LifeProof Fre and Next for Apple iPhone X: Useful when your phone must be part of your outdoor adventure

When I head out to the rivers for fly fishing, hit the road for cycling, or go running in the rain, I grab a water resistant phone. However, there is still the chance the phone may drop so I need more protection and that is where LifeProof has the answer.


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A couple of months ago, ZDNet’s Jason Perlow introduced readers to the different LifeProof models and for the past couple of weeks I have been using the LifeProof Next and LifeProof Fre with my Apple iPhone X.

LifeProof Next

The new LifeProof Next is the mid-level model of the LifeProof brand with the LifeProof Slam focused just on drop protection. The Next is designed to be dropproof, dirtproof, and snowproof.

The case consists of two pieces that snap tightly together to seal in your iPhone X. The back is composed of a rigid clear plastic that extends up to the four sides to hold your iPhone in place without any ability to shift.

The front piece has clear plastic and colored softer material that fits over the top of your iPhone X. After placing your iPhone X into the back piece, this top part snaps in place. Make sure to go all around every edge as you will hear a lot of clicking as the front locks in place. The colored material is available in black, gray, mint, and pink. I tested out the mint, aka Seaside, color.

There is a small toggle for the ringer switch and before you head out make sure that is positioned correctly. While I was taking the two pieces apart, it isn’t easy, I misaligned this toggle so my ringer switch didn’t work at first. I took my iPhone out and readjusted it to work and now it is perfect.

There are raised buttons for the volume and right side button with a door covering the Lightning port. These cases are better now that there is no headphone jack to accommodate.

There is no cover on the front of this case so if you want to protect the display then you should consider the Fre case or pick up a tempered glass screen protector. The iPhone X does have an IP67 dust and water resistant rating so you could drop your iPhone X in this case in the water, but I would try to avoid that if possible.

The LifeProof Next case is quite slim for a protective case and you no longer have to double the thickness of your phone to get a solid level of protection. It is available now for $79.99.

LifeProof Fre

For just $10 more, $89.99, you can pick up the LifeProof Fre that adds an integrated front screen protector and more seals for waterproof protection of up to two meters for an hour. If you take your iPhone on vacation to the beach or the pool, hit the snowy mountains during the winter, spend half of your outdoor life in the rain like I do, or want full protection for your iPhone then you should definitely consider the Fre.

The LifeProof Fre comes in six available color schemes: Night Lite (all black with lime green highlights), Drop In (mint, gray, and lime green), Wipeout (couple shades of mint and pink highlights), Chakra (purples and pink), Banzai (blues and lime green), and Fire Run (reds and gray highlights). I tested out the Banzai one, which is a close match to my Seattle Seahawks colors.

The additional interior O-ring, seals, and front plastic cover bump the dust and water resistance to IP68 with MIL-STD 810G drop protection. To use this case you first place your iPhone X into the front piece that is built up around the four edges with a hard plastic frame and soft rubber front. The material on the front helps you grip the iPhone X and keeps it from sliding around on a table.

The back piece is quite thin and houses the O-ring, embedded in a channel around the entire frame of the case, and seal around the camera and back. Snap this onto the back of your iPhone X and then snap the bottom Lightning port closure door to hold everything together.

In the past, these cases with integrated plastic screen protectors always seemed to compromise the touch experience at some level. I have not experienced any issues with Face Unlock, ability to perform things with touch, or even see much difference in clarity. LifeProof did a fantastic job with this design.

There is a vanity clear window on the back for the Apple logo, which is a nice touch. There is no headset jack on the iPhone X so there is no adapter in the box either. The Lightning port opening is large enough for virtually all Lightning cables too.

Wireless charging and Apple Pay work perfectly fine with your iPhone X in this case. I haven’t seen any impact on camera performance either.

It’s fantastic to see LifeProof create such a high level of protection in a case without making the case bulky. One reason I love using the Apple iPhone X is the small size of the phone. With the LifeProof Fre installed it is larger, but still very pocketable and I feel much better taking my iPhone out into the elements.

Chuwi SurBook Mini hands-on: A compact workhorse that ticks all the boxes

I have been using the Surbook Mini for several weeks now as my main work machine — initially as a tablet PC with a stylus, but for the last week, as a PC with the additional keyboard.

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At first glance, the Chuwi SurBook Mini looks exactly like its big brother, Surbook, which I reviewed in September 2017. But there are some subtle differences in this mighty mini.

Obviously, it is a smaller device overall. The product size is 268.9mm x 183.9mm, and it is 8.7-mm thick. The SurBook’s aluminium body has dimensions of 297.8mm x 203.3mm and 9.4mm thick. The Mini weighs 686g.

Inside this Windows 10 tablet PC, there is an Intel Apollo Lake N3450 quad core 64-bit CPU with a ninth-generation Intel HD 500 graphics card at 700Mhz frequency. Its 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage should be more than enough for the road warrior or commuter.

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The screen is an impressive 10.8 inches, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The side borders of the screen are quite wide at almost an inch. I do feel that Chuwi could have reduced the bezels and increased the screen real estate. Like the SurBook, the kickstand extends up to 125 degrees.

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The SurBook Mini has a simplified array of ports on the side of the housing. There are two USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C for video, audio, and device charging. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack. Its 8000mAh battery is more than adequate for several hours work

I was disappointed with the camera on the SurBook Mini. It has a 2-megapixel front camera and 2-megapixel rear camera. This resolution is perfectly adequate for video calls, but it lacked on still image quality. The larger SurBook managed to squeeze a 5-megapixel rear camera into its body.

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I noticed the difference between images taken with each device. However, this was not a showstopper for me, as I take most of my pictures from my mobile phone.

Installing Windows 10 was a breeze on this Windows 10 Creators Update 15063 build. Cortana voice prompts let you do most of the install by voice. After many, many Windows 10 installs, I really enjoyed this one.

Cortana is also ready as soon as the PC has finished building. Previously, I had to manually download the speech and language modules for UK English before I could use this feature. This version just works well. I was impressed.

Performance is good for such a compact device — faster than a lot of Android tablets I have tried — and the smaller format keyboard (additional purchase) is well laid out and has good key travel.

The additional stylus is very responsive. Overall, this is a very nice mini Windows 10 device, and for around $250, you cannot go far wrong.

Previous and related coverage

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The Chuwi SurBook is an affordable, high-performing alternative to the Microsoft Surface and the Apple iPad Pro.

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Chuwi has unveiled a Surface Pro 4 clone, but one that features Intel’s lower-end Apollo Lake processor.

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