Review: Freeform3 Atrio Aluminum Case for iPhone 5

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When I first saw the Freeform 3 Atrio Aluminum Case on Kickstarter I knew it was something special.  The case was flat out gorgeous and before the company had even asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one, I backed the project.  I’d reviewed Freeform’s Gorilla Protection Glass Screen Shield here and was impressed by it so it was sort of a no brainer.  I’ve had the case for sometime now.  While it met my initial impressions from the moment I removed it from the box, the case does suffer from, what is for me, a fatal flaw which seems to plague aluminum case after aluminum case.

The Atrio Case is simply one of my most favorite iPhone 5 cases to date.  I’ve had a really hard time taking it off my phone (not because it was tough to do so psychically, but because I liked it so much.)  Perhaps you’ll like it so much you’ll be able to look past it’s flaw, or perhaps this flaw won’t even effect you.  You’ll have to read my full review to find out the deal on the Atrio case.

Read on through for my full review.

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Inside the packaging you’ll find the case along a ton of extras.  These include a tempered glass back plate, second colored button insert with extra adhesive pad, front screen shield, dust removal shield, certificate of authenticity and a microfiber cloth.

Here’s what Freeform3 has to say about the Atrio Aluminum Case for iPhone 5.

The Atrio is a protective solution for your iPhone 5 that is CNC machined from a single block of air-craft grade Aluminum. This case will maintain the elegant shape of your iPhone 5 with it’s minimalistic design features. When desiging this case, installation was also a key element. We wanted a simple screwless installation, so we engineered a slide to lock mechanism.

Our team did not just stop at designing the Atrio Aluminum Case. We wanted users to be able to keep our packaging, so we came up with an ingenious idea to re-use it. Our package also functions as a Smart Dock. Lay your iPhone 5 on it in portrait mode, and it will amplify the sound of your music and videos. Lay it in landscape mode and surf websites, view e-mails, etc. with ease. There are also holes cut out so you can stick your iPhone’s USB cord in the desk companion and charge your iPhone while it is docked.

The combination of the Atrio Aluminum Case and the Smart Dock Packaging is the perfect solution for your mobile lifestyle.

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The Atrio case is being offered in four different color variations.  You can choose from Matte Silver (as I have for review), Espresso, Studio Black or Graphite.

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This case is essentially made up of three different components.  The bottom section, the top section and the tempered glass back plate.  The top section does have a removable and interchangeable insert for the buttons.  The Freeform3 logo has been printed on the lower right side of the bottom portion of the case.

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To place the case on your iPhone 5, you start by insert your phone into the top section.  Then you slide in the tempered glass back plate.  Finally you complete the installation by inserting the bottom section of the case and locking the two sections together.  To remove the case you simply push up on the tempered glass back to separate the two sections.

Once it’s all on your phone the Atrio case feels very solid.  The bumper portion feels as though it’s a one piece design.  There’s no movement or creaking at all.  The tempered backplate does slide a tad when you push on it but this isn’t something that’s noticeable during normal use.

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The Atrio case does yield access to all of the iPhone 5’s ports and controls.  Along the bottom of the case you’ll find one large cutout.  This opens up  for the microphone, for the Lighting port and  for the speaker and headset jack.  On the left side of the case there’s an ample sized cutout for the mute switch.  Both the volume buttons and sleep/awake buttons get replaced by a plastic insert.  These still offer a decent amount of feedback when pressed.

The plastic insert is meant to help eliminate any reception issues (more on that later.)  You’ll have the choice of two different colored inserts (my review sample contained one black insert and one silver.)  You’re free to swap these easily as they are just held in by tape.

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There’s plenty of lay on the table protection with the Atrio case too.  The lip of the case comes up onto the screen of the iPhone 5 so that when you place your phone onto a flat surface, screen side first, the case will make contact first, not your phone’s screen.  This does not prevent you however from using a tempered glass front screen shield if you desire, or any screen shield for that matter.

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Now for the million dollar question which is asked with all metal iPhone cases.  Does the Atrio Case impact reception?  The answer, sort of.  While I had no issues with cellular reception, GPS, or WiFi when using the Atrio Case I did notice one pretty large issue.  When I place the Atrio Case onto my AT&T branded iPhone 5 I immediate lose my LTE service.  The phone drops down to 4G (see screen shot above.)  I tested this repeatedly and found it happening every time I placed the case on my phone, without fail.  I reached out to Freeform3 to ask about the problem and they assured me that they are continuing to address issues like this.  I’m not sure that they’ll be able to correct it in time for the launch of the Atrio Case though.

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As far as what sort of impact the loss of LTE means in real world data use, I decided to run some speed tests.  Without the case on, with LTE I averaged 18 mbps up and 9 mbps down (yeah, AT&T LTE isn’t great in my area.)  With the case on, no LTE, only 4G, I averaged 2 mbps up and .10 mbps down.  These numbers are pretty telling.  It’s hard for me to express my disappointment in them.  I really dig this case, however, with data speeds like this, it’s not something I think I could use as these numbers aren’t even close to being near each other.

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The other cool thing about the Atrio case is the fact that the packaging the case comes in can be used as a stand for your phone.  It works in both the landscape and portrait positions.  The brushed metallic look of the packaging compliments the look of the case nicely.  When placed into the stand the phone feels very stable and secure, no matter the orientation.  I never once felt as though it might tip over or be knocked out without warning.

Check out my full video review below…


So why I absolutely adore almost everything about the Atrio Case I simply can’t use it.  For me personally, the immediately loss of LTE on my AT&T branded iPhone 5 is not something, as a consumer, I think I should have to experience.  I’m paying and paid to have the feature on my phone and putting something on my phone that knocks it out just doesn’t make sense.  Now, if you live in an area that has no LTE this obviously isn’t an issue for you and you should totally grab one of these cases, you will not be sorry.  The Freeform3 Atrio case is one of the best looking, full bodied, protective cases for the iPhone 5 I’ve seen.  It’s designed with Apple’s philosophy in mind and looks as though it could be easily slapped with an Apple logo and placed on the shelves of Apple’s retails stores as one of their own products.  I just hope Freeform3 is able to solve the LTE issue for the future.

You can learn more about the Freeform3 Atrio Aluminum Case for iPhone 5 by visiting this page on the company’s web site.

Check out the Kickstarter project page, which just got fully funded, here.

MSRP:  $89.99

PROS:  First case with tempered glass back.  No tools required.  Looks amazing.

CONS:  Renders LTE useless.

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Larry

Larry has always had a passion for gear and gadgets. It all started for him with the release of the very first Palm Pilot. He has always had an interest in handheld electronics. From handheld PDAs, to cell phones, Mp3 players, watches and other products, Larry is the first person his friends, family and colleagues call when they need advice on tech.

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