If you’ve owned a laptop in the last 20 years or so, you’ll be familiar with the Targus name – the company has made a name for itself with a range of mobile computing accessories over the years with a product portfolio stretching from mice through chargers to port replicators, laptop bags and cases. Targus is now diversifying into mobile phone cases, starting with a range of cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4. The range extends from basic snap-on shells to high end military-spec toughened cases, and with Targus’ pedigree in high quality accessories the pressure is on to deliver something special.
Targus has delivered five cases for review, three of which are in the ‘snap-on shell’ category: the Slim Laser, Slim Wave and the (aptly-named) Snap-On Shell. They’ve also delivered two premium cases, the SafePORT Rugged Case and the SafePORT Rugged MAX Pro Case, both of which are designed to protect your phone from a lot more than your average day-to-day knocks.
So, how do they fare?[toc]
The Slim Wave comes in three colours – Black, Fuchsia and Pool Blue – and is priced at $24.95. The outer shell is made of polycarbonate (plastic), while the inner lining of the case is a soft-touch material that’s designed to protect your phone. There are holes cut out for all your ports, buttons and camera.
When taking the case out of the pack, your first impression will be of the colour – the Fuchsia case supplied for review is quite bright, but it stands out enough that you certainly won’t lose your phone easily. The pattern on the back of the case appears to be styled after alligator skin, but it actually makes the case very easy to get a grip on.
The interior is supposed to have a soft-touch material lining it, and while it’s slightly less rigid it doesn’t really feel like something that will cushion your phone to any great extent.
The Slim Wave snaps easily onto your Galaxy S4, with a slight lip hanging over the screen of your phone to protect it when you lay the device face down. The cutouts in the case allow you to access the buttons, ports and camera with ease. The case can be fitted and removed quite easily, but there’s no need to fear that the phone will slip out – the case snaps around the phone securely.
The Snap-On Shell is a soft-texture polycarbonate shell that comes in Black, Crimson or Pool Blue. With a slim profile, the Snap-On shell adds very little bulk to the phone when attached. Due to the case’s ‘Easy Snap On’ design, it clips onto the Galaxy S4 very easily and remains attached quite securely. With cutout holes, you can again access everything on the phone quite easily.
The case is very comfortable to hold in the hand. While there’s no overt patterning on the case to grip, the slightly textured feel makes it sit quite comfortably in the hand, and it slips in and out of your pocket quite easily. The interior is textured similarly, and definitely won’t scratch or mar the finish on your phone.
With a slight recess around the holes cut out for volume and power keys, the case feels quite well thought-out, with access to the buttons very smooth and requiring no extra effort.
Although Targus named the review unit’s colour ‘Pool Blue’, I’d describe it as teal. It’s a nice colour nonetheless – certainly something a bit different, and it makes for an attractive combination when installed on a white Galaxy S4.
At $24.95 the Targus Snap-On Shell is a decent price, and adds a little protection from scratches and bumps.
The Targus Slim Laser case is “designed to support and accent the Samsung Galaxy S4’s design aesthetic and functionality”. Again made of polycarbonate, the case comes in Black, Crimson or Clear varieties with a laser-cut texture and matte metallic finish, but finished with a soft-touch material.
The Slim Laser case snaps onto the phone quite easily (as all the snap-on cases from Targus do), but removing the case was something of an issue – even after a couple of days, I still had problems removing it.
The “laser cut texture” on the back of the case feels a little harsh on the hand. While it certainly makes it very easy to grip the phone when holding it for extended periods of time, it tends to get uncomfortable. Unfortunately the promise of soft-touch material on the case doesn’t help.
While the case has holes cut out for buttons and ports, it suffers from a problem – with thicker polycarbonate material, the cut-outs tend to be further recessed into the case, making it quite difficult to press the S4’s buttons and could obstruct the USB or headphone ports depending on what you’re plugging in. This problem isn’t isolated to the Slim Laser, nor just the Targus cases.
At $24.95 you can pick one of these up in which ever colour you want as long as it’s Black, Crimson or Clear.
SafePORT Rugged Case
This case comes in two parts: a hardened polycarbonate outer shell, and a shock absorbing silicone lining that surrounds your phone. The outer casing includes holes for all the usual buttons, ports and camera while the inner lining has raised areas on the outside to match button placement, silicon flaps cover the USB port and headphone jack while the IR port at the top of the phone is left exposed.
