Review: SnowLizard Products SLXtreme 5 for iPhone 5/5s
There are thousands of iPhone 5 cases, dozens of battery cases, a handful of ruggedized waterproof cases, and a few solar-powered cases. But as of today, there's only one ruggedized, solar-powered iPhone 5 battery case, and that's SnowLizard's SLXtreme 5 for iPhone 5/5s ($150), a fairly large and expensive option that looks as if it was designed to appeal primarily to hunters and other outdoorsmen.
Sold in the green camouflage version shown here, as well as orange, yellow, white, and black versions with similar black accents, SLXtreme 5 wraps an iPhone 5 or 5s in a matte-finished hard plastic frame with a clear integrated screen protector on the front, and a solar panel on the back. The result isn’t exactly Frankensteinish, but it does have a sum-of-all-parts look and feel that’s less polished than the best rugged iPhone 5/5s cases, while adding significant weight and bulk to the svelte phone inside. A 2550mAh battery inside the frame is amongst the largest we’ve seen in an iPhone case, and theoretically capable of fully recharging either the iPhone 5 or 5s.
We say “theoretically” only because SLXtreme 5’s battery pack had some odd issues during our testing. The current power level is supposed to be indicated by four blue LED lights on the back of the case, below the solar panel, but the lights were flaky: after connecting SLXtreme to its micro-USB recharging cable and various power sources to fully recharge it, the lights rapidly went from two flashing to four solid — typically the sign of a full charge on most batteries. Yet when the USB cable was disconnected, only two or three lights lit up on the case’s back, suggesting that it wasn’t actually fully charged. Connecting a dead iPhone 5 to the battery in this two/three-light state led to a weak 39% recharge.
SLXtreme 5’s other major feature is a solar panel, which promises to deliver 10 minutes of talk time from an hour of sunlight exposure. Due to poor weather conditions in our testing area, which is less than predictable for gathering direct sunlight during much of the year, we were unable to verify SnowLizard’s claims on the panel’s performance. That said, the promised recharging target is so modest that it would be hard to miss, requiring so long for a full charge that it’s clearly only there for serious — and likely desert-based — emergencies.
Other benefits are similarly in the “not bad, not great” camp. The hinged case opens at the top to let you slip your iPhone 5/5s in, shutting tight with a right-side clasp that enables the case to become buoyant. In our testing, so long as the top hinge and a bottom port-covering hinge were both locked shut, the case indeed kept the iPhone inside dry even when dunked and held in water. The case has an IP-68 waterproof rating for submersion at up to six-foot depths, and MIL SPEC 810G dust, sand, and six-foot drop protection. Water does intrude into the hinged bottom cap area, but so long as the headphone and micro-USB ports are sealed using two somewhat less than thrilling thumbscrews, your iPhone is safe inside.
Using the iPhone inside was almost trouble-free. Although the Home Button protector obscures Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, button sensitivity is great on all of the other buttons; only the ringer switch is completely unavailable inside. Screen access is visually solid and only slightly less than ideal on touch responsiveness. Phone calls are acceptable, working noticeably better when the iPhone is used as a handset than as a speakerphone. Protective grills only modestly impact microphone input, but markedly reduce speaker output regardless of the application.
The large size and weight of SLXtreme 5 do require some other compromises. If you want to use it with headphones, you’ll need to attach SnowLizard’s included headphone extender, as the port is very deeply recessed inside a narrow hole. SLXtreme 5 also includes a lanyard and a carabiner clip, which can be attached to a circular mounting point on the case’s bottom. We can’t imagine wearing this case around a neck for any length of time, but some people might feel more comfortable doing so.
Overall, SLXtreme 5 is an okay case—it works as promised to ruggedize and waterproof an iPhone 5/5s, though with a somewhat chunky housing and dodgy battery/solar charging implementation that are arguably in need of further improvement. Less expensive waterproof and rugged battery cases such as iBattz’ Mojo Refuel Aqua strike us as achieving a much better balance of design, pricing, and versatility; the $30 price difference between that $120 model and this one is enough to buy a spare battery that’s far more practical than relying on direct sunlight for extra fuel. That said, if you really need a camouflage-colored, solar-powered rugged iPhone case, the novelty of this one might inspire you to overlook its shortcomings.