Just when you though aluminum bumper cases dies a horrible death, Hornettek has taken a stab at this wonderful market of metal bumper cases with their version that they call the Vader. The Vader is an all-aluminum, two-piece bumper case compatible with both the AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4, and it will set you back $79.99. We've reviewed quite a few aluminum bumper cases on Gadgetmac before, and the Vader has some big shoes to fill. Will the Vader just be yet another run-of-the-mill aluminum bumper case for the iPhone 4, or will it prove worthy of your iPhone 4? Find out right after the break!
Like many of you, I've never heard about Hornettek until now. The Vader is the only aluminum bumper Hornettek has at its disposal, but it was smart enough to offer it in a few different color combinations as you can see here. Silver/pink, silver/blue and silver/titanium are only a taste of the Vader color selection. Right off the bat, the Vader strongly reminded me of E13ctron's S4 aluminum bumper. While the Vader has some similarities in design and half tone color schemes, the Vader is slightly different externally. I also noticed that the Vader's colors are a lot more subtle and light when compared to the E13ctron S4 color selections. The finish is very nice with a semi-glossy polished finish. I would much prefer a matte finish for the Vader though. Of course this will be a personal preference.
The Vader's two-piece design and a total of 4 hex screws make for an easy installation compared to other bumpers. An additional set of 4 hex screws are included in case you lose a few.
I must say the Vader does look really scrumptious even though its got that clean and simple look and design. However, not everyone will come to like the Vader's attempt to be a little different from other aluminum bumper cases such as the E13ctron S4. Surprisingly you won't find any logos or writing on the Vader. Something that I can appreciate, although Hornettek does have an awesome hornet logo they can somehow laser etch on the side for some coolness factor which I wouldn't mind at all actually. Instead of an all around smooth rounded uniform bumper design, the Vader takes its corners and bulges them outwards a little.
After spending time using the Vader, I cam to a conclusion that I disliked the protruding corners as they made it a little uncomfortable to hold in the hand. Having the aluminum corner digging into the palm of my hand wasn't my ideal experience I expected. I should note that the corners are well rounded that some might not have any discomfort issues. It's safe to say that if you're overly sensitive, then you'll want to go with something else.
Let's talk a little about protection here. The Vader, like most aluminum bumpers, can only offer that much protection against bumps and drops. Hortnettek seems to have overly glorified some aspects of the Vader regarding the inner lining that is used. Let me tell you that there's no high-tech shock absorbing, impact protective inner materials. Instead, you'll find a ridiculously thin piece of some sort of fabric that will never absorb any shock or impacts in case of a drop. All it's good for is protected the corners of your iPhone 4 from getting scratched up.
The good news is that the Vader is designed in a way that it does not come in contact with the surround metal band of the iPhone 4. It's got the floating design like the E13ctron S4 and other aluminum bumpers have that does not cover up the back and front glass thus letting you use any kind of front and back skin and screen protector. You'll even be able to use the most thickest back skins available with the Vader. A big plus in my book.
What I was pleasantly surprised to find out about is the inclusion of a built-in power/sleep aluminum button that is integrated into the Vader and looks even better to complete the overall design of the bumper. I wished Hornettek would have also included dedicated buttons for the volume buttons, but instead there's a long cutouts that makes accessing the volume buttons and the silent switch as easy as eating a delicious piece of Apple pie. Oh well, for that kind of effort and detail you'll have to check out the more expensive Draco IV aluminum bumper. The headphone port cutout on the other hand is on the tight side and will only fit slim 3.5mm jacks. What's up with that? Well you can't blame Hornettek for that since they did state they created the headphone port cutouts exclusively to fit Apple's slim in-ears.
Last but not least, we must get into signal performance. As you know, almost any aluminum bumper case will degrade your signal reception. The Vader is no different and will actually degrade your signal bars so that you'll end up losing roughly 1-3 bars depending on your reception area and strength. Sadly, it's safe to say that the Vader isn't the best performing aluminum bumper I've seen for the iPhone 4. This isn't the aluminum bumper for you if you live in a low reception area.
To put things into prospective, Hornettek's Vader aluminum iPhone 4 bumper does need has a little more polishing up to do, and I don't mean the finish. I personally didn't really like the odd form factor of the design in the hand, while others may come to really like. The sleek, simple and slim design of the Vader coupled with the two-tone color scheme and minimal front and back protection isn't all that bad. At $79.99, I think the Vader is a little overly confident to be asking for such a pricy price tag.