Hydra-GS-1So we’ve been reviewing some #proof protective cases for your iPhone lately, we’ve thrown LifeProof and Incipio a run, and now it’s time for another case to go through the ringer, it’ll go through it, but will it be able to withstand all the #proof tests we’ll throw at it? We’ll see, but until we get to the Conclusion, let’s add some filler, shall we?


When considering the way we want an iPhone case designed, there really are so many different ways we can attack it. Manufacturers can make it sleek, bulky, ugly, flash, minimilistic, gigantic, neon, etc, etc, etc. iPhone cases flood your feed and our email day after day after day. I personally can’t stand it, yet I’m always the one emailing for review units. I love to plop my phone into case after case, whoring it out to any case manufacturer that will have it. Like most whores, my iPhone has the chance of getting wet, dropped or dusty, so I’ll do whatever I can to protect it. And with the mass amount of rugged cases that are coming out, it is our duty to find the best for you buck, a proverbial ‘bang’ if you will. From a design standpoint, the Hydra isn’t anything to write home about. Personally, I have been a big fan of everything Ballistic has to offer, until I was given the Hydra case. The bumper portion is what you’d expect from Ballistic, but almost on steroids. All of their cases have that same design around the edges, the Hydra is no different. But, because it is a rugged case, it is almost unusable. The lip around the screen is almost so large you can’t comfortably use the iPhone. And with the release of iOS 7, Control Center is almost a no-go, mainly because of the home button cover.

The case is bulky, heavy and not as sleek as the LifeProof Fre/Nuud. When a company releases a rugged case, the only competition that has a solid career in protecting your iDevices, LifeProof is what you would compare it to. The Incipio Atlas was still slim, but the Hydra adds way too much bulk to even think of using it longterm. All buttons and ports are completely protected and covered, but as you can see from one of the images below, the headphone jack sticks out a little bit. This could just be on my review unit, but it is tacky and just looks like a lazy design flaw. The camera port and flash are protected and easily accessible. I noticed no glare or imperfections when using the camera with this case, which is a nice plus.

Hydra-GS-3The case is a 3-piece design, the backing in which you place the iPhone, a screen you lay over and clamp down, and then the front cover that locks into the back piece. Extremely simple installation, which is a huge plus when considering the Hydra, but again, the design looks almost half thought out, but this is because of the Lightning/headphone jack flap that sticks out. Other than this issue, the design is sturdy, but really bulky and heavy. Even with the iPhone not in the case, I feel like I could chuck it down a mountain and it’d be fine, but when an iPhone 5 is concerned, I want to be weary about throwing my iPhone around, I don’t want the extra weight to be 100% sure it’ll be safe if it fell out of my skinny jeans.

The back plate is probably my favorite, the gloss backing is actually really pretty. Ballistic logo litters the side in a nonintrusive way, and a Hydra double-waterdrop logo is at the bottom of the back of the case.

One feature I don’t care for but that others might like is the belt clip/case that ships with the Hydra. I don’t like these but I know there are a lot of people out there that want their phone attached to their hip.

Everyday Use

So, using the Ballistic Hydra is where we really run into issues, like I mentioned above, Control Center in iOS 7 is a touchy (and by touchy I mean you can’t really touch it) subject. Typing along side side of the screen is hard because of the large lip that wraps around the front of the screen. When typing and using the keyboard in iOS 7, I had issues with letters/puncuations being recognized, I am not sure if it was that large lip, or the thick plastic cover that protects the screen.

Audio through the headset is echoed and somewhat hard to hear. I’ve been using a few rugged cases lately, and this is by far the hardest to hear the caller you’re talking to. The same goes for the speakers, these are dulled down and tough to hear, even on the loudest setting, which just in turns ruins it more because the echo from the sound bouncing around the inside of the case is just hideous.

Hydra-GS-2As far as button accessibility, the Home Button is very easy to access, no issues whatsoever, same goes for the volume rocker. Both protected and easy to press without any problems. The Sleep/Wake button is somewhat in between that and bad, it does require some pressure to get the iPhone to go to bed or wake up, it isn’t a deal breaker, but you can notice the harder press you’ll have to do. The worse button issue with the Hydra case is the mute toggle, I mean, what the heck was Ballistic thinking when they went with this design, I honestly had no idea what the crap I was doing when I tried to mute/unmute my phone. 3/4 of the time it didn’t work, and when it did, I wasn’t sure which way I was pressing and which results I was getting. The Hydra was all over the place. When I got it working, it was after minutes of fiddling and I never knew what I actually did to get my ringer active again. Luckily if I wanted it muted, I knew that the sound wouldn’t be that noticeable because of how much interference there was with the speakers, the inside of the case, and my ears.


Well, rugged cases are really starting to make their way into every pocket across the country. If you are active, or at least swimming a lot, so many different manufacturers have you covered. The Hydra retails for $80, which is a fair price for a #proof case, but when the LifeProof Fre is the same price, and the Incipio Atlas is $10 more, the Hydra is a dud. If it were around $30 cheaper, I would feel better recommending it. But at that $80 price point, I can’t at all give the recommendation to purchase this over anything else we’ve reviewed.

Button accessibility is rough with the mute toggle and Sleep/Wake button, screen accessibility because of the lip around the sides of the screen make it hard to access portions of the screen. It is heavy and bulky, and somewhat uncomfortable. Yes, it’s waterproof, rustproof and drop proof. I tested all of these #proofs, but that still doesn’t justify the price point especially considering every day use.

I recommend giving LifeProof or Incipio a look if you are in the market. Ballistic has let me down with this Hydra release, which is sad because of all they have to offer. They should stick to what they are good at, or at least head back to the drawing board.

More: Ballistic Hydra



7.2 Awesome
  • Protection 9
  • Design 6.5
  • Value 6
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About Author

Apple fanboy, alcoholic and video game player. I love all things 8-bit. I enjoy a good microbrew but love to drink the Pabst Blue Ribbon. I've been writing on blogs for a few years now, settling at Gadgetsteria.com in 2010, and now in 2014, Bitbitbyte.