Review: Case-Mate Brilliance, Caliber, Carbon Fiber, Carved Mahogany, Glam Ombre + Woods for iPhone 5/5s
Within the past year, Case-Mate has sharpened its focus on high-end cases, although it does still compete in other markets. Its most recent lineup includes fashionable new options for the iPhone 5 and 5s. Brilliance ($80), Caliber ($50), Carbon Fiber ($50), Carved Mahogany ($50), Glam Ombre ($50), and Woods ($50) all share the same basic design, but vary in materials and aesthetics. Thankfully, Case-Mate didn't sacrifice protection in the name of visual appeal. Each of the cases offers rather thorough coverage, including properly executed button inserts.
All six of the cases split the same way. The hard plastic backplate comes off, revealing a rubber inner lining. Depending on which case you choose, the material on the back will vary. Carved Mahogany and Woods both use different styles and patterns of wood; the former has a cross-hash pattern along the back. Caliber has a military aesthetic, while Carbon Fiber uses material that looks quite like the real thing. There’s Glam Ombre, the most showy of the bunch. It’s a sparkly case, available in either gold or black, with glitter under a plastic plate. Finally, Brilliance is the most expensive of the bunch, based on its composition of crystals and leather accents. The crystals are arranged in a raised pattern on the back, with the leather in a thin strip at the bottom, finished with such gloss that it’s hard to tell whether it’s genuine or patent material. Collectively, the options address many different tastes.
With the iPhone nestled within the backplate’s guide edges, the protective bumper can then snap in place. Each of the cases uses the same style of plastic bumper, although they vary in color, and Caliber’s is matte, rather than glossy. When installed, the frame rises above the iPhone’s screen by a significant amount, providing a lip that’ll prevent the display from hitting the ground. Both volume buttons and the Sleep/Wake button are covered by metallic-looking plastic protectors, allowing full tactility. Case-Mate wisely compromised on protecting the bottom. With openings that are too small, docking and accessory compatibility become limited. If they’re too big, material that could be protected isn’t. So for each case, it went with a round opening around the headphone port—large enough to accommodate wide and angled plugs—and then a second opening running from the microphone to the speaker. This allows you to use third-party Lightning cables, as well as wide adapters.
These iPhone 5 and 5s cases aren’t for everyone. They’re more oriented towards those who are fashion conscious, and thus willing to spend more than they absolutely have to, yet still expect a high level of protection. That’s why five of the six—all except Brilliance—earn our general recommendation. They’re a little more expensive than the norm, but smart and attractive. Brilliance has all the same characteristics, although the price is simply too high for what it is to earn any higher than a limited recommendation. It’s not that it’s a lesser case, but the price is just crazy for unbranded crystals and gloss-finished leather, even though the design looks nice.