Rustek Axis Inlay iPhone X case review: Wood can cure your aluminum ennui

Wood-inlay iPhone X case cures aluminum ennui [Review]


Rustek Axis Inlay wooden iPhone case
Do you respect wood? Rustek does.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Just how much aluminum and glass can you take? If you’re a longtime Apple fan but you’re getting bored with your devices’ sleek surfaces, wood could be the answer.

In particular, wrapping your iPhone in a wooden case from Rustek might cure you of your aluminum ennui. With eye-catching graphics made of laser-cut wood veneers, these cases look really different.

In my case, I’m not so much covering up metal as I am protecting my iPhone X’s frighteningly glassy back. Sure, Apple calls it the strongest glass ever used in a phone, and it’s wrapped in a solid steel chassis. But it’s still glass, and it will scratch or even shatter if you abuse it.

Axis Inlay iPhone X case review

That means putting on a proper case. The Axis Inlay iPhone X case by Rustek offers crucial protection while maintaining the svelte profile that many gadget lovers crave. The bold, geometric graphics on the $40 Axis Inlay case remind me of something M.C. Escher might have appreciated, but Rustek offers other cool designs, too.

Rustek is run by a pair of brothers out of Portland, Oregon, who also make skateboards (which bear similar graphic design). For their Rustek iPhone cases, they bond the super-thin hardwood veneer elements together using a layer of epoxy. That makes the cases flexible and strong, and imparts a supremely smooth surface.

Instead of using a polyurethane finish over the hand-inlaid veneer, Rustek uses hard wax oil. The treatment means the cover feels like actual wood rather than plastic. It also protects the wood from water damage, which was a major fear of mine.

You’ve got to respect wood, you know?

I used the Rustek Axis Inlay case on a trip through Portugal and Spain. During that two-week jaunt, my iPhone X occasionally found itself lying on damp surfaces (water, wine, olive oil etc.). After weeks on the road and in the air, with near-constant use in beautiful quintas and astonishing seafood stalls, the case looks none of the worse for wear. The walnut, sapele and oak veneer inlays still look stunning.

Rustek iPhone case is not all wood

Wooden inlays form a geometric design on the Rustek iPhone X case.
Wooden inlays form a geometric design on the Rustek case.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

If there’s one weak link in the Rustek Axis Inlay case, it’s the shock-absorbent rubber enclosure. The wood veneer is only on the back of the case, so if your phone is sitting face-up, it looks like a plain black device. There’s nothing wrong with that look, but it’s really basic — the total opposite of the attractive wooden back.

The rubber case doesn’t fit particularly tightly, either, which is both good and bad.

It’s easy to get on and off (a joy when you’re swapping out a SIM card in an airport restaurant), but it’s also a smidgen loose at the bottom. It feels like it might actually break at some point if I’m not careful. In fact, a rubber seam on one corner of the case seems in danger of opening up, but I’m pretty sure that’s a result of a drop.

As with similar designs, even the lean extra bit of case around the Lightning port means the Axis case won’t work with every single cable on the market. On the plus side, a knurled effect on the sides of the case gives it plenty of welcome grippiness.

Wood and aluminum: Opposites attract

There’s a reason so many product designers marry the cool sheen of aluminum, steel and glass with the warm look and feel of wood. The contrasting materials prove naturally appealing, each showcasing the other’s strengths. That’s why wood Apple Watch bands are taking off.

If you feel lost in a sea of space gray shades, a Rustek wooden iPhone case will root your gadget in the real world. Wooden that be nice?

P.S. Rustek also makes cases for Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel.

Buy from: Rustek

Rustek provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more stuff we recommend.


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