—Edit 8/30/13: An earlier version of this review referred to the Avivo Rail Carbonite case. Avivo is not, in fact, trying for a Star Wars tie-in, so the article has been updated with the correct name: Rail Carbonate.–
Avivo’s approach to iPhone case design involves a modular setup that lets you choose which components to use, based on either your design aesthetic or the level of protection you’re going for. The newest addition to their Rail series, the Rail Carbonate, is composed of rubberized bumper and hard plastic jacket components. You can opt for full protection with the rail and jacket together, or you can go for either piece independently. With an unusual combination of materials and suave sci-fi look, the Avivo Rail Carbonate is a stylish protection option for your iPhone 5.
Full Plastic Jacket
The foundation of the Avivo Rail system is the jacket, which is essentially a thin profile plastic shell case. Certain design variants feature additional materials, but the the Motif White we test combines a perforated plastic back and white rubberized outer rail. Other styles include the Visor, which is a frosted black plastic; Monaco, which has the look of a fine suit cloth weave; and Suede Black (that one’s self explanatory). You can use the jacket by itself just like any other shell-style plastic snap-on protective case, providing scratch and dirt protection without getting in your way. This option gives you a slim and slightly retro looking case that protects the back and sides of your iPhone 5, while leaving the screen and all buttons fully accessible.
The cases have a vaguely ’80s look, mainly attributable to the curved-off rhomboid cutout for the camera/flash that hearkens back to the decade of big hair and excessive use of basic geometric shapes. Not to be lost in a flash of Like a Virgin nostalgia, Avivo’s kept it modern with premium materials like the use of copper on the inlaid Avivo logo, which is actually a very posh touch. Avivo’s cases definitely stand out for their use of unusual materials and designs, and that’s not an easy task given the sheer number of iPhone cases available.
On the Rails
Avivo includes a rubberized bumper called a Rail, which can be used to provide more robust protection and a grooved outer surface for improved grippiness. You have two choices for installing the rail: on top of the jacket for the full Rail Carbonate experience, or by itself with the use of a slim plastic adapter you slide around the outside edge of your iPhone. Although the Rail alone looks cool (actually besting Apple’s iPhone 4 Bumpers in the looks department), this setup is virtually impossible to remove from your phone because the inner adapter is microscopically thin and fits flush inside the rail. I had to resort to tweezers and some eyeglass screwdrivers; luckily the Rail and Jacket combo doesn’t have this problem.
The image below is actually the similar Rail Aluminum series, which features a Rail constructed of aluminum, but it still gives the general idea of what an iPhone looks like sporting just the Rail bumper.
The Jacket by itself provides you with a basic level of protection for your phone, while the full Rail+Jacket gives you enhanced drop protection and easy access to almost all ports/switches. The rail includes a set of copper buttons for volume up/down functions, which ties quite nicely to the visual element of the Avivo logo. Like most ruggedized cases, however, the full Rail+Jacket setups makes reaching the mute rocker somewhat difficult. The Rail includes cutouts for the Lightning Adapter and headphone jack, with perforations for the iPhone’s speakers and mic. Sound quality was virtually unchanged from a naked iPhone, so you can add protection without hindering your iPhone’s functionality.
Avivo’s goals for the Rail Carbonate are to give you stylish and customizable protection. The company touts the customizability of the Rail Carbonate, but you have to buy them in full sets of a Rail and Jacket. Want to mix a white Rail with the Suede Black Jacket? You have to buy two full kits, which will set you back almost $100, so the mix and match idea is somewhat less than useful. The inherent customization of one kit is really amazing, though, as you it gives you essentially two cases in one. You can pop the Rail on just for a day when you’ll be on the go and are liable to have an accident, but keep the basic Jacket for days when you’re parked at a desk (easily worth the price).
At anywhere from $40 to $50 Avivo’s Rail Carbonate case line is priced for the premium market, but they’re worth it for two reasons. First, the materials and construction are top notch. Second, the flexibility of having a single case that easily transitions from light to more rugged protection will be very useful for many people.
Buy the Avivo Rail Carbonate Case
Provides: Scratch, drop, and scuff protection
Minimum Requirements: iPhone 5
Price: $39.99 – $49.99