- 1 Bellroy Leather Case
- 2 Catalyst Impact Protection Case
- 3 Gear4 Battersea
- 4 Gear4 Crystal Palace
- 5 Google Fabric Case
- 6 Kerf Wood Case
- 7 Nomad Rugged Case
- 8 OtterBox Symmetry
- 9 Peel Glass Screen Protector
- 10 Speck Presidio Grip
- 11 Spigen Liquid Air
- 12 Spigen Thin Fit
Times have changed since the era of the $349 Nexus 5 and $499 Nexus 6P; instead, practically every flagship smartphone nowadays, Google's included, costs at least $800. The $800 Pixel 4 and the $900 Pixel 4 XL feel pretty great in the hand caseless, but if you don't want to risk damaging your shiny new gadget, a case is a must. A screen protector would be good to have, too.
This roundup will feature a wide variety of cases (and some screen protectors). Each review will contain the pros and cons, a few paragraphs on the experience, and a verdict. We will continually update the list as more cases come in. If there's a case you'd like to see reviewed, let us know in the comments section and we'll try to get a sample for review.
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Bellroy Leather Case
Having tried out Bellroy’s offerings for both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3, I had a good idea of what to expect going into this Pixel 4 version. As anticipated, not much has changed, meaning that it still isn’t a particularly good case. Those looking for a leather Pixel 4 case should probably take a look at the less imperfect Nomad Rugged Case, reviewed below, instead.
|Design||It looks nice, and there are a variety of color options.|
|Buttons||There aren’t any, only cutouts that are too small.|
|Leather (again)||It still doesn’t feel particularly good, and the edges don’t seem like they’d hold up.|
|Price||This feels a bit too cheap for $40-45.|
I really hate to bash on Bellroy for the third year in a row, but the reality is that the cases just don't seem very well-designed or well-made. The highlight here should obviously be the leather, but it's really some of the cheapest-feeling leather I've felt. It's extremely dry and devoid of that true leather feel. I'd say it's a bit better than last year's thanks to a slightly finer grain, but that's really not saying much. The only upside of this leather is that it seems more resistant to scratching and denting than what Nomad uses.
The rest of the case isn't much better. The border not only feels cheap, but is also very thin, meaning that it isn't great for shock absorption. The lip up front does clear a glass screen protector, but it's thin in a way that makes it uncomfortable to hold and even swipe on and off the screen. The buttons, like previous iterations, are simply cutouts. The Bellroy border is thin, but not thin enough to make button cutouts work correctly. As a result, pressing buttons becomes a chore. The other cutouts are decent.
Bellroy must be turning a decent profit on these if it's been using the same subpar design and materials for so many generations. However, I just can't recommend this when the much better Nomad Rugged Case is also on the market. Yeah, the Bellroy is $5-10 cheaper than the Nomad, but that's $5-10 I would gladly pay for a far nicer experience. The Pixel 4 model costs $40, with the 4 XL version coming in at $5 higher. Both variants are available in black, caramel, graphite, and coral.
Verdict: Buy the Nomad Rugged Case instead.
Catalyst Impact Protection Case
There aren't all that many protection-oriented cases with clear backs on the market, so I was curious to see what Catalyst would deliver with its creatively named Impact Protection Case, especially given the steeper $40 price point. For diehard fans of clear backs, I think this case is worth the money.
|Design||The blocky look is fairly unique, and the clear back works well with the Pixel 4's look.|
|Protection||The sides are very thick, and I don't doubt the MIL-STD 810G rating.|
|Lanyard||There's a loop on the bottom right, and it comes with one included in the box.|
|Clear back||Scratches and fingerprints appear in no time.|
|Price||$40 is quite high for a clear case.|
The first thing I noticed after putting this Catalyst case on my Pixel 4 was just how beefy the border is. It's much thicker than most other cases, and it's constructed of a slightly flexible rubber material. The case is very tight, but the added security that offers far outweighs the slight inconvenience of being a bit more difficult to install and remove. The lip up front is thick, and it does clear a glass screen protector. I feel pretty confident in Catalyst's 3-meter drop-proof claim.
I'm a fan of how my white Pixel 4 looks through the clear back. The black border around the entire case and the camera module gives it some nice contrast, though the clear back does come with all the caveats of one. It scratches fairly easily and isn't great at resisting fingerprints. The buttons are tactile and easy to push, though they look a bit cheap and uninspired. Cutouts seem alright, and the only branding is on the bottom right side near the lanyard loop. Speaking of which, you do get a lanyard included in the box, which is nice if you're into that sort of thing.
