Review: PureGear DualTek XT Extreme Terrain for iPhone 5/5s
Taking its design cues from last year's DualTek Extreme Shock Case + Shield, PureGear's DualTek XT Extreme Terrain for iPhone 5/5s ($50) significantly ups the level of protection. Instead of just another CandyShell-like plastic and rubber protector, this one adds on extra layers that allow it to be weatherproof; it's also military drop-tested. The design is a somewhat bulky one though, and we did come across a few issues that diminish the overall appeal. It comes in blue and black or gray and black versions, both of which include a wrist lanyard.
Rather than a single piece, DualTek XT splits apart into two. There’s the hard plastic front, and a rear component, which has a sturdy plate surrounded by rubber borders. To install the iPhone, you first snap it into the front frame, and then fit that combination into the back piece. We found it took a little bit of extra effort to get all four corners to snap properly into place, but it isn’t overly difficult. Once assembled, the case definitely feels big in the hand. At 2.7” wide, 5.3” tall, and 0.6” thick, it adds significant size in all directions.
One benefit to the case is just how much protection it offers. Although it’s not advertised as being waterproof—you wouldn’t want to drop it in a pool—the buttons are all covered, as are all the ports, cameras, and even the side switch. A panel opens up along the bottom, exposing the headphone port, microphone, Lightning port, and speaker all at once. There’s even a built-in screen protector.
While this level of coverage sounds great on its face, we found a number of issues with the whole thing. Sure, there are some nice aspects, like the tactility of the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons, and the clarity of the screen protector. The problems start at the top, where the side switch is accessible through a flip-open cover. You’ll have to have extremely thin fingers to actually reach it; we weren’t able to do so, even with a pinky finger. Moving down, we noticed slightly diminished touch sensitivity thanks to the screen protector. It’s necessary to tap or swipe with a bit more pressure than is generally needed, which we found most evident when it came to bringing up Control Center.
The Home button also proves to have problems. Although the material covering it allows the Touch ID fingerprint reader to work without issue, we don’t like how it feels when pressed. There’s little to no tactile feedback. You might not know if you actually pressed it based on touch alone, and sometimes, it’ll take multiple clicks to properly register. Finally, moving onto the bottom, there’s significant distortion when playing audio, when the protective panel is in place. Move it out of the way and everything sounds fine, but it’s pretty bad otherwise. Thankfully, voice quality isn’t diminished on phone calls.
DualTek XT Extreme Terrain has a lot of potential, but because of the multitude of issues, we can’t recommend it. No single issue is an absolute deal breaker, but all the problems add up to the point that we wouldn’t suggest the case for most people. It’s an affordable option for the amount of protection it offers, and for some, that’ll be enough to justify the purchase. With some refinements, it could be a very good case, but it’s simply not where it needs to be.