You'll have to manage ergonomic issues and a big price, but this bumper sure looks nice.
If there's one recurring complaint of Samsung's devices, even with the updated design of the Galaxy S5, it's the use of plastic for the entire external build. Plastic is less expensive, easier to mold into a variety of shapes, colors and designs and offers many advantages when it comes to making devices that have various radios inside. That doesn't really matter, though, as most people would prefer that Samsung would step up their game in the materials department regardless.
Draco Design makes several beautiful cases for a variety of devices, and the latest Supernova aluminum bumper for the Galaxy S5 may be just what the doctor ordered for those who just can't stand the look and feel of a plastic smartphone.
No matter how you feel about the necessity of putting a metal surround on a plastic phone, the Draco Design Supernova bumper is a pretty wonderful piece of design. Made up of two solid pieces of milled aluminum, you can't help but stare at the gorgeous curves and two-tone color of this case. The Supernova bumper is defined by its curvaceous edges that swoop around the phone, bulging out a bit at the corners and tapering in again at the top, bottom and sides. Anodized colors — showing off both black and red in this review — are offset with "natural" silver accents that give it a slick look.
This case will get your phone looks and you questions every time you put it on a table, and it definitely won't be confused for some cheap $3 plastic case you bought on a whim. It stands out, and that's likely the main reason why anyone would consider buying a case like this.
Putting the Supernova bumper onto your Galaxy S5 is a bit more of a hassle than your average case, but it comes out of necessity because it can't simply stretch or bend to strap around your phone. It's still relatively simple though, requiring quick work with a small (included) screwdriver on two screws and removing a couple pieces of tape. The case fits snugly around the outside of the phone, even without cranking the screws down super tight. The power and volume keys are separate pieces that fit into the case and push the phone's actually buttons secondarily.
The unfortunate design flaw of this case is its thickness, which makes accessing the phone's ports a little difficult. The case has its thickest points at the top and bottom, of course colliding with where the USB port and headphone jack are. The USB port is relatively easy to access, but the issue is getting the small plastic flap off under the confines of the case — the door is already a bit tough to get off, and having a bunch of metal surrounding it doesn't help much. The headphone jack of course doesn't have a flap, but the case doesn't give you much room if you have any sort of non-standard headphones to plug into the phone. Any large or L-shaped connector will be either a very tight fit or something that won't work at all with this case on.
Less than ideal ergonomics
Like so many beautiful pieces of engineering, the real-world usability of this case is directly influenced by the visual design choices that were made. The sweeping curves and angular edges look amazing when the phone is sitting on a table, but in practice make the phone drastically more difficult (and painful) to hold. The issue is partly the fault of the Galaxy S5, which with its 5.1-inch display is just pushing the boundaries of what's easy to use in one hand in the first place, but the ergonomic issues are impossible to overlook.
More than a few times I was afraid of dropping my phone while trying to use it one-handed with the Supernova case on, making me wait until I had two hands available to use the phone securely. I usually have no problem handling larger phones considering my hands are above-average in size, but it was still an issue when I had the Supernova bumper installed. That's to say nothing of the sharp edges, which can dig into your hand a bit if you're not careful where you hold it.
You have to really love the design of this case
It's a shame that such a beautiful piece of design and craftsmanship has to be hampered by size and ergonomic issues, because I really do like the Supernova bumper case. It's an incredibly unique case that you just don't see every day, and the boost in material quality that it gives a Galaxy S5 is notable. But for $80, you're going to need to have a serious draw to the looks of this case to be able to put up with the usability issues it introduces to your phone experience. If looks and materials are important and you're not worried about the one-handed usability issues, this is the case to buy.