If you're in the market for a protective clear case that doesn't try super hard to look rugged and tough, the Catalyst is probably your best bet. No, it's not affordable at $39.99, but it's hard to find a good-looking clear case that's this protective. However, you should note that the clear back is prone to scratches and fingerprints like pretty much every other clear case. These aren't too noticeable on the white or orange Pixel 4s, but I would caution against getting one of these for a black phone. It's only available with a black border.
Verdict: Buy it if you want a protective case that shows off the phone's design.
ZAGG is a pretty widely known screen protector company, but it recently branched out to cases under the name Gear4. As it turns out, Gear4 isn’t actually a new company, but I had never heard of it prior to its acquisition by ZAGG. My first look at Gear4’s offerings was with the Battersea, a confusingly named case that, in actuality, has nothing to do with extending battery life. Shame, as that would have been ideal for the Pixel 4.
|Design||The ripple pattern on the back is unique at the very least.|
|Protection||I would definitely consider this to be one of the stronger cases I’ve tried.|
|Feel||The TPU border is ultra-grippy, and the texture on the back is interesting as well.|
|Protection (again)||The fit isn’t that tight, so it’s prone to coming apart from the phone on facedown drops.|
|Price||$50 is a ton of money for a case that isn’t particularly special.|
Let’s start off with the Battersea’s looks. The pattern on the back is certainly eye-catching, designed to mimic a ripple effect circulating from the Gear4 branding. While this isn’t my preferred look for a phone case, I can certainly see how it might appeal to some. Protection is where this case is supposed to shine; ZAGG mentions the D3O material everywhere, even including a small bit of text underneath the camera module. This material is allegedly very strong even though it’s not very thick, and a 16-foot drop rating is quoted. That sounds impressive, though I’d imagine there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to drop protection. After all, not many people are dropping their phones two stories, but it’s definitely good that ZAGG is this confident in the case and the material. The border itself is extremely grippy, though it doesn’t feel very premium. The lip is able to clear a glass screen protector with ease.
I did notice one pretty big issue with the drop protection, though. Because the case doesn’t hold the phone very tightly, drops with the screen down could lead to the case partially coming off the phone. This sort of renders the chunky lip useless, as it’s not really protecting the screen if the case dislodges upon impact. As for other things of note: it’s not particularly bulky, but it can’t be considered slim either. The buttons are nothing special – they’re tactile like most, and they’re not especially easy or difficult to press. Cutouts are decent, though the ones for the grilles on the bottom of the phone seem a bit oversized. The camera module is nicely sunken in for a bit of protection, with the aforementioned D3O branding right below.
There’s one other critical issue with the Battersea: the price. $49.99 is a ton of money for a case with no real special qualities; the D3O material is kind of moot if the case can’t stay on the phone when dropped. Sure, the pattern on the back is interesting, and the grippy TPU is easy to hang onto, but there should be more to talk about for a $50 case. I might have been able to recommend it if it were $10-15 cheaper and the case’s fit were tighter, but as it stands, this is a no-go from me.
Verdict: Don’t buy it – it’s too much money for an imperfect case.
Gear4 Crystal Palace
It can be difficult to find a nice clear case, and I’m disappointed to report that the Gear4 Crystal Palace is not one of the good ones. The name is probably the best part of this case, as it falls flat on its face in many important regards. There aren’t many cases I outright cannot recommend, but this is one of them.
|Design||It’s clear all around, if you refuse to get a clear case with a colored border.|
|Buttons||They’re extremely hard to push to the point of being practically unusable.|
|Feel||This is one of the slipperiest cases I have ever used.|
|Fit||It’s not tight enough, and it creaks and squeaks around the phone.|
|Price||$40 for this is just laughable.|
I won’t sugarcoat it -- the Crystal Palace is genuinely one of the worst cases I have ever used. Name a category, and I’ll explain why it’s terrible in that regard. Protection? Sure, it has that fancy D3O tech, but I should hope it’s able to protect itself given just how slippery it is. It’s truly almost impossible to get a firm grip on this case. The lip is thick enough to clear a glass screen protector, but thanks to the case’s subpar fit, a face-down fall could result in the case’s corners giving way and your screen cracking. The case also creaks when you use it.
Cutouts and buttons are two areas in which pretty much every case does decently enough in, but not the Crystal Palace. For some reason, the cutouts on the bottom of the phone are always crooked and generally terrible-looking. I initially thought this was because of how I was putting it on, but nope – it’s just a poor design. The buttons are excruciatingly difficult to press; they’re easily the worst I’ve used on any Pixel 4 case so far. As a bonus, the effort required to push the buttons usually results in the phone slipping due to the sheer lack of grip. This is definitely a juxtaposition between the other Gear4 case I tested, the Battersea, which is the grippiest case I’ve used. The back seems somewhat scratch-resistant, but it gathers fingerprints easily.