Once your phone is placed in the silicon shell, it’s then a matter of manoeuvring it into the outer shell. I was successful after a couple of attempts, however the combination of the raised buttons on the silicon and the flaps on the ports makes this less straightforward as you’d think. This isn’t a detraction, though – if you’ve made the decision to live with a rugged case, you won’t be swapping in and out of it all the time. The secure fit is a big plus.
Once your phone is installed in the SafePORT you’ll notice that the silicone inner is actually partially an outer – the outer shell appears to be there mainly to secure the shock-absorbing inner lining to the phone, while adding a bit of rigidity to the whole setup. The bonus of this is that the corners of the phone are covered in silicone, helping prepare it for whatever comes its way.
The hard outer shell is nicely designed, with a chamfered curve on the edges where your hand grips the case making for a comfortable experience. The SafePORT does add extra size to the phone, but touches like this make the case easier to hold. The textured back of the polycarbonate shell also gives an excellent grip.
Targus supplied a blue version for review, but there’s also a black option available. Personally I like a single colour accessory, but the blue is quite a nice change. The only downfall is the white Galaxy S4 – a number of people specifically opt for the white version of the phone, and locking it into a black or black/blue case might not be something every user wants.
For a case that adds extra protection without a lot of extra bulk, the SafePORT Rugged Case is extremely good value at $39.95.
SafePORT Rugged MAX Pro Case
If you’ve looked at every other case on the market for the Galaxy S4 and decided it’s still not enough, why not take a look at the SafePORT Rugged MAX Pro Case? It’s just just rugged – it’s labelled as Military Standard, compliant with US MIL-STD-810F.
Where the SafePORT Rugged Case has only two parts and is mostly the silicone inner shell protecting your device, the Rugged MAX Pro adds more layers of protection, coming in 3 parts – a polycarbonate back and front piece, and a shock-absorbing silicone lining.
You start by enclosing your phone in the silicon liner, which again has buttons on the outside as well as flaps over the ports to add protection. The polycarbonate back piece has holes cut out for the usual array of ports, buttons etc. The case has fully enclosed sides, turning it into more of a container for your device though the silicon liner still shows through at the corners though for extra impact protection. The back also includes dust filters over the speaker holes for added protection.
Once your phone is enclosed in the silicon liner and polycarbonate back, it’s time to put the front on. The front locks into the bottom via six interlocking tabs (three per side) and includes a screen protector built into the case, adding another layer of protection to what is already a very protected setup.
Getting the Galaxy S4 in and out of the SafePORT Rugged MAX Pro isn’t easy, but it’s something you’ll probably only do once. When your phone is finally installed in the case, it feels safe. I threw caution to the wind and dropped my S4 from about 6 feet onto tiles – nothing. In fact, I think I heard the case giggle at me as if it were daring me to try more. Over several days of use, the phone has actually encountered a number of drops onto hard surfaces – road, concrete and carpet (no, reallt) – and shows no signs of wear.
The SafePORT Rugged MAX Pro can protect your phone – there’s no ifs or buts about it – and it even includes a Kickstand! There are often times when having your phone sit up on a desk or some other surface is useful, and the kickstand gives you this option. The stand is made of metal, and clips securely into place on the back of your phone. The stand positions the phone in landscape only unfortunately, however you’ll probably use it to watch video so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My one gripe with the stand is that it’s not actually recessed, and sits slightly above the surface meaning that it protrudes from the back of your phone, but it’s removable so this isn’t a big problem.
The SafePORT Rugged Max a great case, and well worth the $59.95 asking price if you are indeed serious about protecting your phone from … well, just about anything.
These days if you carry a phone naked, it feels like you’re inviting trouble. We all try to protect our devices as best we can, but accidents can and do happen. When they do happen, the small cost of a basic snap on shell like the Slim Laser, Slim Wave or Snap-On Shell or the larger investments of the SafePORT cases will seem insignificant compared to the cost of replacing a broken screen – or indeed, replacing a whole phone.
Of the five cases, my personal preference is for the SafePORT MAX Pro. After two broken screens and a cracked back on my Nexus 4, the combination of maximum protection with a built-in screen protector and the bonus kickstand just makes this case a no-brainer – for me, anyway. From a more feminine perspective, my wife opted for the snap-on shells due to the bulk added by the SafePORT cases options.
Targus has produced great quality cases here – the fit and finish of even their basic shells shows. You could purchase a cheap snap-on shell from any number of companies, but more often than not you’ll wait a number of weeks for them to arrive, in which time you could drop or break your phone. Targus has advised the cases will soon be available in-store at Harvey Norman, David Jones and other retailers, ready for you to pick up straight away. The choice, as always, is up to you.