iPhone 4 Accessory Review: The Element Case Vapor Pro Limited Edition

We were pretty harsh when we reviewed Element Case’s Vapor for the iPhone 4; although all three of us absolutely loved the case’s form factor, we were appalled by the way that it slayed our iPhones’ signals. I even went so far as to scientifically test and verify the Vapor’s negative impact on the iPhone’s cellular antenna reception while attending an event at ETS-Lindgren. Fortunately the folks at Element Case were able to handle a bit of constructive criticism. and they reached out to us when their newest case, the Vapor Pro Limited Edition was available.

Would the Vapor Pro have the same issues as its predecessor? Or would it finally be the aluminum case that we’d been hoping for? I would soon have the opportunity to find out.

Right out of the box, I was impressed by the Vapor Pro’s packaging. As is befitting anything named “Limited Edition”, Element Cases went the extra mile to deck the Vapor Pro out with a few welcome bells and whistles. The newly designed aluminum case is presented inside a slim zippered EVA shell that will serve as an additional case for your iPhone when it’s inside the Element Pro — a welcome solution if you’ve ever worried about a metal encased iPhone rattling around in your pocket or bag. Granted, it will make answering a call that much more difficult, but you’re probably using a Bluetooth headset anyway, right?

Also included is a CNC wrench with a keyring attachment so you’ll never be stuck somewhere, unable to get your iPhone out of the case should it be necessary to use it naked with another accessory. Another impressive lagniappe is the inclusion of a carbon fiber back plate, an option that usually costs an additional $20.

When you open the EVA shell, which is basically a nicely done zippered foam shell covered in microfiber, the Vapor Pro is revealed. Immediately evident is that the aluminum shell is now slightly more than half composed of high quality molded ABS plastic; this is a good thing, because the use of aluminum over the iPhone’s antenna was presumably what caused all of the previous case version’s issues.

Case care instructions are included …

And all that’s left is to unscrew the little bolts and insert the iPhone!

According to Element Case, “An aerospace polymer insert prevents ‘detuning’ of the iPhone 4 antennas and alleviates the common ‘death grip'”, and you can see the black strip running around the interior of the case, most notably on the aluminum side.

The khaki color on black is a bit masculine, but there is no denying how good it looks! The use of ABS plastic keeps the case from being too weighty, but it still has a lovely heft to it. Note that there are vents cut into the plastic on the right side; it would appear that Element did not want to take any chances with the Vapor Pro fouling up the iPhone’s signal!

The cutouts for the earphone’s jack is large enough that it will easily accomodate non-Apple headphones; a bright silver metal cap covers the power button so that it can be easily pressed.

There is plenty of room along the left side for accessing the mute switch and the volume buttons, and upon first glance, it looks like the cutouts would probably fit the Verizon iPhone4. Element Cases says the Vapor Pro is for the AT&T (GSM) version iPhone 4 only, however, and whether this is because of a verified difference in antenna placement for the CDMA version or because Element Cases isn’t taking any chances, I couldn’t say. My suggestion is that you should take their word for it, though.

The cutout on the bottom of the Vapor pro is large enough that the case will work with non-Apple cables, but there will likely be issues if you try to use the case in a docking accessory like an in-car GPS cradle or a bedside clock-dock. If you don’t usually use docking accessories, then this won’t be an issue.

The only branding on the Vapor Pro is a subtle label next to the volume buttons.

The included carbon fiber back plate is an elegant way to finish up the package and protect the otherwise bare iPhone’s back. A silicone adhesive is used on the real carbon fiber cutout, so if you were to decide to swap out cases (as so many of us like to do), you could use it again. The secret is to carefully pull the carbon fiber plate off, rinse it off, and then stick it on a bit if wax paper.

Perhaps the best feature of the new Vapor Pro is that it has a negligible effect (if any) on the iPhone 4’s reception. Here is my iPhone without the case installed …

… and here is the iPhone 4 with the Vapor Pro installed. There is no difference, and when I made a test call, the party on the receiving end could not tell a difference between the case being on or off. While I don’t have another ETS-Lindgren visit scheduled in the near future, I feel confident saying that the iPhone’s antenna does not suffer from the use of the Element Case Vapor Pro, and it is finally the case that I wanted to see for the iPhone. Well, if they would offer the same set in some other colors — pink, silver, green, or orange — hint hint, I would like that even better. =)

The Limited Edition Element Pro is a beautiful, protective, and striking case. The combination of carbon fiber with aluminum and black ABS plastic is an absolute winner. The price is a bit steep — there’s no getting around it, but when you are talking about boutique items that are crafted with precision, you get what you pay for. The inclusion of the extra goodies in the Limited Edition kit makes this package a fantastic gift for an iPhone 4 owner’s graduation, Father’s Day or birthday. If you like the rugged look of a metal case, and the protection that is offered on all corners and the back by this one, then you can’t go wrong with the Element Case Vapor Pro Limited Edition. If we handed out editor’s choice awards on Gear Diary, this one would certainly be in the running!

The Element Case Vapor Pro for iPhone 4 and the Carbon Fiber Back Plate are available directly from the manufacturer.

MSRP: $149.99

What I Like: Precision crafted with highest quality materials; fits the iPhone 4 perfectly and protects all corners, sides and back; does not hamper the antenna’s reception; the Limited Edition kit includes enough extra goodies to dampen the sting of the price

What Needs Improvement: I would like to see other colors offered, but that is a personal nit-pick on an otherwise superb case

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.