The Crystal Palace has practically no redeeming qualities, and yet ZAGG charges a princely $39.99 for one. I legitimately would not use this case even if you paid me to – it’s that bad. If you want a decent clear case and are willing to spend the dough for one, you would be much better served by the Catalyst Impact Protection case, for which there is a review above.
Verdict: Don't buy it.
Google Fabric Case
Fabric isn't a material that's ordinarily associated with phone cases, but Google apparently didn't mind that fact when it released its first Fabric Case for the Pixel 2. Fast forward to today, and the Fabric Case is now on its third iteration for the Pixel 4. It's still one of my favorite cases for the Pixel lineup, even with its flaws.
|Design||The fabric patterns help it stand out from the rest.|
|Feel||Unsurprisingly, it feels like no other case in the hand.|
|Maintenance||If it gets dirty, it'll need to be hand-washed and dried.|
|Protection||The bottom is open and there's not much of a lip, so beware if you're on the clumsier side.|
|Price||It's not cheap at $40.|
Let's talk about how it compares to the Pixel 3 version. Both utilize nylon-polyester fabric, a plastic power button, fabric-covered volume buttons, as well as a microfiber lining. The buttons feel a bit harder to press to me, which is unfortunate. I prefer the fabric weaves and designs on the Pixel 4 cases, as they're just a bit more distinctive.
Protection-wise, the Pixel 4 version has actually gotten worse. Because of the two grilles on the bottom of the phone (only one is for a speaker, but whatever), the bottom has to be a lot wider and less protective. As a direct result of this, the case isn't as tight on the phone and would be more prone to coming off if the phone fell face down, making screen damage more likely. I did notice that the lip seems to be slightly thicker, though it's still not really enough to clear a glass screen protector.
While I do consider the Pixel 4 Fabric Case a downgrade from the Pixel 3 one, especially in the protection arena, I'd still buy it based on the cool factor alone. If you drop your phone and/or get your hands dirty often, this probably isn't the case for you, but if you like the way it looks, there's nothing else like it on the market. It costs $40 from the Google Store and comes in Sorta Smoky, Just Black, Blue-ish, and Could be Coral.
Verdict: Buy it if you like the look.
Buy: Google Store
Kerf Wood Case
There aren't many people out there who prioritize exotic materials and form in general over function, but for people who really want their Pixel 4 to stand out, Pittsburgh-based Kerf will sell you a one-piece wood case with a number of wood species to choose from. These aren't cheap, but they're probably the most unique cases on the market.
|Materials||The one-piece wood design is something that nobody else offers.|
|Customization||There are a variety of wood types to choose from, plus custom engraving and images for extra.|
|Buttons||They're very satisfying to click.|
|Bulk||It does add a lot of width to the phone, making it harder to hold.|
Wood is obviously not a logical material for a phone case. It's not very shock-absorbent or flexible, it's difficult to work with, it adds bulk to the phone... I could go on. But it does stand out like no other case, and if you're into specialty goods, you'll probably want one of these.
As a case, this doesn't offer the greatest functionality. Installation is simple enough, with suede on the interior holding the phone in via friction, though removal is tricky. I found that slowly pushing from the camera module is the only way to get the case off. Coverage is decent, with all four corners and a sizable lip, though I wouldn't be surprised if the case itself sustained damage from a bigger drop. Kerf does offer 50% off if you return a broken case and reorder another, but this is by no means a protective case in the first place in spite of the bulk. Cutouts are large, and the buttons are very clicky, albeit a bit sharp on the edges.
Kerf offers 15 different types of wood, ranging from a $69 cherry option to a $169 figured sapele offering. You can even have custom text or an image CNC engraved onto the back. The ones pictured here are the cherry and the $99 bulletwood case. Kerf is offering 10% off Pixel 4 cases with code PREORDER at checkout right now, which does help a bit, but these are some of the priciest cases out there. You've got to pay to play.
Verdict: Buy it if you've got the dough and prefer form over function.
Nomad Rugged Case
Having been disappointed with Bellroy’s offerings for the Pixel 3, I was thrilled when I found out how nice Nomad’s Rugged Case was by comparison. Unfortunately, this year’s Rugged Case has taken a step back in quality, though it’s still probably your best bet for a Pixel 4 leather case.
|Design||It’s a handsome case with clean lines and no branding.|
|Leather||It looks nice and smells good.|
|Protection||Fitment is very tight, guarding your phone from all angles.|
|Leather (again)||It feels a lot cheaper than last year’s, and it’s still prone to denting.|
|Price||$50 no longer seems like a good price with this downgraded leather.|
When I took the Pixel 3 version of the Nomad Rugged Case out of the box last year, I recall being surprised by how supple and grippy the leather felt in comparison to the Bellroy case. I was also surprised when I held the Pixel 4 version for the first time, but for the completely opposite reason. This time around, the leather has a much slipperier texture, making the case feel a lot less premium. Nomad’s site says that it’s still vegetable-tanned Horween leather, and the fine grain still looks good, but it just doesn’t feel nearly as good as it did last year. In spite of this, the leather is still as easy to dent as ever. Fortunately, the leather smell is still prominent.
