Graft Concepts Leverage i5 iPhone 5 Case Review

One of our all-time favorite case slash bumper hybrid is back from the past, and we're so excited for its long overdue arrival. As some of you may know, Graft Concepts is the maker of the Leverage case which we had the exclusive pleasure of reviewing for the first time back in 2011. And today, we're going to be taking a look at Graft Concept's new Leverage i5 case for the iPhone 5. We liked the Leverage i5's predecessor so much that we've awarded it our Editors' Choice Award. We normally put off any rehashed case designs, but the Leverage is worthy of an exception. Apparently many users of the previous iteration ran into a few issues that needed to be fixed, and thankfully Graft Concepts took the time to improve upon its initial case design with the Leverage i5. Is it now better than ever? Let's find out.

the last case you'll ever have to buy...unless you're annoyed by its one and only minute-nuisance

Graft Concepts changed very little, and I'm actually glad the familiar concept remained the same. The Leverage i5 brings back with it its amazing "good feel" design that every previous Leverage owner feel in love with at first touch. There's no other bumper or case that feels quite like it. And who can forget about the Leverage i5's pièce de résistance, the watch clasp-inspired metal latch and lever mechanism that the Leverage case is famously known for, and the one feature that differentiates it from all other iPhone cases. It's where the Leverage proudly gets its name from. The lever is actually made from a zinc alloy and it has a magnificent, smooth and delicate semi-matte finish to it that still retains a very small amount of sheen on its surface like the links on timepiece would. There is however, one small drawback. And I'll get into that later.

After a long period of pre-order status, you'll be able to pick up the Leverage i5 for $50 starting today in both white and black flavors including two different types of finishes, from an authorized dealer like our friends over at Tekcases, or directly from Graft Concepts.

If you feel more flashy, the Leverage i5 also comes in a polished chrome finished lever that's even more reminiscent of a high-end timepiece. And unlike the glossy white color, the polished chrome lever really stands out against a black colored Leverage for a sophisticated look, which I think is unmatched by any other hybrid case of this kind.

The Leverage i5's metal lever lets you quickly and easily open up the bumper frame in order to insert the iPhone 5, while lowering it into a locking position tightens up the Leverage i5 around the iPhone to create a secure snug fit. That is also the point where you would add the included optional backplate before closing down the lever into its locking position. The process is easy. Easier than trying to force your iPhone 5 in and out of a composite case such as the UAG and many others. But most importantly, it's pretty damn enjoyable having to use that unique lever mechanism on a case. It isn't a fancy spring-loaded locking feature, but it's more clever than any other iPhone case we've come across.

Within the lever mechanism is an integrated power a.k.a the sleep/wake button that we absolutely fell in love with. The one and only nuisance I found in this iPhone 5 version is that its integrated lever button is surprisingly underwhelming in comparison. While it does offer tactile feedback, the button presses in nearly to a flush position with the rest of the lever until it actuates a button press. The button leaves very little room to press on and that does affect the experience in a way.

Unfortunately this is a step backwards in terms of performance where the original Leverage had a taller and wider button that could be pressed easily without going in to far as you'd expect from using the button on the iPhone. This is an issue found on both of our retail review cases. It's somewhat of a letdown considering it was perfect as it was before. Graft Concepts should make the lever button taller so that it never presses down until flush with the top. The power button on the Leverage i5 is also noticeably slimmer to compliment the slimmer frame profile compared to the thicker iPhone 4/S variant. With that being said, I still think the Leverage i5 as a whole is an improved version of the original.

You win some, you lose some

One significant detail that's new to the Leverage i5 is its welcomed integrated metal volume rocker button which contingent on the type of finish you pick, will match that of the lever's finish. It makes is so much easier to operate the iPhone 5's volume buttons instead of having to push thru a recessed cutouts. It's a pleasure to use, however, the side cutout for the silent switch is very tight and will require a fingernail to be switched on and off. If only Graft Concepts made the extra effort in creating an integrated silent switch, our world would probably have been a better place. I'm actually impressed by how the volume rocker is held into the Leverage i5's frame using a springy plastic part that ensures great tactile feedback and a springy response. If only I could say the same for the top power/sleep/wake button. 

It's worth noting that Graft Concepts did an terrific job making sure that nothing on the Leverage i5 annoyingly rattles or moves out of its defined space, unlike some aluminum bumper cases that failed to get this right. The metal buttons sit tight with an underlining of plastic to ensure to metal on metal contact while the metal lever fits into a locking stance with an assuring click. The quality is of the Leverage i5 is nothing short of what you'd expect to get for your $50, alas the shortcoming of a not-too thrilling power button performance we originally experienced. Taking previous attempts into consideration, I honestly cannot see how the metal lever on this case would snap in half when opened. It opens effortlessly with little force required.

