GadgetTell Review: Lenmar Meridian iPhone 5 Battery Case

Sections: Accessories, Apple, Communications, Smartphones

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External battery packs are pretty darn awesome and have been getting more awesome over the past couple of years. Capacities and features have gone up while size and prices have dropped. Despite the benefit of being able to charge multiple devices from a single external battery pack, there is a growing appeal for smartphone cases designed with a built-in battery only for the phone.

It’s likely the combination of clever design and illusion that delights, adding mystery to how the smartphone is still dressed slim while packing more power.

Not everyone will agree, but there are those who need only their phone to last longer through the day and nothing else. So why not a just a case? It’s less to carry and you don’t need to fiddle with connecting an external cable.

Lenmar Meridian 1

Lenmar Meridian Case with the iPhone 5

The Lenmar Meridian battery case for the iPhone 5 is just that, while also looking pretty darn good in the matte black finish.

The case as a whole provides a nice heft and balance to the phone while it’s resting in the palm.

The package comes with the two halves of the case, a micro USB cable, and an audio jack extension cable.

Instructions too, if you’re into that.

The tactile feel of the case is what stands out first. The surface is smooth yet not entirely slippery; The case has grip yet it’s not too rubbery. What this means is that you can negotiate the Lenmar Meridian in and out of pockets without having a wrestling match in your pants.

Lenmar Meridian 2

Notice the slim edges on the sides, top

The iPhone 5 slides into the bottom half of the Meridian, and the other half softly clicks shut on top. Through normal use, the top half of the case never popped off. Drop tests were of a different matter.

Though the top portion of the case is easy to remove, it takes deliberate action to remove the phone from the bottom, which is good. There is no wiggle or movement by the iPhone 5 once it’s been seated.

This precision manufacturing ensures no potential damage to the connector or simply having the bottom half of the case slip off over time.

Much like a tailored suit, the Lenmar Meridian fits snugly while maintaining the iPhone 5’s slim looks. The case adds only a few millimeters on each side, but most importantly it adds a couple on the front too. You’ll find that there is a ridge line that hangs over the top of the screen like a lip. It holds the smartphone in and provides separation to surfaces when it’s lying face-down, so the screen won’t scratch.

Lenmar Meridian 3

Oooooo, beauty

The Lenmar Meridian has button and port cut-outs instead of covers.

While I didn’t have any problems with reaching the buttons through the recesses, those with larger hands (mine are average-sized, bordering on small) might frown once in awhile while adjusting the iPhone’s volume.

Button covers can be frustrating in their own right, too. They can be slightly off-set, too sensitive, or not sensitive enough. At least the cutouts let the iPhone’s natural beauty shine through.

Note: Most external battery packs I’ve ever purchased and used came only partially charged, so I’ve always made it a habit to fully charge them before use. I tend to fully charge and discharge a new battery a few times before use, just so I can level out the charge states of the individual cells. It helps to maximize the battery’s manufacturer-listed potential.

The Lenmar Meridian packs a 2300 mAh battery, which is sufficient to give an Apple iPhone 5 one additional full charge. Compared to the stock iPhone 5’s 1440 mAh battery, it might seem that the Meridian should provide more. But the current technology of external batteries require a third of its own power to deliver the remaining two-thirds. The Lenmar Meridian falls right in line with the math.

The Lenmar Meridian features a single LED to show the battery status. Red means low; Blue means somewhere in the middle; Solid green means totally full. The LED flashes green while charging.

Lenmar Meridian 4

Power button lies flush

Some people might think that the case should have more indicators showing multiple levels of charge, but I disagree.

The Lenmar Meridian case gives an iPhone 5 one additional full charge and no more.

Why dirty up a fine looking design with more lights and holes? Anyone purchasing this type of case to help their iPhone 5 get through a full day is going to have to recharge it that same night to prepare for the next day, right?

The power button is flush with the case and requires a 3-second hold to switch on and off. This is a big deal to me, since I have been frustrated in the past by battery packs running themselves down from accidental bumps. I handled my iPhone 5 and the Lenmar Meridian through hours worth of pocket- and bag-time and not once did I ever catch it accidentally turned on.

The Lenmar Meridian is a fantastic case to keep your iPhone 5 clean and scratch-free. It may not the best choice if your smartphone tends to rough things out. I ran the iPhone 5 and Meridian through my own series of drop tests: being backhanded off of desks, stationary drops at chest-height, waist-high drops while jogging, and the haphazard flinging by a 7-month old baby sitting in a high-chair.

Note: I attached a screen-protector overlay to prevent any potential scratches to the precious, expensive iPhone 5 screen.

Lenmar Meridian 5

Excellent case for an excellent iPhone

Most of the drops separated the top part of the case from the bottom. A good number of those drops launched the top part skittering a few feet away. Single bounces before a landing were fine.

It was the multi-bounce flights that were of a concern, especially if the top had been flung off. Good physics and bad luck can tumble the top of the iPhone and suffer it some nicks or scratches in those situations.

Other than that, it did its job well (and I’m sure my tests lean towards an extreme) without taking on too many permanent marks.

The case is easy to clean. Simply wipe it off, maybe with a slightly-dampened cloth if necessary.

Overall, the Lenmar Meridian is gives a piece of mind that an iPhone 5 can make it through a day of heavy use and be protected against bumps and spills. The design is smart, classy, and doesn’t appear to interfere with the phone’s speakers or reception.

The only real drawback that I can point out is the inability to use the iPhone 5 with lightning-connector accessories. This isn’t a problem for me (since I have none), but those with special docks or speakers may find it a nuisance to remove the case in order to use them. I, personally, have micro USB devices all over so a charge cable is always in reach.

The audio extension cable, while necessary in many situations, is simply awkward to carry. If you happen to leave it in another pocket or bag when you really need it, you’re out of luck. But this is the current norm for these type of cases. It would be nice, though, to see new battery cases with some sort of built-in audio pass-through to eliminate the need for that cable.

Compared to the competition, the Lenmar Meridian is going to give you the best bang for the buck. When it all comes down to it, we’re talking about getting the most capacity for the dollars spent. Lenmar owns that title while providing a brand name you can trust (don’t buy off-brand ones from Amazon – I was fooled once) with style you can appreciate.

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