Ah yes, Element Case, the harbinger of machined aluminum iPhone cases. Element Case for those of you who doubtfully are unaware of, are the makers of the Vapor Pro and Vapor Comp cases for the iPhone. One of the most amazing aluminum cases money can buy. Until now, there hasn't been a dock sophisticated enough to fit these brilliant cases perfectly in every way. Finally, Element Case's latest product isn't another good looking case, but rather a charge and sync dock known as the Vapor Dock. Made from what else, a block of cold aluminum. You better hold onto your socks, the full detailed review awaits you after the break!
Like all Element Case products, the Vapor Dock is made in the US and comes beautifully presented inside this gift box-like packaging. The Vapor Dock will set your wallet back in time at $120, making it one of the most expensive docks around. Albeit, there are even more expensive docks out there. As of today, you can grab one in either black or silver, both if you're fully loaded. Thanks to our good friends over at TekCases, we have not one but two Vapor Docks in black and silver. Double the drool and docking goodness for you all.
Hidden right underneath the dock are a few extras including a screw tool, two different sizes of back rest inserts (we'll get into their purpose later on) and straight forward, easy to understand instructions.
The Vapor Dock is just as amazing as anything we've come to expect out of Element Case. Leave it to Element Case to put out one well designed dock that's machined out of solid aluminum. The Vapor Dock is easily the most attractive dock I've ever seen. If Apple ever made a dock out of aluminum, it'll have the same amount of awesome sauce in the list of perfect ingredients that make up a dock. Element Case knows its stuff and it shows here. No matter the angle, the Vapor Dock is extremely attractive.
Talking about the exterior, the Vapor Dock has incredible smooth aluminum finished body that has been bead blasted for a matte texture. Pick it up and you'll immediately fall in love with its FLUX finish that feels silky smooth to the touch and just looks amazing up close. It's up to par with what Apple does with its aluminum devices, maybe even more refined. It has it all, the right amount of heft, desk (or whichever place you see yourself putting it on) presence and size.
Looks alone can only make you happy to a certain extent. What really matters is how well the Vapor Dock actually performs as a dock more than anything. For what it is, the Vapor Dock works as expected. Dock your iPhone in it and poof, your iPhone will get its energy juice and sync with iTunes. Nothing here is unusual or different. The Vapor Dock isn't going to perform any different than say a dock made by Apple. What the Vapor Dock does better though is the fact that it can accommodate different types of protective cases. Of course there is a limit to which thicker than usual cases will not fit. Aluminum cases and bumpers like the Vapor Pro, Vapor Comp, Draco IV and so on will fit in just fine. Cases that are unusually constructed or are bulky such as the SwitchEasy Melt, CapsuleRebel, Griffin Survivor, Otterbox cases and so on will not fit in as well. If you like your iPhone naked, that's fine as well. The Vapor Dock will work perfectly well with the iPhone 4/S whether it's skinned back to front or fitted with a glass screen protector.
When you're docked inside the Vapor Dock, tiny holes allow you to use your speakerphone without having to remove your iPhone while also enhancing the speaker audio. While I found that to be true, it isn't all too noticeable and you end up gaining more treble in the audio as a result and less of a full-bodied audio.
Besides being able to fit all iPhone models, the Vapor Dock will also fit just about every iPod including any iPod Touch with or without a slim case. My fat iPod Classic could only fit in naked, albeit it has a skin on the back. Depending on whether you'll be using a naked or cased iDevice with the Vapor Dock, you'll need to choose between two different sized back inserts that help keep the back of your device have better back support and fitting.
But you're still paying a hefty price for it, then you'd expect some slippery undocking action right? I was too, until I realized the painful truth. The question everyone's been asking is whether this would finally be the dock that'll let them pick up the iPhone without having to worry about the entire dock being pulled along with it. Well, the answer is no. Sadly, the Vapor Dock isn't the savior of iPhone and iPod docks. It's hefty yes, but Apple has made one secure connection with its 30-pin Dock Connector which simply creates too much friction requiring a lot of force to be pulled apart. And because the Vapor Dock is fitted with none other than a genuine Apple made Dock Connector sync and charge cable, the connection being made with the iPhone is just too strong to warrant a clean, one handed ejaculation. Ok that sounded bad. But you get the point. If you know of a dock that offers seamless one handed undocking goodness, let us know in the comments because we've yet to see one. Built-in docks obviously don't count.
As you can tell, the Vapor Dock pretty much has no padding or anti-scratch protection around the docking area. With that being said, you shouldn't worry about your device or aluminum case getting damaged or scratched from docking and undocking.
Around the bottom of the Vapor Dock, amongst many things is a neatly wrapped genuine Apple Dock Connector USB sync and charge cable which is already fitted in place. The included screw tool comes into play should you need to replace the cable which is done by removing the two screws that securely hold the connector in place. The two rubber feet work great to keep the Vapor Dock from sliding around and scratching your surface. It's worth noting that Element Case isn't using Apple's updated USB cables with the improved, longer connection stems, so you should be aware the potential fraying issues could occur if you aren't careful. The good thing is that you can easily replace the cable.
Some docks feature a line-out output around the back, and while the Vapor Dock has nothing of the sort, it compensates with a Ultrasuede covered storage platform and a clever cable management system designed into the bottom of the dock. Put your speedwrench tool on it for safe keeping or other little important things. My most favorite feature of all though is the Vapor Dock's cable management system. Pick the right amount of cable length necessary to keep a tidy desk and the Vapor Dock close to where you want it, and tuck away any excess cable inside the bottom while routing the cable thru the cable slot. Easy, quick and very effective. If you don't plan on charging your device, you can completely hide the built-in cable inside the cable management bottom.
The bottom line is if you're fortunate enough to have extra spending money laying around waiting to be spent on something awesome and is looking to get yourself a high quality charging dock, look no further than the Vapor Dock. Yes it's expensive for what it is and does, but nothing comes close to how well designed and constructed this dock is. For what it's worth, the Vapor Dock puts a checkmark next to every criteria we expect out of a dock. We would have liked to see a more unique, one step forward docking solution that didn't require you do hold down the dock in order to remove the device from it, even though that's far fetched; at a more reasonable price.