A few weeks ago I received a PR blast from Element Case about their new Ronin case for iPhone 5 ($199.99) and just had to write a short post about it due to its unique and gorgeous design. The case uses a combination of nickel-plated aluminum, exotic wood, and leather in a design that is stunning, yet featherlight.
What can you say about a case that comes with its own case? With a $200 iPhone case, you'll want to make sure that your iPhone 5 and the Ronin case are getting protection. That's why the Ronin comes with a leather protective wallet as well.
When I say that the Ronin is lightweight, I mean it. It registered a scant 0.6 oz (17 gm) on my postal scale. As with many of the Element Case products, the Ronin requires some installation smarts. You need to remove one screw with an included tool, pull open the case, wrap it securely around your iPhone 5, then tighten all of the screws on the case. Once that's done, you install a leather backplate. Two are included with the Ronin -- one that's "genuine leather" and the other that is made of Ultrasuede.
There are "rash strips" that need to be installed on the outside of the case to keep it from scuffing the finish of your iPhone 5; extra strips are included should you they need to be replaced. Element Case also includes a cleaning cloth and screen protector for your iPhone in the box, as well as extra screws.
The leather protective wallet is a nicely designed piece of work as well. It's slender, made of two colors (brown and black) of leather, with a Velcro closure to keep your iPhone and Ronin nicely protected.
The leather backplates are interchangeable; Element Case provides a tack sheet onto which you can stick the backplate that's not currently in use. That's a nice touch, something I guess you should expect with a $200 iPhone case!
iPhone cases are all about two things: protecting your iPhone and making it look nice. Up until this point, I hadn't seen a case that would make me actually cover up the iPhone 5. The Ronin changed that.
I did have one gripe about the case; for $200, it sure requires a lot of installation. Many people who can afford to pay that much for a case probably have no mechanical skills at all, so there may be a booming cottage industry for installing Element Cases. The instructions were too generic; they were for another one of the Element Case lines, and rather than just removing one screw I found I needed to remove two.
Update: The review Ronin was inadvertently packed with the wrong instructions, which Element Cases has remedied. The new instructions are much more clear.
The rash strips took a little bit of work to install properly, and I found that the edges that wrap around the beveled sides of the iPhone 5 just wouldn't stick down. Fortunately, the case covers those so uneven edges aren't visible.
The exotic wood used on the Ronin case is a bit darker than that seen on the Element Case website, but it still looks beautiful. I installed the Ultrasuede back on the iPhone 5 as I liked the lighter color, and it has a wonderful warm feeling to it.
One thing I noticed almost immediately when holding the Ronin/iPhone 5 combo is that the slightly curved edges of the wood make the case much easier to grip than an uncased iPhone 5. The Ultrasuede backplate also reduces the annoying buzz of the iPhone in vibrate mode when it's on a table top to a still-noticeable rumble.
While the Ronin obviously isn't for everyone, it will appeal to those with a sense of luxury and has a certain steampunk cachet to it. It's certainly the most unique iPhone 5 case I've seen to date, and the construction of the Ronin is top notch. If you're looking for a luxurious Christmas present for the iPhone 5 owner who has everything, you can't go wrong with the Element Case Ronin.
Unique. I challenge you to find another case that is made of nickel-plated aluminum, wood, and leather.
Extremely well-made. The amount of care taken in both design and manufacturing is obvious.
Curved wood sides make the Ronin a joy to hold.
Luxurious feel and look.
A bit out of the price range of the average iPhone 5 owner.
Installation can be a challenge.
Who is it for?
The iPhone 5 owner who wants a classy case that protects while complementing the design of the smartphone with steampunk good looks.