This past December, I reviewed Element Case’s newly (at the time) released iPhone 5 aluminum bumper case, the Sector 5. While I found the Sector 5 Transformer-like and very tech-stylish, it was overall a bit extreme with too many rough edges for my taste. So, when Julie asked if I would like to review the Draco 5 aluminum bumper case from Draco Design, I jumped at the chance. I was hoping for an equally well made, less extreme, high end case to protect my iPhone 5 against life’s hard knocks.
The Draco aluminum bumper case for the iPhone 5 is very stylish, made from high quality CNC milled aircraft-grade aluminium. The case’s finely curved lines and precision fit are thanks to being created on a precise 5-axis CNC milling machine. The curves on this aluminium bumper are definitely eye-catching and have gotten attention from other techies asking either “what cellphone is that?” or “where can I get one of those?” Several of my iPhone 5-owning friends have already purchased the Draco 5.
As you can see, the curved wave design flows around the entire edge of the Draco 5, leaving a polished ribbon encircling your iPhone. Above and below the wave, Draco Design powder coats the aluminum with the main case color.
Along with the aluminum bumper case itself, Draco Design also includes mute switch cover, allen wrench, and two spare bolts, but no screen or back protectors.
The Draco 5 is relatively simple, comprised of five aluminum pieces: two frame parts, mute switch, and two bolts.
Installing the iPhone 5 into the bumper case is quick and easy. Place the mute switch cover carefully on the actual switch, then press the upper and left side of the bumper to the iPhone, followed by the right and lower piece. Make sure all the parts align, then screw the two bolts into their holes, being careful not to torque them too much, which might strip the soft aluminum metal.
The left side has an inset that is more deeply machined into the bumper case for the mute switch and volume rocker. This is nicely engineered, and both work well.
The top has a built in push-thru power button and opening for what I assume is better antenna connectivity.
The right side has a cutout allowing access to the iPhone’s SIM card slot. The hole has a slightly rough edge that I would prefer was not there. On the rare occasions that I needed to get to the SIM, I would remove the case. A minor detail…
The bottom has a large single cutout for the 3.5mm audio/earbud plug, microphone, speaker grills, and lighting port. The hole on the right is a hard point for a lanyard. Like most other protective cases, the headphone port accommodates straight but not L-shaped/angled plugs.
From an overall design/protection standpoint, the only negative I find is that, while the case offers solid protection for the edges and back (due to its raised edge) of the iPhone 5, the front has the tiniest of edges that does not offer much screen protection. However, I prefer this to a more pronounced corner/lip that would interfere with my thumb and fingers sliding across the screen.
Feel and Form Factor:
The Draco 5 gives the latest iPhone a totally different form factor and feel. With its rounded and curved edges, I find it is almost Galaxy S3-like but with a much better aluminum quality to it. The case does add a bit of weight (20g) and volume to the sleek and slim iPhone 5, but it’s overall well worth the extra load. I love the feel and protection the Draco 5 brings to my iPhone.
Draco Design had issues with their iPhone 4 cases blocking cellular signal. They have fixed those issues and inform you of that on the front of the Draco 5′s packaging, stating “Radio Field Interference: Highly Improved”. I tested signal loss in my usual places (locations with great to poor connectivity). In all locations, there was little to no impact to the number of bars I typically have or to my call quality due to the Draco 5 being on my iPhone.
The Draco 5 aluminum bumper case for the iPhone 5 is one of the best bumper style cases currently available for Apple’s flagship smartphone. With a price tag of $90, it is definitely not the least expensive smartphone case on the market, but it is not the priciest either. Considering its material and build quality plus the protection, style, and form factor it brings to your iPhone, I say it is money well spent. Draco Design has resolved the signal loss issues that they had with their early iPhone 4 case, and the form factor is even better than before. The bottom line is the Draco 5 is my current recommendation when people ask my opinion of what case to buy for their iPhone.
It has been nearly a year since I did this review and during that time this aluminum bumper case sat in its packaging for nearly 9 of those 12 months. But when the Gadgeteer Kid bought himself an iPhone 5S for his birthday, he chose the Draco 5 case to protect it. Sadly it did not even last 4 months of real-world use. Without a doubt, the GK babies his tech…probably even more so than me. There was definitely zero abuse. But the lower lefthand bolt has stripped out anyway, making the case unrepairable and utterly useless. I have come to find out that the same thing happened to a good friend of mine who bought a Draco 5 based on my recommendation. It is a serious design flaw, having the bolt screw into the line of stress instead of through it like the ElementCase Ronin G10 does.