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printed October 23, 2017
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Review: Catalyst Case for Apple iPhone 7

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Jan 27, 2017, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Catalyst's case for the iPhone 7 is fully rugged and waterproof. It provides a high level of protection from various threats, including those that adventure seekers are prone to encounter when out and about. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review.

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Intro

Catalyst has (finally!) released its fully rugged case for the Apple iPhone 7. If you're seeking extra protection against water, snow, sand, and drops, the Catalyst has you covered (literally!) from every angle.

Background

The iPhone 7 may be water resistant, but long spells in too much water will still consign it to a grave in the murky deep. Moreover, the phone is still 40% glass and drops to concrete, pavement, or other hard surfaces may result in a shattered display and a bruised bank account.

You can find myriad semi-rugged cases that protect from simple drops. The bulk of these, however, don't do anything to protect against water, dirt, and other dangers. Catalyst is known for making cases that fully envelope the iPhone for the ultimate in protection. Here are our thoughts on Catalyst's offering for the iPhone 7.

Hardware

You don't put the Catalyst case on the iPhone 7, you put the iPhone 7 into the case. The Catalyst case comes in two pieces: the front piece includes a membrane that covers the display and a strong frame, and the rear is formed by a flat panel that snaps in place to form the complete enclosure. Place the iPhone 7 screen first into the larger of the two pieces. It's a snug fit and you have to press the phone in all the way. Take the rear shell, align it with the back of the frame and press firmly. You'll need to work your fingers all the way around to ensure the rubber gasket catches and the polycarbonate panel fully locks into place. It's easy to put together.

Empty Case  

Like most rugged cases, the Catalyst is formed from strong polycarbonate and is coated in a grippy material along the sides so the phone doesn't slip from your hands even when wet. Some rubbery cushioning lines the inner frame to help protect the side edges against drops and shock, while a rubber bumper forms a rim around both the back and front of the phone to help cushion blows to those surfaces. The clear screen protector fits perfectly against the display and there are no bubbles or air pockets in between. The rear panel is clear, too, so the color of your iPhone is visible through the case.

A small, ribbed button on the right edge marks the screen lock button. It's easy to find and use. Similar buttons cover the volume toggles on the phone's left edge. These buttons work well. Catalyst uses a unique, rotating crown dial for the ringer mute switch. It's easy to find and use. Rotate it back and forth to turn the ringer on and off. It works perfectly. A huge rubber gasket plugs into the Lightning port on the phone's bottom edge. It's easy to interact with and provides plenty of room for you to plug the iPhone 7 into cables for charging. It swings out of the way, but remains attached to the case. A membrane covers the bottom-mounted speaker to protect it from liquid and dirt, but it still lets sound through freely.

The case does add a considerable amount of bulk. The case adds about a half-inch to the width and height, and almost 1/5 of an inch to the thickness. The phone won't fit into your pocket as well with the case on. The weight increase isn't that noticeable.

Performance

Catalyst makes a lot of claims as to the case's performance. First, the case lets owners use every aspect of their phone, including full functionality of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor easily read my print through the membrane just as quickly as it would without the Catalyst covering it up. The screen also works just as it should. I saw no issues with respect to touch responsiveness and 3D Touch. The membrane fully protects the display from scratches.

Case with iPhone 7  

The Catalyst meets mil-spec 810G for protection from shock and drops up to 2 meters. I dropped the iPhone 7 repeatedly onto the concrete sidewalk in front of my house, onto loose gravel, onto hardwood floors, and so on. I dropped the phone face first, on its edges, and on its back surface. The iPhone 7 suffered no damage whatsoever with the Catalyst case on.

The iPhone 7 itself is water resistant. Apple says the phone can handle up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. The Catalyst case is waterproof to 10 meters thanks to the IP68 rating. This means you can take your iPhone to most neighborhood pools, drop it in the deep end, and take a nap with no worries. I set the phone in the river near my house, held it under running water, put it in the shower, and let it sit in a bowl of water for a while. The case is waterproof, of that I have no doubt.

The IP68 rating also helps protect the phone against snow, dirt, sand, dust, and other granular elements that might find their way inside. I buried the phone in some sand and it came away unscathed.

The case's design works well with the camera. Catalyst ensured that the portion of the case covering the lens is perfectly flat. This prevents dirt and other particles from becoming trapped near or over the lens, and it also makes it easy to wipe clean. The flash, on the other hand, can be obscured by dirt, so be sure to clean it out if the phone gets muddy. (Thankfully all you need do is hold the phone under a faucet to clean it off.)

I had no trouble making or hearing calls, listening to music, watching videos, or performing any other everyday task with the Catalyst installed on my device.

Discussion

There are a lot of cases out there. Many will prevent your phone from breaking when dropped, but few will protect your phone from an unscheduled dunk in some mud or snow. Catalyst's chief competitor in this space is OtterBox. OtterBox has a great selection of drop-proof cases, but none of them will save your phone from 33 feet of water.

The Catalyst's design makes it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who want to be able to bring their phone along on all their weekend adventures. It offers all the protection you need for an afternoon on the slopes, a post-rainfall mountain bike ride, a day at the beach, or a whitewater kayak trip down your favorite river.

All this protection doesn't come cheap. The Catalyst case for the iPhone 7 costs a whopping $80 (and $90 for the iPhone 7 Plus.) That's $30 more than comparable cases from OtterBox and double the cost of drop-proof cases from the likes of Moshi and Speck. If you think about the Catalyst case as an insurance policy, it's worth the extra cash, especially if you often find yourself using your device in truly hostile environments.

Our Ratings

4.5
Overall
 

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