TPU meets ABS in the HandHeldItems Dual Armor Composite Case [Review]

If you’re looking for a proper case for your Nokia Lumia 920, not only have you probably abandoned the notion that weight is a burden, but chances are you’re looking for something reekish and shouty. Odds are, the HandHeld Items Dual Armor is your cup of NOS Mountain Energy Supplement.

If there’s one thing I first thought of when I spotted this case on Amazon, it was the MJOLNIR-armored protagonist from the best-selling console game series, though only in all-black. The case is two pieces; the inside layer of TPU rubber designed to absorb impact and have good grip around its un-glossed ridges, and the outside plate of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, if you must know) to make the case more rigid. The inside TPU layer is available in a rainbow of colors, including blue, pink, lime-green, and white.

The exterior plate really makes the design of this case stand out, with the extra curvature it adds to the back of the device, and the rubberized paint finish which makes the texture not too different from that of HTC’s Windows Phone models. The ABS piece also features a stand for viewing the device on its side; it angles the 920 at about 30 degrees when extended. The case weighs 48g, bringing the Lumia 920’s total to 234g (my device does weigh an extra single gram on my scale).

Installation and removal is easy; just wrap the TPU piece around the phone, then snap the ABS piece, button-side first, into place. However, you do have to press in on the hard piece to make it sit properly inside the indentation in the TPU material. Even then, the ABS piece never seems to be fitted correctly. Imagine trying to give some big object a hug, and the goal is to try to touch your fingers on the other side; the hard component can’t reach all the way, no matter how hard you push on it. Then, there’s the finish. The plastic mold lines are still very much there.

However, not only can you only tell that they are there unless you really try, but the product was only $10, not $41 like the Speck CandyShell Grip case I reviewed earlier. That isn’t to say that there are some who definitely won’t tolerate more than an occasional trifle, and this case has more than twice the visible imperfection that the Speck case had. Yet, unlike the Speck case, these imperfections aren’t causing detriment to the durability of the product.

The case leaves very slightly less visible red on the front of the device, as well as covering more of the bottom, than the Speck case. The thickness at the top of the case is also small enough to allow most all 3.5mm plugs to connect to the device. The camera opening is fairly large, though I’d say the extra color from any shade of Lumia 920 that is exposed will compliment the all-black model.

With the good news out of the way, the bad is that the buttons are extremely hard to press. Though I can get used to it for adjusting volume and pushing the lock button, this makes it very hard to use the 2-stage camera button. My hands can start to shake well beyond the capacity of the OIS before the shot is taken, and there is virtually no feel to the hardware, so you have to guess when the button is being fully pressed. Needless to say, it would be easier to turn tap-to-shoot back on than struggle with the hardware button.

In case you wondered, the case easily took on several waist-, chest-, and head-height drops. In one instance, the button-side of the TPU case got pinched back behind the screen on impact. I don’t truly suspect that such a hit could knock the case off entirely, but the screen might become exposed to direct impact in such a case. A screen protector, such as the Zagg invisibleSHIELD I have on mine, could prevent scratches or possibly even absorb enough force to prevent breakage if such a scenario were to occur.

Conclusion: Buy, Try, or Cry?

I don’t think five people in the same room could try this case and come up with the same opinion. On the one hand, this case looks like a monster, takes a hit like one, and sure feels like it would. Others surely won’t want the slightly-crazed armor design, preferring something more sleek, such as the Otterbox lineup for the 920. The shady fit-and-finish and the difficulty with the hardware buttons are also good reasons to keep hunting for a case. The case’s price of $9.99 also means that you won’t lose too much if you buy it and wind up hating it. If you want a hard-as-rock case on the cheap, get it, but if you want something that will look nice from every angle and be easy to use all-around, search elsewhere.

Just a note: A Try verdict for a physical product purchase is intended to signal that there is no bottom-line for most consumers looking for the type of product being reviewed. Readers should weigh the pros and cons mentioned in the article when deciding to purchase a product. I also apologize for poor image quality in this review.

[via HHI]

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