The case adds just 17 grams to the already-superlight iPhone 5, and you can't feel any extra weight at all. The first edition is only available in this graphite color.Element cases are some of the most highly engineered and unusual iPhone cases in the world, and now the company’s rolled out its latest creation, the Sector 5 FE (First Edition), a lightweight aluminum case created for the iPhone 5.
When you first pick up the Sector 5, you immediately realize it’s not going to add much weight at all to the already uncanny pulchritude of the featherweight iPhone 5. Crafted in attractive charcoal-colored anodized aluminum, the company also adds in a couple of stick-on backplates, including a plush velour gray fabric and, my favorite, carbon fiber.
First, the bad news: this overengineered bauble will set you back $159.95. But wait. Perhaps it’s worth it. Let’s take a closer look. I have to tell you up front that it’s going to take a lot to get me to use any case for my iPhone. I’ve traditionally eschewed such enclosures, because of my strongly held belief that any case, albeit protective, encumbers one of my favorite features of the iPhone 5: its world-class and finely detailed design.
Your Sector 5 Case, Mr. Bond
But then, the Element Sector 5 brings along its own style, looking like some sort of high-tech enclosure that James Bond would carry next to his Walther PPK pistol. And, if you want to continue to exude your Applefanboyism, you can leave off the backplates and still show off that Apple logo, for which you are probably paying an extra few hundred bucks, anyway.
There’s one sign of progress from the Element Case Corporation, and that is instead of the necessity of fiddling with a quartet of miniscule screwsthat can only be tightened and loosened with a special tool, the number of those screws has been reduced to one with the Sector 5 case. Thank goodness! Even though you’re still required to use that tiny wrench that attaches to your key ring, you’ll only need to loosen one of the screws to make the case unfold like a fine Rolex watchband.
Alas, more tedium awaits, because now Element has apparently become wary of its customers scratching the new iPhone 5, and urges you to apply three sticky-backed pieces of protective plastic it calls “rash guards” before donning this new case. After jumping through those hoops, I didn’t care for the rumpled look of that protective plastic, so I removed the case and took away the plastic, risking scratches and going bareback with this case all by itself.
The good news is, the iPhone was no worse for the wear after being ensconced in this aluminum band without benefit of protective plastic — no scratches appeared at all, even though there was no protective plastic in sight. But that’s OK by me — I’m not one who leaves slipcovers on couches or wrappings on lampshades, so I might as well take the slight risk of going without this aesthetically unpleasing wrapping.
After dressing up my iPhone inside this $160 aluminum fortress, I took a good look at the result and was pleased. Sure, it’s not the look that Apple design guru Jony Ive had in mind, but it’s still beautiful in its own way. I didn’t try dropping my iPhone to test the case’s efficacy as a protector of the precious phone, but given that I’ve already dropped this phone three times since I got it, I’m sure I’ll be able to report back its success or failure soon enough.
Sector 5: The Verdict
Whether you think this case is worth $159.95 is a matter of priorities and personal taste, but I think it’s downright lovely. I also like the way there’s only one screw to fiddle with rather than the multiple screws of previous Element cases I’ve tested.
This Element Case Sector 5 is now shipping, and here’s a secret tip: I’ve heard rumors there will soon be a matching dock to go with it. I give the case a thumbs up, bestowing upon it the honor of being the only one I’m willing to place my iPhone 5 into … so far.