Catalyst Active Defense Vibe Series iPhone 13 Pro Max Case REVIEW | MacSources

6 min readOct 8, 2021

As life throws curveballs, let a Catalayst tip the equation in your favor

As I await the launch of the latest iPhone each September, I look to my favorite case companies to protect my investment. Even though many of the service providers have trade-up and trade-in opportunities, the prices of the newest devices can remain a bit obscene. In addition, I have never understood those who carry their naked phones in a back/front pocket or who toss a device into a phone or bag. Personally, I am quite a bit more risk-averse. Instead, I err on the side of extreme protection, opting for Hulk Buster, Total Event Proof Cases paired with a Nite-sIze holster to protect my phone. Luckily Catalyst provides a range of devices for our gear needs, whether you need a waterproof option or an everyday carry option.

The Catalyst Active Defense Vibe Series Case for iPhone 2021 6.7" (iPhone 13 Pro Max) arrived in a 4 1/4 inches wide by 8 1/8 inches tall by 5/8 inches thick hanging style retail package. The visually appealing front cover provided a plethora of focal points. To start, the vibrant white-colored product name listed along the top left of the panel contrasted beautifully against the blue water-like background. Beneath the blue layer, you will find a small white border surrounding a clear plastic window. I loved the ability to visualize the product, and believe that the cardboard camera accents added to the presentation. Beneath the window, the company provided two vivid, photo-quality images (mountain climber/kettlebell weight lifter) and two visual bar graph representations of the case defense statistics. First, the panel provided a dull grey shorter bar representing ~4-foot drop rating versus a bright blue Catalyst bar representing a 10-foot drop rating. The company noted that the catalyst defense provided 2.5x higher drop protection 10ft/3meter Mil-STD 810G than standard cases. Similarly, the lower bar graphs demonstrated a 30% louder sound for the catalyst case (96.5dBA vs 100.5dBA). I liked the visual representation and the use of color upon the white background. Lastly, along the bottom of the cover panel, you will find an orange bar with “iPhone 2021 6.7”,” “Active Defense Vibe Series,” and a QR Code with “SEE HOW IT WORKS” displayed atop another blue rectangle.

The right side panel, like the top/bottom rim of the cover panel, benefited from the same water-like blue surface. You will find Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube Icons along the top of the panel, an orange bar with iPhone 2021 6.7" along the middle section, and “5G MagSafe, AND WIRELESS Charging COMPATIBLE” along the bottom of the panel. The left side panel provided a life-sized 0.47"/11.95mm image of the side view of the phone. Despite my preference for a direct view of the product, the side view did an excellent job at detailing the grip, the volume up/down buttons, and the crown dial. Like the side, top, and bottom panels, the rear panel benefited from a wrap-around color scheme. The catalyst name was printed along the top, followed by the orange iPhone 2021 6.7" bar plus QR code (link to 15-second video). Beneath the blue rectangle, you will find a large white rectangle with two raised, glossy images of the catalyst Active Defense-Vibe Series case. The first image was a front/slant view of the case, which displayed the four corner attachments, lighting port, and forward speakers. The second image paired nicely with the side blue rectangular section. It provided labels for the raised edge protection, built-in magnets/Magsafe Compatible, Non-Slip Grip, and Ultra-Slim design. The bottom section provided a multi-lingual description of the above features, and a few caveats to the features listed above (drop rating for corner drops only, and the sound output results will vary). Lastly, the bottom panel provided a chemical warning, and a legalese paragraph about the warranty and trademark information.

To access the Defense Vibe Series case, I lifted the top flap, slid the white cardboard tray out of the packaging, and lifted the 1.5-ounce case from the cardboard platform. I liked that the cardboard tray had an image of the three cameras, and the Apple Logo. Once you remove the Defense-Vibe case, you will gain access to a QR code, which will allow you to claim your warranty and learn how to use the case. Before you dispose of the cardboard pedestal, make sure to remove the included wrist lanyard cradled within the small compartment at the top (7 inches long thicker section and 2 3/8 inches long thinner/loop section, plus rubber slider). Slide the volume toggle edge into the phone cases and press gently with your thumbs to install the case. Then press your thumbs along the top, along the left side (power button side) of the phone, and then along the bottom of the phone. Once installed, the case/phone weighed a remarkable 10.1-ounces and measured 3 3/8 inches wide by 6 5/8 inches tall by 1/2 inches thick. The right side of the phone case had a 5/16 inches diameter toggle dial, two 7/16 inches long by 1/8 inches thick volume buttons, and a 4 3/8 inches long by 1/4 inches wide textured grip. The left side panel had a single 3/4 inches long by 1/8 inches thick power button and a similarly-sized 7/16 inches long by 1/8 inches thick grip segment. The smooth rubberized material along the top and bottom panels wrapped around the side panels and abutted the grippy material on the side panels.

Each of the four corner panels provided an attachment point for various Catalyst accessories ( Catalyst CRUX Review), including the wrist lanyard. You can choose to attach one of the devices to any or to all of the corners if desired. This modularity could add a significant upgrade beyond the base features of the case. The bottom surface of the case had a 1/2 inches long by 1/4 inches thick lightning cutout, a small 1/16 inches diameter cutout, and two forward-facing 9/16 inches long by 1/16 inches thick speaker ports. The front cover of the case provided a protective raised edge against glancing blows. The rear surface of the case proved to be the most exciting. You will find a 1 5/8 inches wide by 1 11/16 inches tall camera section. Like the cover, the raised edges provided ~1/16 inches of elevation above the level of the cameras. The slightly recessed backplate had the catalyst name/logo etched into the lower section of the attractive geometric light/dark black square pattern. I loved the visual 3D/moving appearance and the textured grip feel.

Due to the cost of modern iPhones, I cannot afford to drop my phone purposefully. It is for that reason that I rely on companies like catalyst to protect my device. Even though I have read several critical reviews about a lack of third-party testing, I have been to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and personally watched the comparison drop tests. I do not doubt the ability of the catalyst cases to protect my iPhone. In fact, after testing/reviewing dozens of cases, my AirPods Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, my son’s iPhone 11 Pro, and two iPad mini 4’s are all protected by catalyst cases (many waterproof cases). After a solid week of using the case, I realized that the total protection waterproof cases were a bit bulky. The Active-Defense Vibe series case added little weight but drastically improved the drop resistance and screen protection beyond the au naturel state. I loved the raised bezels, the textured feel, and the ability to add accessories to the four corner portals. Each addition provides new features to the overall design. I typically keep the wrist lanyard and the ring/phone stand accessories attached to reduce the chances of a drop further and to help my 2-year-old to watch some Baby Joy Joy through Cocomelon. Beyond the features listed above, I truly enjoyed the click feel of the power/volume buttons and their responsiveness. I liked the easily accessible lightning port, the raised borders, and the overall feel of the case in my hand.

If you are looking for a tried and trusted case for your iPhone (new and previous generations), look to catalyst. Unlike the Total protection cases, the Vibe Defense case does not fully protect the screen. However, the raised screen protection will add a layer of defense. In addition, the case provided a large enough lightning cutout to accommodate larger cables, and the case did not impede wireless charging. As a bonus feature, the forward-facing speaker added a convenient boost to my Squid Game experience. Overall, I was quite pleased with the case and look forward to adding the tempered glass. For added protection, consider picking up a catalyst tempered glass (review to follow).

Learn more about the Catalyst Active Defense Vibe Series Case.
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Originally published at on October 8, 2021.




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