One of the many perks of being Darren Murph: you get to travel the world, testing ruggedized, waterproof iPhone cases along the way. Meanwhile, our contributor Jason Hidalgo isn't making any excuses for liking a $99 charging dock that doesn't do anything else. Because, you know, CNC-machined aluminum.
Optrix XD5 waterproof iPhone case
A few months back, I took Mophie's Outride for a spin in the Montana wilderness. Despite being a decent package, I found too many flaws to actually recommend it without reservations. A few weeks ago, I was able to test out a formidable rival, the $130 Optrix XD5. In a nutshell, it's a waterproof case for your iPhone 5, and there's an $80 model available for those still rocking an iPhone 4 or 4S. After splish-splashing around with this thing in the waters surrounding Maui, I'm confident I've found a winner.
The standout feature here is the intelligent design. Unlike the Outride, this case actually allows you to use your phone while it's encased. Yeah, you'll need to mash a little harder on the screen, but still, it works. That's something that precious few rugged / waterproof cases can say. There's also access to the Home button, the power button and the volume buttons -- even while it's entrapped in a watertight chassis. It's also shockingly thin, adding next to no bulk for the protection it offers. The rear of it adds a wide-angle extension, enabling you to capture far vaster scenes when snapping stills or recording video.
As you can see in my sample shot, it also adds distortion on the edges, but it's nothing a little cropping can't fix. Beyond that, the quality isn't degraded -- my mum was actually astonished at the clarity of the video I managed to grab while snorkeling at Molokini crater. It's pricey for a case, but not for an underwater case. If you're planning any summer jaunts near the water, this one's worth investing in.
-- Darren Murph
Rokform RokDock charging stand
As a practical dude, I typically prefer my gadgets to come with extra utility. Sometimes, though, my guy genes tend to override my penchant for common sense. It's the same reason why I have a hard time answering questions from lady friends such as "Why do you have an 83-inch TV?" or "Why are you guys so obsessed with hair loss?" Um, just 'cause?
This is the same conundrum I'm faced with when trying to objectively assess Rokform's RokDock, which is available for the iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy phones. On the one hand, I usually want my charging docks to be multi-taskers, and the RokDock fails horribly at that. It doesn't have a speaker, radio or even a clock. Nope, this sucker does one thing and one thing only: charge your phone. Well, that and press the right buttons on the hot-blooded guy meter. Did I mention, for example, that it's made from CNC-machined, aircraft-grade aluminum? That remark actually earned an "ohh-kay" from a female co-worker and likely an eye roll from all my ex-girlfriends. It also weighs a honkin' three pounds and looks like something that came out of Transformers. Lastly, it requires some assembly to install the included charging cable, playing on some folks' desire to tinker with their gadgets. The result is a solidly built charging dock that won't topple over easily and can also accommodate phones with a case, depending on how you adjust the positioning of the charging tip during assembly.
Despite my guy genes clouding my judgment, however, I'm not blind to the RokDock's shortcomings. One involves its lack of an actual plug for connecting the dock to a wall outlet. Instead, you get a USB connector, so you'll need to connect it either to a computer or a wall adapter if you want to use it. Another is its $99 price tag, which is pretty high considering it's essentially a glorified charging cable in a metal housing. As such, this one-tasker won't be for everyone, including some dudes. However, if you're the type of guy -- or girl -- who'd blurt out "you had me at 'aircraft-grade aluminum'" then feel free to give it a look.
-- Jason Hidalgo