1. jean15paul's Avatar
    I wanted a new case for my phone. I wanted something eye catching, unique, and slim. While searching for cases made of unique materials, I discovered Carved. Carved makes cases using real wood for iPhones, Samsung Galaxy line, and most of the recent Nexus phones (5, 6, and 6P). This is my review of the “Random Puzzle Traveler Case” for the Galaxy S6 edge, which I’ve purchased and have been using for a little over a week.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-case.jpg
    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-inside.jpg

    Physical Design
    Let’s start with the basics. Carved’s Traveler cases are essentially one-piece soft rubber cases that wrap around the sides and onto the front of the phone and feature a real wood panel inset in the back of the case. All of Carved’s android cases are Traveler cases, though there are other options for iPhones, which I’ll mention late. The soft rubber, wrap-around sides of the Traveler case make it the most protective of the cases they offer, so I would have chosen a Traveler case even if I had access to the other options. The case is well constructed. All of the ports and cutouts are in the appropriate place. The rubber has a diamond pattern on the sides for extra grip, except at the buttons, which are covered and will be discussed in the usability section. Interestingly the soft rubber on the sides transitions into a harder polycarbonate on the back. I assume this is to make the back stiffer to avoid flexing the wood too much. I’d also add that this case does seem to offer the protections you’d expect with a wrap-around rubber case. I’ve dropped my phone several times from waist or table height and both the case and phone are no worse for wear, but I haven’t done any scientific drop testing, so your mileage may vary.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-bottomcutouts.jpg
    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-topcutouts.jpg

    Carved offers various designs of cases using at least 12 different types of wood. The choices include cedar, black limba, reconstituted ebony, mahogany, cherry, walnut, padauk, paldao, purpleheart, redwood burl, walnut burl, and natural bamboo. There are also a few made from recovered 18th century naval timber. Prices range from $24 to $53. This is real wood people, not fake printed wood grain. The pictures don’t do these cases justice. The wood looks even nicer in person and feels just like you’d expect wood to feel. There are basic designs that feature just a single finished wood panel and more elaborate designs that add images engraved into the wooden panel or that combine pieces of different types of wood into an inlay or pattern. I chose the “Random Puzzle” which features individual puzzle pieces made of different types of wood that are combined to make up the wood back panel. I must say that I love it. The case is beautiful and provides the protection that I expect from a rubber wrap-around case.

    Also when I said I want something eye catching I just meant something that is attractive and looks appealing, which this case definitely is. But it’s also eye catching in the sense that people notice the case. From across a room or more than 20 feet away, no one would notice that it’s real wood, so you won’t have strangers approaching you on the street. But when you’re at a restaurant with friends or someone comes into you office, it gets noticed. I’ve had several friends and coworkers interrupt conversation to ask me about it or reach over and touch it. (But I work with a bunch of socially awkward engineers, so again, your mileage may vary.) The fact is that when the light catches the individual grains, there’s no doubting that this is real wood. Also, this seemed obvious to me, but more than one person has asked me this, so maybe I should point this out. The individual puzzle pieces are glued in place, you can’t take them apart and put them back together.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-casewphone.jpg

    Regarding usability, this case has some pros and some cons. The wrap around sides raise the glass off of the table, allowing you to put your phone face down safely, which is often a concern among people who use cases. When face down resting on the rubber, the case is a grippy as you’d expect. When on its back things are a little different. Since the back is made of wood it has much less grip than rubber or TPU. It’s fine on a flat surface, but the first time I put my phone back-down on a sloped surface it almost got away from me. This is probably no different from a case-less phone, but if you’re used to having a grippy rubber case, this is something to be aware of. The textured diamond patter on the sides gives a lot of grip for your fingers when you’re holding the phone.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-frontwphone.jpg

    That brings me to the biggest issue with this case, the buttons. Again, the buttons are covered by the sides. The textured diamond pattern stops at the button, but the buttons aren’t raised enough to give them the feel you’d expect. They just feel like a smooth spot on the side of the case. This is good enough to find the power button since it’s the only button on the right side of the Galaxy S6 edge, but after using the case for a week, I still can distinguish between volume up and volume down on the left side. I end up having to poke at the area of the buttons randomly until I find what I’m looking for, or to stop what I’m doing and actually look at the side of the case to find the buttons. My son, who regularly plays games on my phone, has had the exact same problem. I’m still happy with this case overall. The button issue isn’t a deal breaker for me, and I’m hoping over time, I’ll get used to it. But if having trouble finding the buttons is a serious concern of yours than this might not be the case for you.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-leftbuttons.jpgReview of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-rightbuttons.jpg
    The Bottom Line
    This Carved “Random Puzzle” case is beautiful and very well-made. It’s mostly very usable, except for some trouble finding the volume buttons. Even with the more limited selection for Android phones (only the Traveler line is available) there are still 50 different designs available for the Galaxy S6 edge, so I’m sure you can find something you like. And if you can’t, Carved offers custom engraved cases. You can either design one using their “clip-art” style designer or upload your own image for engraving. If you have an iPhone they also offer a line of wooden skins, a line of “Slim” cases which are hard plastic snap on cases coated in soft touch with the same wooden panel on the back, and a line of two-piece solid wood cases. Carved is a small business in Elkhart, Indiana, so if supporting a small business or buying American is something that matters to you than you have additional reason to support Carved.

    Overall, if you want a unique, eye-catching, protective case, and you aren’t going to be driven crazy if you have trouble finding the buttons. I’d highly recommend any of the Carved Traveler cases. I’d give this case a 4.5 / 5.0, losing a half of point for the button issue.

    Review of real wood case, Carved "Random Puzzle" Traveler case-allcontents.jpg
    B. Diddy likes this.
    04-25-2016 04:23 PM
  2. B. Diddy's Avatar
    Nice review, and nice looking case!
    jean15paul likes this.
    04-26-2016 01:47 PM

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