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iPhone Case Review: Element Case’s Vapor Pro “Black Ops” Limited Edition Kit

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People spend a whole lot of money on their smartphones… a whole lot of money.  iPhones are, certainly, no exception to that rule, with the latest model (the 4S) costing, at minimum, $199 for the base model (buy it without an upgrade discount and you will spend hundreds more).  Make one mistake with that phone, do one thing wrong, and you’re going to shell out a whole lot more cash for a new one (because you won’t be upgrade eligible).  It is for these reasons that people, after spending a lot on a phone, turn around and spend a lot on a case for that phone. 

It was with that in mind that Element Case has introduced their latest iPhone case, the Vapor Pro “Black Ops” Limited Edition Kit.   Retailing for what some would consider a whopping $149, the case works on both the iPhone 4 and 4S, and unlike some iPhone coverings (which lack a large enough opening), can accept headphones beyond simply the apple earbud without issue.  On the backside, it can also accept older iPhone/iPod charging cables as well (which, again, is not always the case).

Yes, the price will instantly put some people off, but the Vapor Pro looks stellar, consisting of a metal band that goes around the entire side of the phone, and an Ultrasuede backing and ear pad.  In fact, the nearly all black metal band—as you can see there is a bit of amber there as well—which is made of aircraft grade aluminum is truly beautiful in its simplicity.  For those worried about it, the case also features an “aerospace polymer RF insert” which will stop that pesky iPhone 4 “death grip” from affecting you. 

Beauty, momentarily aside, the Vapor Pro is not without at least one nagging flaw which ought to have been addressed.  The metal band has no lip around the edge and isn’t quite flush with the surface of the phone at all points.  There is not enough room for the phone to move around—the phone is unquestionably protected—but not being even more snug and lacking a lip, one can see light between the phone and the case which gives a “luxury” case a distinctly pedestrian look.  No amount of tightening the four tiny screws (the case does come with two spares and a tool to tighten them) will alleviate the gap.  It is, in short, the sort of thing that one would easily accept from a 30 or 40 dollar case, but which is a little harder to stomach when one is paying three to four times that much.

Back on the plus side, the case feels absolutely wonderful.  The aircraft grade aluminum from which it is manufactured is cool, but not cold, to the touch and seems truly substantial despite its thinness.  While I do not have the weight specs, the phone does not feel significantly more heavy with the case on than it does with the case off.

Outside of the aforementioned case, backing, extra screws and tool, the full kit also includes a phone carrying case (zippered) as well as a clear plastic protector for the phone’s face.  It would have been nice to get a second clear plastic piece to protect the phone’s face, but one is not included.

Ultimately, when looking to purchase a case, one generally has to balance look and feel against cost and to make a judgment about where the two sides intersect.  After trying out several cases, I went around for a number of months with an AmazonBasics iPhone case which cost less than $5.  However, on a regular basis when I pulled the phone out of my pocket the case popped off and I had few illusions that it would do anything to help the phone were I to drop it.

The Vapor Pro “Black Ops” case suffers from absolutely none of the problems the Amazon case did.  Where Amazon’s was blah, the Vapor Pro is a definite wow.  Where the Amazon one always seemed cheap and flimsy, the Vapor Pro looks well manufactured. 

While testing the case out, on more than one occasion, I lent my phone to someone to make a call and received compliments back on impressiveness of the iPhone’s housing.  To me, that was perfect – I like a case that is subtle, that doesn’t stand out in the crowd and doesn’t add heft to my phone, but which, when examined, garners unsolicited praise.  The Vapor Pro does exactly that – you won’t notice it from across the room, but you will as soon as you hold it, and for me that is as it should be.  It is annoying to see light between the case and the phone, but the rest of the piece looks so good, and is so nice to hold, that the space can nearly be forgiven.

It certainly isn’t a perfect phone case, and it does cost a pretty penny, but the Vapor Pro “Black Ops” is a wonderful little iPhone case… and hopefully it will work with the iPhone 5, whenever that may emerge.  I can’t say that you need to spend $150 on an iPhone case, but if you’re in the market for a high-end case for your phone, the Vapor Pro is a great choice.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Mariah Hay

    I am very disappointed in Element Case. I have been using a Vapor pro with nothing but good things to say for the past 7 months. I recently upgraded to the iphone 4S and my case does not fit correctly. When I screw it down the whole way the button on the top is held down, disabling the phone. When I e-mailed to report the problem I was told I was out of luck as the warranty is up. I expected more service than this for a $170 iPhone case.

  • http://tvandfilmguy.com Josh Lasser

    If the case says that it’ll fit the 4S, I would definitely classify that as a disappointment.

  • JUSTIN WOOD

    Well I’ve got an iPhone 4s and it’s great. came across these cases and fell in love. they are definitely bad ass looking and when i got it i was super excited. got the vapor comp, fit great and looked sweet. however the aluminum case has killed my service. when i received a feedback request from element case and told them this same thing I’ve still 2 months later yet to get any return from them. now still using it even with the lack of service because i have paid so much for it it’s gotten worse. i have to take it off every other day so that i can clean the dirt out from underneath it that is scratching my phone to shit and the black anodized bolts have worn off and look like shit. recommendations, do not buy any cases from them! not worth the money at all

  • ray c

    they are so full of sh*t. i ordered a ronin on the 15th dec and they are supposed to send it by the 20th. it didn’t happen and when i asked their customer support the first time they replied and said they would send it that evening via fedex, which they never did. And the second time when i asked about it, they gave me a refund and said that paypal had security issues with my account which is such a lie, because i’ve done plenty of transactions with other vendors and this never happened before. don’t do business with these amateurs.

  • Jeff

    Nice case, but I prefer the Pong Research iPhone case . The World Health Organization has declared that cell phone radiation may be linked to brain cancer. Ten studies connect cell phone radiation to diminished sperm count and sperm damage. Others raise health concerns such as altered brain metabolism, sleep disturbance and behavioral changes in children. So I looked ways to reduce cell phone radiation effects. I found cases from Pong Research, I read that this technology reduces exposure to radiation while optimizing the mobile reception. I was skeptical about it, anyway, I decided to try it, because Pong is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce the exposure to mobile device radiation by up to 95% below the FCC limit without compromising the device’s ability to communicate.