Review: Incase Systm Vise 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.
Hammer, Chisel, and Vise all start with rubber at their 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.
Vise is the heavy duty option here, in some ways a correlate to Griffin’s Survivor or OtterBox’s Defender, although it comes up short in port and screen protection. Of the bunch, this is the only multi-piece case. At the center is a rubber skin that could be used in its own right. It’s very similar to Hammer, although the top and bottom edges don’t bulge, and a one-inch square in the center does. The other difference is the Poron XRD is laid out differently. All four corners are protected by the foam, and it comes up along the edge about three inches from the bottom, but there is none lining the back.
Over the rubber slides a two piece hard-plastic shell. The top and bottom halves snap into the raised square, and meet each other around it. What results is a case that’s over half an inch thick, and you’ll notice the size. The screen feels particularly set back under the layers of material, as do the buttons and the side switch. Does the iPhone feel secure? It does, but we can’t say that the size is worth it. Vise comes with a hard plastic belt clip, which can rotate 360°. It holds your iPhone with the screen facing in or out, and does the job it’s expected to.
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.