AL13 slate

Aluminum is ubiquitous with Apple products, and to emphasize that association, case manufacturer “M” released a new iPhone bumper case simply named “AL13.” For the less science savvy folk, Aluminum, abbreviated “AL” is atomic number 13. Now, with a brief periodic table lesson out of the way, what makes this case special in relation to other similar cases?

Most notably, the design is extremely lightweight: a mere 14 grams. A slick looking, lightweight, and stylish aluminum case is not always easy to find. The goal of M’s entrepreneurs Lester Mapp and Jeremy Foster was to create the perfect aluminum case but provide the final product at a price point well below competition. Inside I take a look at their newest creation and determine if their goal is met…

Design

AL13 is a bumper slider case, requiring the iPhone to be inserted like a standard bumper. Once placed, a very thin rim slides in behind the device to lock everything together by snapping in place. It is well tailored once in position, and the user must very intentionally remove the rim once locked. Utilizing the thin back rim provides an uninterrupted four-sided bumper. The seam runs along the chamfered edge on the case back, which prevents it from attracting too much undue attention.

The aluminum look and feel all but perfectly matches the metal casing on the iPhone 5. Although, the AL13 slate color does not exactly match the hue of the 5. AL13 is made from Aerospace Aluminum, which is an alloy resistant to fracture and features a scratch proof rubber lining inside the walls.

AL13 blue

The rubber prevents damage inside the case, but does degrade call quality. M advertises a 5-10% loss, which it compares to 25% on other similar bumpers. I did notice a difference in call quality, especially in locations where I tend to already have a lower signal. The thin rubber layer may need to be increased to prevent further signal loss, like this previously reviewed case. However, with a thick rubber lining, the AL13 could not achieve such a low profile. I do not think the degradation is notable enough to prevent a purchase, but it is worth considering. I do agree with M’s claim to have less signal impact, as I have experienced much worse call quality with similar products.

I appreciate the limited branding on this case, as well. Some manufacturers feel it necessary to slather their product with branded logos or catch phrases. Like the simple design and function of the AL13, this case is void of similarly annoying marks, except two small 2mm square imprints on the left and right side. Finally, the product box is amazing. It is crafted completely of Aluminum with a custom cut insert for the case and an envelop of screen protectors. AL13 box

Conclusion

Total package presentation, this is a great product with the details considered. A small, thin bumper that matches the iPhone aluminum and clean trim line for protection. The port holes are adequately cut and the branding is kept to a minimum.

The biggest drawback is signal degradation. If you are frequently in places with low signal, do not buy this case. I have used other cases with a thin interior bumper that helps prevent call quality from being affected. AL13 sacrifices some quality for a lower profile. You will have to decide for yourself which is most important.

AL13 is available on the M website for $79.99, a price that is not for the faint of heart. This price is competitive with or slightly higher than similar cases, but the overall product experience is higher. I hate to say the packaging puts them ahead of the game, but it clearly exemplifies an impressive attention to detail. If there are two similar products, at the same price point, and one comes in a custom aluminum box and the other in plastic shrink wrap, I’ll take aluminum. AL13 is available in blue, slate, silver and red for iPhone 5, 4S, and 4.

Did M meet its goal? I say they are mostly there, but if the primary goal was a reduced price, they may need to readjust to the market.

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