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ZAGG Arsenal case for Apple iPhone 5s: Solid protection without compromising the touch experience

I enjoy using ZAGG's keyboards with my iPad and their latest Arsenal rugged case for the iPhone is excellent. It is lightweight, well-designed, and reasonably priced.
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By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
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1 of 16 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The review unit came in a metal box

Just about every iPhone I see out and about is wrapped in some type of case and many are designed to protect the iPhone when dropped since the iPhone is one of the most expensive phones on the market. ZAGG sent along their new Arsenal case to test out and I have to say it is one of the best rugged cases I have tried and it is reasonably priced too.

The Arsenal package is composed of four pieces, including their invisibleSHIELD Extreme protector, inner soft silicone shell, outer hard plastic shell, and front plastic frame.

The Extreme protector is the case friendly version that sells for $29.99 by itself. It is advertised as military grade since it is created from the same film used to protect US military helicopter blades. It has nano-memory technology to give is some self-healing properties, similar to what LG is now installing on the back of phones like the LG G Flex.

To make sure that the inner and outer shells fit without disrupting the protector, it is set in from the edges. Thus, unlike some other rugged cases the entire front is not protected. Then again, I found there was no sensitivity difference with this protector while I can’t stand the lack of touch sensitivity found on nearly all other rugged cases that end up causing me to keep my iPhone out of those cases.

The inner shell is made of soft silicone material. No matter what outer shell you choose, the inner shell is gray in color. There are some fairly rigid cells along each side that appear to be for shock protection. There are also six raised circles embedded in the back that also appear designed for shock resistance. Openings are in place for the camera and ringer switch with bottom openings and covers for the Lightning port and headset jack. There are raised areas for the power and volume buttons.

The outer shell is available in black, blue, mint, hot pink, red, and white. The plastic is very rigid and feels like it could take a serious drop. It is also quite light and the entire case only weighs in at 1.92 ounces (54.43 grams). The shell covers the entire back, most of the top and bottom, and in select spots along the sides. There is a bit of texture on the back and sides to help provide some grip in your hand.

After installing the screen protector, wrapping the inner shell on your iPhone, and snapping it into the back plastic piece you then snap in the front frame piece to hold it all together. This frame piece is also gray in color on every model. It snaps in six different places and as you press it on you can hear them lock into place. To remove the front frame piece, you pry your finger into one of the slight openings in the upper two corners.

The Arsenal is a pretty awesome rugged case and I couldn’t believe how light and sleek it was. There is very little added bulk from the case to provide this protection. Keep in mind, this is not a waterproof and dustproof case as there are openings around the screen and at the bottom. It is designed for slips and drops while providing some resistance to minor splashes and dust.

I like that the ZAGG Arsenal still fits into my jeans pocket and doesn’t collect a ton of lint while allowing me to pull it out quite easily. The protruded buttons work well and always let me perform my intended action. I love that the screen protector provides excellent clarity and full touchscreen sensitivity.

The ZAGG Arsenal is available now for $49.99, which is $10 less than other competing cases like the Otterbox Defender. The major difference for me is that those other cases have integrated screen protectors that kill the iPhone experience for me.

Further reading

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ZAGG provided a funny pamphlet in the review package

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Showing why the Arsenal is so good

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Arsenal case retail package

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Here is the back of the Arsenal in black

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Package contents

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Three shell pieces of the Arsenal case

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invisibleSHIELD Extreme in place

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Top of my iPhone showing the invisibleSHIELD Extreme

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iPhone with inner silicone shell in place

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iPhone with Arsenal front frame piece snapped on

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Back of the Arsenal

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Left side of the Arsenal

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Upper back of the Arsenal

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Bottom showing the two plug covers

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Opening the plugs to access the Lightning and headset ports

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