the Sector 5 is a totally original and never before attempted CNC machined aluminum bumper case concept that utilizes a unique multi-link frame which is constructed using a total of 4 black or clear jointed links made from an aerospace polymer (plastic for short), that are designed to give the case its flexibility, modular reparability - meaning you could purchase every individual part to fix or replace your damaged/dinged up "sectors" - and ease of use.
All you have to do is remove one screw from the top right hand corner, and the Sector 5 will flip wide open like a butterfly watch clasp. This saves time and requires no piece reassembly which is an outstanding feature. One that I'd like to see implemented in all metal cases. The Sector 5's is made up from 8 individual parts that interlink and can be customized with various colors in the near future once Element Case makes these parts available for sale.
The black polymer segments are also part of the Sector 5's RF bridge sectors which help reduce reception degradation to an insignificant amount. My iPhone 5's signal strength is barely affected by the Sector 5 bumper case and its brilliant hybrid construction. You will notice a tiny hint of a drop in signal strength that isn't even displayed thru the reception bars near your carrier's logo. What's more is that Element Case machined these polymer parts together with the aluminum frame, and that results in a wonderful machined look which makes their "plastic-ness" undetectable to the naked eye.
When you come to install the Sector 5 onto your iPhone 5, you will notice that Element Case took care in ensuring that the beautifully chamfered edges including the anodized aluminum finish of your iPhone 5 will not come to hard by the Sector 5's aluminum body. The interior is covered with plenty of soft padding made from the amazing Ultrasuede material.
In fact, there's so much of this stuff in our review unit that is literally overflows and creeps near the edges of the case and visibly appearing in-between the iPhone and the rest of the case. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you, but we think Element Case should have at least tried to perfectly trim these excess edges of the padding. The great thing is that your iPhone 5 is safely protected within the Sector 5, and in the event of a drop, that interior lining combines with the durability of the aluminum construction should provide ample amount of protection.
The beautiful side "trussed" rail design is CNC machined to reveal the iPhone 5's contrasting slate or natural aluminum color while also creating a very rigid construction that's extremely lightweight. It also lets the iPhone breath in reception. This is the most sophisticated hybrid designs we've seen in aluminum cases. Element Case was able to retain as much metal to plastic ratio as possible thru the Sector 5's brilliant design.
The fit and finish are all there as one would expect from Element Case. The Sector 5 is available in this gun metal color as well as in black and silver. Each featuring a unique Flux finish that's epic in its smooth, almost soft-touch feeling and incredible satin appearance. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Element Case is the one and only company that creates the most amazing, refined aluminum finishes for its cases. And the Sector 5 is no exception. The special Flux finish on the aluminum creates an amazing grip and tactile sensation.
When Element Case makes a case, it reeks of quality. And you really feel that when holding your iPhone 5 encased inside the Sector 5. It is the kind of case that requires handling in order to understand its true value.
I'd call it sexy looking if I weren't afraid it'll bitch slap me and call me a fool for saying so. Because the Sector 5 isn't sexy or beautiful. Not at all. It's the meanest, most kickass looking aluminum iPhone 5 case ever created. The sort of protective case you'd expect to receive as a standard issue gear when joining an elite team of a super secretive military sector. The kind of case a Seal Team 6 member would be rocking. And I'd even go as far as saying that it's the best case Element Case has ever made.
Holding it definitely gives you that very industrial, cold raw metal feel in your hand. While there are some edgy corners to it, the Sector 5's is actually the most comfortable aluminum case Element Case has put out. Greatly due to its incredibly thin nature and the amazing curved edges that slightly taper to the exact size of the iPhone 5. So suffice to say that this isn't a bulky case at all. It does however, add a bit of extra width to the iPhone 5. Putting it up against the Draco 5 in terms of usability, the Sector 5 is a tad more comfortable to use as an every day case.
The included supple Ultrasuede back skin also adds a lot of comfort and warmth to the overall case. Plus it adds protection if you don't care to cover up your iPhone 5's iconic back design. The Ultrasuede backing can be easily removed and reapplied when needed. There's also a special place for you to stick it to when it's not in use.
Inside the packaging, the Sector 5 comes with an upgraded Travel Case which is essentially a protective semi-hard zippered case with a Velcro belt tab and an interior pocket to store some of the included accessories. You'll also find a redesigned and more basic plastic Speed Wrench screw tool that you can attach onto your keychain, spare stainless steel screws, a screen protector, one Ultrasuede back skin and a set of silver and black "Rash Guards". These are Element Case's ridiculous skins that are designed to wrap around your iPhone 5's aluminum perimeter in order to avoid potential scuffage.
The rash guards are Element Case's most idiotic decision ever. You don't need them because there's already plenty of interior padding, and they don't even work properly either. While they are supposed to stick and wrap around the chamfered edges of the iPhone 5, the vinyl material which these are made from can't seem to hold still and simply lift up.
If I had one gripe to point out it would have to be the uncomfortable to reach volume buttons. The cutout is too narrow and deep, with sharp edges. Element Case - if you could integrate an easy to operate built-in sleep/wake button, why didn't you take the time to design the same for the rest of the iPhone 5's buttons? It seems that EC didn't learn from its previous bad habits with the Vapor Pro.
On that note, we think the Sector 5 is a jaw droppingly awesome iPhone 5 bumper case. It's different, much easier to install than previous iterations and best of all, the Sector 5 answers to quality of design and finish without flinching. If you think this Sector 5 case looks badass, wait until you get a load of Element Case's $200 Sector 5 Black Ops edition which features a stealthy matte black type-3 hard anodized finish, amber polymer segments and a G10 gun-grip backplate made by VZ Grips.
If you're looking to get a case that's worthy of the iPhone 5's unique industrial design and premium material, then we can definitely recommend the Sector 5 as a high-end, albeit pricy tactical statement. We liked the Sector 5 so much, that we've awarded it with our coveted Editors' Choice Award. We have our good friends, Tekcase, to thank for spoiling us with the best of the best.