he Galaxy S4 is Samsung’s newest flagship phone, and while it can survive the occasional drop to the ground, there is no disputing that the phone is largely made from plastic. Especially the battery cover, which is nothing more than a thin layer of plastic. So it stands to reason that you’d want to wrap the handset in a case.
Element sent me their Atom S4 case a few weeks ago and I’ve been using it ever since. It provides ample protection to the phone’s bevel and back, and also includes a nifty feature that slightly boosts audio and channels it to the front, something element calls SBS, or Sound Boost System). Lining the back of the Atom S4 is what the company calls a genuine carbon fiber protective back plate, and although it’s weight saving is negligible, it’s a nice touch.
The version that I received was clad in neon green highlights that cover the edges of the case and surround the carbon fiber back plate. This I could live without, but much like the rest of the case, these parts are made of a soft plastic that absorbs shock better than hard plastic.
The power and volume keys are covered using “molded buttons”. They work, but are frustrating to using as they significantly reduce the stock tactile buttons and on more than one occasion either shut my phone down or caused my phone to ask me if I wanted to power off instead of locking it. That said, it also takes a bit more force to get the button to react than they normally would – you’ll have to mash on the volume rocker to get a response. Fortunately, the S4′s home button is left untouched and the microUSB port is, along with the other ports (IR, headphone jack, etc) are left unhindered.
Unfortunately, Element doesn’t state the weight of the Atom S4 case. But relatively speaking to the S4 it isn’t feather weight. So in the pocket I was able to detect that extra sag or weight. But compared to the Atom S4′s size that’s a moot issue. The Atom S4′s SBS system and button coverings add enough width to the the Galaxy S4 that it will no longer fit into my car’s cup holder. It’s also easier to detect when the Galaxy S4 is in my pocket with the Atom S4 on, which is both good and bad. The S4 is also transformed from a sleek and svelte phone to one that is chock full of groves, though with that comes an easier to hold phone, and an easier to hold phones means less drops.
Taking the Atom S4 on and off the Galaxy S4 is just as simple as pulling or pushing. No real effort was needed on my behalf and nor did I feel any strain on the S4′s body when removing it. If you’re patient and have a steady hand, Element includes a wrist band that threads through the corner of the case. Why you’d want to add this is beyond me.
Protection the Atom S4 case provides. But with it comes the caveat of added bulk and some weight, though that last issue will be moot for some. The Galaxy S4 is an extraordinary phone and the Atom S4 does little to hinder it, with the exception of portability and pocket comfort. The SBS speaker channeling is a nice touch, but thanks to Samsung, who includes a slight raised grill over the speakerphone, audio channeling isn’t as big as an issue as the Nexus 4. Some will enjoy the Atom S4′s carbon fiber finishes, while others might find it to be a bit OTT. Personally, I’m not a fan of the neon green accents, and putting aside the difficult button coverings it’s a solid case.
Bottom Line: the Atom S4 adds notable protection as well as some size and color (available in gray too). However, the buttons are bit stiff and lack tactile response.