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We broke $9,000 worth of phones to find the toughest iPhone X case

We challenged 12 case makers to a live drop test at CES and dropped their cases from 20 feet. These were the last ones standing.

Vanessa Hand Orellana CNET Senior Editor
As head of wearables at CNET, Vanessa reviews and writes about the latest smartwatches and fitness trackers. She joined the team seven years ago as an on-camera reporter for CNET's Spanish-language site and then moved on to the English side to host and produce some of CNET's videos and YouTube series. When she's not testing out smartwatches or dropping phones, you can catch her on a hike or trail run with her family.
Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables, smartwatches, mobile phones, photography, health tech, assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Vanessa Hand Orellana
Lexy Savvides
4 min read

Even if you've never dropped a phone in your life, putting a case on it is almost non-negotiable. Especially if it has glass on either side, like the iPhone X , the Galaxy Note 8  or just about every other major flagship phone from LG to Samsung.

Need convincing? Just take a look at some of our drop tests. The iPhone X cracked on the first drop, from pocket height!

But cases seem to be a dime a dozen, so how do you know which one will keep your phone from shattering? That's where we come in...

The challenge

We invited the top case makers in the market to participate in a live drop test at CES to find out which one could survive the highest drop.

And 12 of them took us up on the offer: Caseology, Rokform, Thanotech, BodyGuardz, Tech21, Pelican, PureGear, Zizo, Spigen, RhinoShield, Supcase and OWC showed up at the CNET live stage at the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES 2018. Each brought their own brand-new iPhone Xs (still in the box) and their toughest case so we could drop them onto concrete slabs. Things escalated pretty quickly after that.

Round 1

We started off our first round testing out the claim. This is the maximum drop height that the case is designed to withstand according to the manufacturer. Bumpers, covers, massive cases and screen protectors were all fair game as long as they were included in the box.

Each case was dropped screen side down onto concrete slabs. For drops higher than 6 feet (roughly 1.8 metres) we used a scissor lift and tape measure. But since we're only human, there was no way to guarantee that each phone would land exactly the same way every time. So this is not meant to be a scientific test and more of a real-world scenario. Here are the results:

iPhone X cases, round 1

Manufacturer NamePriceDrop heightSurvived? (Y/N)
Caseology Legion$13.954.5 feetYes
Rokform Reactor$996 feetYes
Thanotech K11 bumper$34.959 feetYes
BodyGuardz Ace Pro$34.9510 feetYes
Tech21 Evo Check$39.9510 feetYes
Pelican Shield$59.9912 feetYes
Puregear Dualtek$34.9912 feetYes
Zizo Bolt cover$34.9512 feetYes
Spigen Pro Guard$59.9916 feetYes
Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro$19.9516 feetYes
OWC NuGuard KX$4916 feetNo (damaged pixels)
RhinoShield CrashGuard$24.9916 feetNo (cracked screen)

Note: Some case makers like RhinoShield decided to start higher than the maximum drop height claim on the box.

OWC's phone survived the drop without a scratch, but upon closer examination we found that the screen had a few damaged and discolored pixels. For the purpose of our competition we decided that kind of damage was enough to disqualify contestants.

That left us with 10 survivors. The two cases that made it to 16 feet (4.9 metres) automatically qualified for the second round, but we gave everyone else a chance to compete by dropping their cases from the same height. And everyone else took us up on the offer.

Round 2

All of the cases that made it to our second round already proved their claim and kept the iPhone X in pristine condition. Even the lowest claim (4.5 feet or 1.4 meters) was higher than the height our naked iPhone X was able to withstand. From this point on, our drop tests were purely for the sake of our competition given both the phones and the cases had already been compromised from the first drop.

We then dropped the 10 remaining contestants from 16 feet on the scissor lift.

iPhone X cases, round 2

Manufacturer NamePriceDrop heightSurvived? (Y/N)
Caseology Legion$13.9516 feetYes
Rokform Reactor$9916 feetYes
Thanotech K11 bumper$34.9516 feetNo (cracked screen)
BodyGuardz Ace Pro$34.9516 feetNo (cracked screen)
Tech21 Evo Check$39.9516 feetYes
Pelican Shield$59.9916 feetYes
Puregear Dualtek$34.9916 feetNo (screen did not turn on)
Zizo Bolt cover$34.9516 feetYes
Spigen Pro Guard$59.9916 feetNo (damaged pixels)
Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro$19.9516 feetYes

That left us with six cases still in the running: Caseology, Rokform, Tech 21, Zizo, Supcase and Pelican. Which meant we had to take them even higher.

Round 3

To say these cases had gone above and beyond their call of duty was an understatement. At this point we took the scissor lift to 20 feet (6 meters), the maximum height possible without busting through the ceiling above the CNET stage in the Las Vegas Convention Center. All six case makers took us up on the challenge to drop their cases a third time from this height.

This savage round left us with Rokform, Zizo, Supcase and Pelican.

Round 4

We still had four cases in the running and nowhere else to go, so we turned to our live audience for ideas. The consensus was to drop them a fourth time from 20 feet, but this time on their side instead of face first.

All four of them survived, but the Rokform case dislodged on one of the sides upon impact leaving one of the corners of the phone exposed. This caused a small scratch on the metal border which meant they were disqualified.

The winners

After four falls (two each from 20 feet) the Pelican Shield, Zizo Bolt and Supcase's Unicorn Beetle Pro refused to crack. We had found the winners of CNET's Best Case Scenario 2018.

Read more: 

All the cool new gadgets at CES 2018

See all photos