Review: Incase Systm Chisel for iPhone 5
Incase recently expanded its case lineup, adding to the slider- and shell-style options it's had available for years now. The new line is called Systm, and includes three distinct models that do share a number of similarities between them. Hammer ($30) is the most basic of the three, with Chisel ($35) in the middle, and Vise ($50) at the high end. All three cases are augmented with Poron XRD, the shock-absorbent foam material made famous by G-Form, in accessories such as X-Protect for iPhone 4/4S.
cores. Although the exact shapes are different, they each offer the same amount of coverage, down to the size of the openings. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are covered with raised rubber, which is protective but does not diminish the tactility at all; it’s the way button protection is supposed to be done. Above the volume up button, there’s an opening for the side switch. It may be just a little too small for those with large fingers or short fingernails. Then, along the bottom edge, there are three openings. The first is for the microphone and headphone port, with a rounded bulge to accommodate larger plugs. Following that is a half-inch wide oval for the Lightning port, and then a longer one for the speaker. The cases are compatible with larger-than-average Lightning plugs, but not Apple’s Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter. They also have very large camera openings, lined with black to prevent flash diffusion.
Chisel is quite similar to Speck’s CandyShell in its co-molded rubber and plastic construction, although there are significant differences between the two. The two layers of material are fused together, with the plastic on the outside. Four color combinations are available. Along the back, rubber shows through as there is a recessed line running down the center of the case, and three horizontal lines intersecting it. Despite the hard frame, we found no issue with pushing the iPhone into place. Incase uses the Poron XRD to line the entire back panel of the case, with a single sheet of the yellow foam. It’s a larger amount of coverage from the material than in any of the other cases. Compared to CandyShell, it’s larger in every dimension, but not really by much.
The Systm line is a pretty impressive step from Incase, and we laud the company for finally expanding its efforts. Aesthetically, and from a value standpoint, Chisel is our favorite of the bunch. It combines rubber and plastic, plus an entire back panel of Poron XRD. While not as universally appealing as as CandyShell, it’s still a very good case, and worth of our strong general recommendation. Right behind it is Hammer. We’d still feel very secure transporting an iPhone around in the case, although we prefer the plastic layer. Hammer earns a flat B. Then there’s Vise, which, while protective, is too big, and doesn’t match what other very good and great $50 cases offer. Sure, you’re probably not going to see a single dent on your iPhone’s body, but the difference in protection isn’t worth the bulk. Vise is a C+ level case. It’s OK, but not close to our top choice.