by Tommy Ly
January 28, 2012
Recently, we told you about the Optrix HD sport case that essentially turns your iPhone 4/4S or iPod touch (fourth generation) into a rugged, water resistant, mount anywhere sports camera (see: GoPro). Optrix was kind enough to send me one to test, so let’s see what it can do. Inside the Optrix box were the Optrix waterproof case (which features a 0.5mm membrane that allows you to interact with your device’s touchscreen while it’s in the case and a metal pin that pushes through the case to activate your device’s lock button), the iPhone and iPod touch “sleds” (red), a curved base (for helmet mounting), and a flat base (for anywhere else you might want to mount your phone). A metal quick release handle secures the clear case to the mount of your choosing. Individually, each piece doesn’t look like it can offer much protection for your precious iDevice, but looks can be deceiving. The Optrix case feels like an old cassette tape box, while the membrane feels like it can break or detach itself from the case with minimal effort. Surprisingly, it can take a good amount of abuse. I dropped a small hammer onto it several times with no signs of the membrane starting to break. On their own, the sleds look like generic third party iDevice cases, but are actually perfectly form-fitted for your device. Once you’re ready to start shooting, putting your device into the Optrix takes a few steps. You must put your iPhone or iPod touch into its respective sled, then push it down into the Optrix. There is a small tab on the sled to help with removal, however, it may prevent the top of the case from closing. Thankfully, the instructions say it is fine to push the tab down to allow the case to close. After the device is safe in its sled, and the sled is safe in the Optrix, it all gets sealed in with a suitcase-style closure. One lever on the lid of the Optrix case catches a lip on the bottom portion, and you pull another lever which pulls the case together sealing it shut. A metal latch then hooks on to the top of the Optrix, preventing it from opening. Your iDevice is now ready to take on some extreme outdoor shenanigans. Sadly, there is nothing extreme to do outdoors where I’m located, so I thought I’d see how well the Optrix would hold up against high speeds and bumpy roads. To do this, I mounted the Optrix on a motorcycle helmet, then the roof of my car. Using my phone through the protective membrane worked with no problems whatsover. After a few last-second checks, I was good to go. I should note that I used the same mount with the same 3M mounting pad for both applications and it held up just fine, with no apparent loss in adhesiveness. As you can see, the mount absorbs shock very well and anyone with an iPhone 4S will get the added benefit of automatic video stabilization. I wasn’t too worried with my phone falling off while mounted to the helmet, but I was worried the wind speeds while driving would turn my phone into electronic roadkill. To my surprise, the mount was completely secure while driving 50-60 mph. I would have gone faster, but I didn’t think the Optrix would’ve gotten me out of a speeding ticket. The Good The Optrix HD is very sturdy when it’s put together. While I didn’t sacrifice my phone for a drop test, I don’t doubt that my phone would be fine from a reasonable fall at a reasonable speed. Thankfully, if for some reason your case gets damaged, Optrix will send you a new one for $20. The Optrix HD is easy to set up and you can order as many mounts as you may need (which may also be a bad thing). The Bad It would have also been nice to include extra adhesive strips. Each base comes with an adhesive strip attached, but unless you buy more, you’re stuck with one flat and one curved surface to mount the Optrix on. That is, unless you’re willing to rip it off one surface and put it on another, like I did. Also, I wish that there was a way to mount your phone on something vertical while your device was in it’s landscape orientation. Being restricted to horizontal mounting surfaces and device orientation wasn’t ideal to me (I HATE iPhone videos shot in portrait). Verdict For its price, I think that the Optrix HD’s price ($89.99) is only worth it if you’re in the market for something like the GoPro ($149-$299) and would use it often. Prior to this, I’ve been using a generic smartphone tripod mount and Joby Gorrillapod to mount my phone on random things. My setup cost me about $30. Having to spend an extra $10-$20 on extra adhesive strips and mounting bases will add up to be a big pain over time, especially if your wallet’s still mad at you for spending $89.99 on a case that you may not use very frequently. So, overall, this isn't a product for everyone. Though, I admit, I would recommend it to someone that I knew was already in the market for a sports camera, and just so happened to have an iPhone 4/4S or iPod touch. It's price can only be justified by how much use you would personally get out of it. It works as described, but may cost you a lot of money in the long haul. You can check out the Optrix HD, videos, and more on the Optrix website.