Precision and sophistication rolled into one $50 iPhone case

Apart from the lever, the rest of the case or bumper frame more specifically, is made from a hard polycarbonate that wraps around the iPhone 5 like any bumper would. One of the coolest things about the Leverage case is that it comes with a matching backplate that essentially transforms the bumper mode into a fully protective case, hence the hybrid moniker. It seamlessly fits into the frame in a way that you won't even distinguish a difference between its bumper and fully protected case form. If you were to drop you iPhone from a waist level height, the Leverage i5 should have no trouble keeping it together. But I bet you'll be more worried as to the cosmetic damage your Leverage might have sustained more than anything else.

I never though I'd say this, but the camera cutout on the backplate is too tall and overcompensates Apple's requirements. The good thing is that there's no flash-back.

You've got two different options of how you'd like to rock your Leverage, and no matter how you choose to use the Leverage, it will always look and feel great whilst always providing some form of protection. The interchangeable hybrid design is very similar to that of Spigen's Linear case, albeit the Leverage i5 does a much better job in flawlessly incorporating the backplate into its frame. Alongside the standard flat backplate which comes with every Leverage case, Graft Concepts will release an optional backplate that features a credit card slot.

If you're feeling adventurous or simply want to use your own unique backplate or protective skin, you can. Here's our obligatory Trunket skin usage with the Leverage i5 which is one of the more popular choices for third party backplates being that it's made from real wood and has the right thickness to match with the back frame like the original backplate. Skins and backplanes aside, the Leverage i5 will graciously fit any screen protector and that includes ones that are made from tempered glass.

One of the reasons why aluminum cases, such as those made by Element Case, are in great demand is due to the fact that encasing the all-metal constructed iPhone with cheap plastic isn't an option for some. There's something rewarding about having an accessory that can match the level of premium materials used in the iPhone that a regular plastic case simply cannot match. And the Leverage i5 successfully achieved this high-end, fine blend of design and materials that elevate the experience in using a protective case. While the Leverage features more plastic than it does metal, the price is right and the execution is original. It may not be considered a machined aluminum case, but it does offer a mid-level entry for those who want a comfortable case to use that can offer a premium look and feel without costing upwards of $100.

The Zinc alloy lever is to a Leverage as scissor doors is to lamborghini

It's no secrete one would consider purchasing the Leverage i5 because of its unique metal lever, and it most certainly is the stand-out feature of course, but what's even better is the extremely comfortable to use experience you get from its refined profile and rubberized soft-touch finish. Like the one before it, the Leverage i5 features a smooth, well-rounded slim profile that although feels great to hold in the hand, also keeps the iPhone 5 elevated away from the surface on either side using a lay-on-the-table designed edge.

Issues with scratching and scuffing are a thing of the past. Graft Concepts took consumer feedback to heart, and improved the Leverage i5's design in that the metal latch never comes in contact with the iPhone 5 unlike the previous iPhone 4/S model which resulted in a few scuff marks where metal on metal was made. The Leverage i5 fixes this issue using a complete isolation of the iPhone 5 from the metal latch and lever mechanism.

What's more important in a protective case is how comfortable it is to hold. Because after all a case is meant to be held for the majority of the time. And if there's a case that successfully enhances the overall experience of using the iPhone on a daily basis without having to sacrifice its protective qualities and slim profile, it's the Leverage i5.

The Leverage is all about the matte rubbery finish, and without it it isn't as special to use. As strange as that might sound, it's the cold hard truth. Sadly, the glossy white variant is noticeably less appealing in person in terms of finish. Glossy white plastic just isn't appealing for this case and does not do as much justice to the unique metal lever as the matte black color. What's more is that the glossy finish is considerably more slippery to hold than the rubberized black finish. And yes you will see fingerprints and oily marks on top of the black finish, but it's a small understandable caveat that's well worth the hassle of keeping it clean.

In order to get the most out of using a Leverage case, you must go matte black. We know color is a personal preference, but when a color or finish for that matter affects the way a case delivers on its original premise, there's no question that the black Leverage i5 is the ideal choice. And hopefully that helps direct you towards the right path in making a decision between the two available color options. If you're someone who does prefer the glossy white finish and couldn't care less for grip or the texture, then I don't think there's anything wrong with the white Leverage i5 other than what was mentioned.

Taking a look at the bottom cutouts for the iPhone 5's Lightning and 3.5mm audio ports we can see that they're pretty tight, yet I could fit a slim angled headphone plug in there without an issue. I'm afraid that the individual cutouts inhibit the ability to use Apple's Lightning to 30-pin adapter along with other abnormal sized connectors including charging docks that don't have an adjustable Lightning connector which could fit into recessed cutouts of protective cases. In addition, Apple's thicker Lightning connectors found on the 30-pin to Lighting, Lightning Digital AV Adapter and the Lightning to VGA adapter cables will fit into the tight cutout. 

The bottom line is -  if you're looking to get something special, something different that's a joy to use on a daily basis and can be installed in two hybrid configurations for a minimalist look, the Leverage i5 is one of our favorite iPhone 5 cases to use. Although not perfect, the Leverage i5 is well above the norm of cases and it comes with its fair share of positives that merit a well deserved, general recommendation. We're still fans of the concept and think the Leverage is a fine piece of kit worthy of the iPhone 5.