Urban Armor Gear (UAG) is one of our favorite smartphone case makers. No one else has their kind of design, which has it all: attractiveness, hardy protection, and creditability. I’ve personally used their Plasma case extensively on past fragile Galaxy phones and it never let up, and looked the same after long use. I never once worried about the phone within, even with the fact that Galaxies use curved sides.
So we wanted to know what the company had going on for the newest Galaxy S9 and S9+. We got our hands on the classic Plasma case (for the S9+) and a variant we haven’t yet tried, the Plyo series (for the standard S9). Note that you can find the same cases for either S9 model. This Synopsis sums up what these two cases offer.
UAG isn’t a typical case maker that has a large repertoire of case types with varying materials. They’ve focused their efforts on one design that works perfectly, and has since iterated a couple variants off of that. In a nutshell, this design (initiated with the Plasma series) is one that perfectly balances appealing form with “rugged” protection. The industrial look may not be for everyone, but no one can deny that it’s a very well designed case that’s proficient at keeping phones safe.
- Slim form despite ruggedness
- Ample protection all around
- Substantial lip on top and bottom
- Ribbed sides to improve grip
- Enlarged button footprint
- Corner drop protection
- Expensive for a case
- Curved sides of Galaxy phone may still have vunerability
- Transparent plastic not “premium”-feeling
- Aesthetics may not be to everyone’s liking
- Limited color choices
What it’s like to use
- When we saw this Blue color on UAG’s product page, we were worried over it appearing bright and almost cartoon-y. Fortunately, the look is much better in real life. It’s a deeper blue than that and lush in color.
- Most of the case is semi-transparent, and we like the slightly darkened tone coupled with the black Galaxy S9+.
- UAG’s cases are rated for the military drop-test standard MIL STD 810G, and they feel like it in-hand. The case is tough to bend and comprised of thick plastic around the perimeter. The back panel utilizes a topographic, stiffener design that enhances its toughness, as well as a textured honeycomb pattern throughout the inside.
- Furthermore, the back of the phone gets extra support via circular, rubber inserts on the inside.
- The thicker bits are around the top and bottom frame, where the phone would most likely hit on a drop. UAG incorporated a matte, rubbery black material in these areas (thickened at the corners), which also serves as an eye-pleasing contrast with the colored plastic.
- On the back, you’ll also catch what looks like star-headed bolts, but these of course are for the industrial aesthetics.
- In-hand, it’s obvious that the Plyo shares a similar DNA as the Plasma series, but more basic styling. The back panel loses the stiffeners and honeycomb pattern for a more standard affair, but the case still feels more rigid than flexible.
- There’s a couple subtle design choices that helps UAG stay unique with this one: a slight trapezoidal slope to the back panel and hexagonal pattern visible from the thickened corners.
- There isn’t a contrast of colors with the Plyo. The perimeter gets the same transparency and coloring. Though, the top and bottom look darker we think because it’s thicker.
- Although minimal in design, the Plyo has the same kind of protection as the Plasma series. The frame still wraps very considerably and tightly around the phone and has a substantial lip at the top and bottom to protect the front of the phone.
- Both cases feel almost identical grip-wise. The transparent plastic is practically the same for both on the sides. We appreciate that UAG has adequate ribbing to assist with grip. Both this and the thicker, flat sides is night and day better than the handling of the Galaxy S9 itself.
- The button inserts are also the same in both cases, which I’ve always loved to use. There’s substantially more area to easily locate the buttons, as well as a thick texture too. They feel firm but easy to press – just perfect.
- The ports on the bottom of the phone aren’t hindered by the extra thickness. The holes are widened to make sure that most jacks will fit no problem.
- No case maker hasn’t been able to make a design that completely protects the Galaxy’s curved edges. Some thicken the sides and fill the curved space, and some just let the sides be. UAG is in the latter camp, opting to preserve the S9’s design. The sides have ample material to protect from profile impacts, but a face-down impact at a certain angle can strike the screen at the curve.
- It’s important to note that because the Plyo case doesn’t have all the texture on the back that’s on the Plasma, and more of the smooth plastic, it’s noticeably more slippery and shows smudges more. But you gain less bulk with its design.
We wish UAG cases were cheaper, so more people would try them. We’re not talking exorbitant pricing; both the Plasma and Plyo go for $40. But we can’t ignore the fact that there’s several case makers out there that offer about the same qualities at half the price.
However, none have this particular styling coupled with top-notch protection in a non-bulky form. UAG does cases very well, and it’s a proven design. If you plan to keep your phone for the long-haul, $40 actually isn’t a lot to ask for, for a case that checks all the boxes.