driSuit Guardian for iPhone 5
Following its Endurance case for iPhone 4/4S -- a version of which is also available for iPhone 5 -- driSuit has released Guardian for iPhone 5 ($60). Like Endurance, it's an easy to assemble, everything-proof case, offering functionality similar to that of Lifeproof's Frē and Incipio's Atlas. Whereas Endurance is distinctive for its screen cover that allows the iPhone to be controlled underwater, Guardian is notably lacking this feature. Like most cases in this genre, it'll survive when placed underwater, but you can't manipulate the touchscreen during submersion.
driSuit’s bottom shell design makes Guardian taller than many cases. Instead of splitting into front and back pieces, Guardian comes apart about an inch from the bottom, where a cap is connected by arms on either side of the case. The cap includes an audio plug that reroutes the headphone audio out, and has vents for the speaker and microphone, but completely blocks the Lightning port. To install the phone, you must first insert it into the main body, then push the bottom on, and snap the arms into place. In our tests, phone calls sounded just about the same from inside the case as they did outside of it.
Inside the black or white soft touch-coated plastic case, the iPhone is completely protected. There are rubber button protectors—the Sleep/Wake Button loses some clickiness, but the others are as they should be. The only control that’s hindered is the vibrate switch: although it’s under rubber and looks like it may be accessible, you can’t actually toggle it with your fingers. Guardian also places rubber over the front camera, earpiece, and the entire display; the rear camera is covered with clear plastic.
Compared to other screen protectors options we’ve seen, Guardian’s is somewhat disappointing. Because it’s soft and has a small air gap between the surfaces, you must press down with a little bit more pressure than usual. Visually, there’s some waviness due to the uneven surface, and we don’t like the drag the rubbery material causes when swiping. But, when you toss your iPhone in a pool, it will stay dry, which is important. Unfortunately, the use of a rubber front protector softens the sharpness of the iPhone 5’s front camera, an issue we haven’t seen in virtually any other iPhone 5 case to date.
Guardian isn’t the most attractive solution of its kind, and it’s bulkier and more limiting than most. But at the end of the day, it does generally what it’s supposed to at a more affordable price than its competitors, and earns our limited recommendation. For those looking for something that will protect the iPhone 5 from the elements, but are willing to make compromises to save some money, it’s a fine option. That said, most people will be better off with a LifeProof or Incipio alternative, assuming they’re willing to pay a premium to get it.