What's hot: Good protection and an excellent holster.
What's not: Bulky.
Reviewed September, 2010 by Tom Slayton
Ballistic’s Hardcore (HC) Case does not suffer from an identity crisis. It sets out to be the toughest case on the market and it may very well have succeeded. From the thick, protective snap-on cover, to the rubber outer layer, to the built-in screen protector, it is clear that this case is dead-set on protecting your iPhone from its deadliest enemy: You. An included heavy-duty holster almost dares you to flaunt your geek and wear the phone proudly on your hip, in as undignified manner as is possible (pocket protector and slide rule not included).
Size and Fit
The Ballistic HC case is big. However, if you’re in the market for a rugged case, going big is the unavoidable tradeoff. The inner hard case snaps together snugly and is unlikely to come apart unless you wish it. Just to be safe, however, the case comes with a thick rubber outer layer for shock absorption. All of the components fit together beautifully and feature full-function covers for all controls and flaps to cover the phone’s normally exposed docking port, headphone jack, and mute switch. Lastly, both front and rear-facing cameras are fully functional, yet are protected by a clear plastic cover.
Features and Quality
The HC Case is very well-made. Although they must have been highly motivated to get this in production as soon as possible, they didn’t cut any corners. Whether you’re a geek (like me) who likes to wear your phone on your hip, or have a specific job (like me) where this is a necessity, you will be quite comfortable with doing so due to the toughness of the case and the excellent holster. I spent some time trying to concoct a scenario where the holster might release on its own and I simply couldn’t manage it. While it comes out easily with firm finger pressure in the right place, it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to reproduce this action accidentally.
One feature that is missing from this product that I found myself longing for was the ability to use the holster as a hands-free iPhone stand. There were also a few other issues that arose while I put this case through its paces. First of all, the case provides only enough space to allow the use of Apple’s docking cable (or one of similarly small dimensions). Even if the connector is only slightly larger, the tolerances here are pretty low so it’s unlikely to work. Second, the ridge that surrounds the screen is a bit too high, making it difficult to navigate at the edges of the screen. And third, there was a slight gap between the screen protector and the screen, right at the edges. You will likely only notice this if you are a gamer, however. As with other cases that offer screen protection, if you install the phone in the case and find that the screen appears to be plagued by oily patches where the protective cover comes in contact with the screen, try passing the top portion of the HC case through a puff of talcum powder or two before installation. It will completely resolve the issue.
The Ballistic HC Case embraces its bulky, clunky, chunkiness and actually makes it stylish in the process. The edges of the case have low ridges that not only make it easy to grip, but also enhance its mystique as the biggest and the toughest (like wearing a Hummer on your hip). I quite like the way it looks, however, this is obviously a matter of taste so take a good look at it before you buy.
Ballistic Hardcore Case succeeds at being tough and rugged. The inability to use the holster as a hands-free stand is sorely missed and the narrow docking port access may be a problem for some. However, those issues are likely to affect only a small percentage of those looking for a case in this category. If you need serious protection you’d be hard-pressed to find better.
Pro: It’s tough! Excellent holster. Built-in screen protector and covers for the ports means this case may even provide protection from moderate moisture. Outer flexible layer is easily removable if you find it to be occasionally too bulky. Finger ridges on the sides mean you are probably not dropping this case unless you want to.
Con: It’s bulky! Opening for docking port is very narrow, precluding the use of many 3rd party cables. Protective ridge surrounding the screen is a bit high, making it difficult to access the touch screen near its edges. Slight gap between the screen protector and the screen at the edges makes the screen somewhat less responsive in those areas.