The iPhone 4/4S is an amazing looking device. The use of metal and glass panels in its construction make for a phone that’s almost as much of a piece of industrial art as it is a communication device. There’s a trade off for this beauty however…the iPhone is a relatively fragile phone, especially for those of us with very active lifestyles. This is where ruggedized cases are a blessing, but they come with their share of downsides, mainly being that they are almost always very bulky, cumbersome, and just generally spoil the iPhone’s good looks. Well, PureGear is looking to change this perception of rugged, extreme protection cases with their latest release, the DualTek Extreme Shock case for iPhone 4/4S. How does it fare? Jump past the break to find out…
Inside the packaging you’ll find the DualTek case, and a front screen shield to give you 360 degree protection for your iPhone. When you have the DualTek in your hand, you’ll probably immediately notice that it’s a very, very rigid case… at least the outside layer is, anyway. The DualTek is a multi-layer, co-molded construction case with a harder outside shell fused to a soft inner rubber-like core. Not too unlike the Speck CandyShell (or Case-Mate Pop!, Incipio Specialist, or any other similar dual-layer case). In fact, after using it for a while, that’s the comparison I use to describe the DualTek… that it’s like an armored version of a CandyShell.
As with other cases of this hard/soft dual layer construction style, to install the case you simply press your iPhone in from the front of the case until it snaps firmly in place. Once installed, you can really see how this case was designed with maximum shock absorption in mind. Inside the DualTek, your iPhone is actually suspended between the 4 black shock-absorbing 3M E.A.R. impact inserts located at each corner. These impact barriers actually protrude through the corners of the case, and are the case’s primary protection mechanism against corner drops. Along with these impact zones, the inner gray layer is a soft rubber/TPU material to further aid in impact protection.
On the outside, you’ll find the hard, matte finish polycarbonate outer layer that adds to the impact protection of the DualTek. This is one of the firmest outer layers of a case this type that I’ve ever seen. PureGear’s decision to go with a matte finish for the outer layer is a good one. It should show much less wear and scratches over time, as opposed to a glossy finish. Along the left and right sides of the case you’ll find ergonomic palm and finger grips formed by allowing areas of the softer rubber layer to protrude through to the outside.
These grip areas are a really nice touch. Even though the case has a matte finish on the exterior, it’s not the best for grip due to the firmness of the polycarbonate used. These little grip patches counteract this. The front of the case extends up vertically beyond the front glass, allowing a very good lip for maximum lay on the table design. And since this lip doesn’t extend over the front glass in any way, I see no reason why any screen protector would have compatibility issues with the DualTek.
The DualTek also has complete button (volume and sleep/awake buttons) coverage, and this coverage doesn’t impede or negatively impact button activation in any way. If anything, they allow for a very easy and satisfying button press, one of the best I’ve felt on a case with integrated button coverage. The vibrate switch cutout is large enough to accommodate both the iPhone 4 and 4S. It’s on the deep side, but not so much to make it difficult to operate the switch itself.
Along the bottom, the dock connector, mic, and speaker all share one large cutout, meaning that the DualTek should have good compatibility with most 3rd party charge/sync cables out there. But, unfortunately, due to the thicker nature of the case, that cutout is fairly deep, meaning that most charging docks won’t be compatible with the case. The same situation is encountered up top with the headphone cutout. The depth of the opening rules out any headphones with connectors much larger than the stock Apple earbuds, unless you plan on using an adaptor. On a good note however, the camera cutout on the rear of the case is of ample size, and I haven’t experienced any camera flash interference in low-light photos.
The fit and finish of the DualTek ranks right up there with the best I’ve handled of this case type. On most dual-material cases like this, even with the bigger companies, there’s usually some inconsistencies in finish, and leftover flashing (hanging extra material from the casting process) at the joints of the two different materials. There’s none of that with the DualTek. It’s flawless, smooth, and consistent everywhere on the case, which is pretty impressive considering how many areas the two materials meet on this case. Even though this is an “extreme shock protection” case, it’s really quite slim in the hand when considering how much impact protection it provides. I’d feel quite confident an iPhone would survive all but the most ridiculous drops in the DualTek.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the DualTek case. Even though this is one of Pure Gear’s first attempts at a case for the iPhone, it comes across as if they’ve been doing this for years. In their first attempt, they’ve made (in my opinion) one of the most well built, best-designed rugged, yet (relatively) slim cases on the market for your iPhone. It offers virtually all the protection of a much bulkier case like an Otterbox Defender, in a look and feel that’s more streamlined like a Speck CandyShell. The only area that it lacks in protection is dock connector/headphone port covers and built in screen protection, but those two things are relatively minor nit-picking points, considering you can use any screen protector of your choosing with the DualTek. At its price point of $39.95 and your choice of black, white, and pink, I have to give a strong recommendation to the PureGear DualTek if you’re looking for a very rugged case without transforming your iPhone into a rubber brick like most do.