Leather aside, though, this is actually quite a competent case. It’s very protective, holding onto the phone tighter than most others I’ve tested. The sides are thick enough to provide adequate shock absorption for day-to-day use, but not so much that it’s noticeably wider in the hand. The lip is tall enough to clear a glass screen protector. The inside is lined with microfiber, which is a nice touch. The buttons could stand to protrude from the body a bit more, but they’re alright otherwise. Cutouts are precise, and there are actually two lanyard loops on either side of the bottom of the phone.
The Nomad Rugged Case isn’t as good as last year’s, which means that the already steep $49.95 price isn’t as justifiable anymore. However, the only alternative I’m aware of for the Pixel 4 is the $40 Bellroy Leather Case, which is still inferior to the Nomad in every way except price. Unless you, our dear readers, can recommend another leather Pixel 4 case I don’t know about, the Nomad is probably still the best option. It’s available in black and Rustic Brown.
Verdict: Buy it if you need a leather case.
Most of us know OtterBox for its massive Defender cases, but the company has some less chunky offerings as well. For those who do work in tougher environments but don't want the bulk of the Defender, the Symmetry appears to be a decent alternative.
|Protection||It feels sturdy without adding too much girth to the phone.|
|Buttons||They're some of the nicest ones I've used on a Pixel 4 case.|
|Construction||The hard plastic back feels rather cheap.|
|Price||Even street pricing doesn't make this very affordable.|
First things first: if you care about premium materials, this isn't the case for you. The back is constructed of hard, textured polycarbonate that feels very cheap. That said, it does seem to be quite durable and scratch-resistant. The rubber inner layer makes up the front of the case, and it does clear a glass screen protector. Cutouts are nice all around, with adequate clearance for the camera and the charging port.
The case itself feels very solid without being too huge. When I went to change a shock out on my car, I grabbed this case, and it did its job well. The rubber did get all greasy, but it washed off easily. The back survived with no blemishes despite being thrown around a bit. I also greatly appreciate the easily pressed buttons, which are probably the best I've used on a Pixel 4 case thus far.
At its $51 MSRP, the Symmetry is hard to recommend. The current $36 Amazon price is more palatable, though I'm still unsure if it's worth, say, 2.5 times a Spigen Tough Armor case. Ultimately, this case definitely isn't the best value out there any way you dice it, but if you're after a nicely made case and you work in the field, this is a good option. It's available in Black, Sapphire Secret Blue, Apsen Gleam Yellow, and a weird Gradient Energy color.
Verdict: Buy it if you like it, but know that it isn't the best bang for the buck.
Peel Glass Screen Protector
Peel is best-known for selling paper-thin phone cases, so I was a bit surprised when some Peel-branded glass screen protectors arrived at my doorstep. Long story short: this is not a good screen protector.
|Sensitivity||There's no perceptible gap between the glass and the screen.|
|Fitment||The black borders block out things on the very sides of the screen.|
|Oleophobic coating||It's not the greatest.|
|Rainbow effect||It's a side effect of not having adhesive on the majority of the screen protector.|
|Price||$29 is way too much for what's clearly a generic off-the-shelf product.|
From what I can tell, the only thing that Peel had to do with this screen protector is the box. As soon as you get a look inside, it's plainly obvious this is the worst type of glass screen protector. It has no adhesive on the actual screen portion, only under the black border area. This usually leads to serious touch sensitivity issues, but it's pretty much unnoticeable in the Peel's case. That's virtually the only good aspect of this product.
Installation is pretty simple, but there's no alignment tool included. I thought the fitment was alright until I started using the phone, at which point I realized that the black borders actually intrude into the screen space. In Slide for Reddit, for instance, I can barely see the lines on the side indicating which comment replies to which.
The oleophobic coating isn't great — it's slippery enough, but it does relatively little to mask fingerprints. It's not the worst I've ever used, but it leaves something to be desired. There's a small rainbow effect in the middle of the screen — a common side effect of there not being any adhesive. I also noticed that the cutout for the front camera somehow accumulated a ton of dust underneath, despite the fact that I completely cleaned the screen before installation.
This screen protector is not worth anywhere near the $29 it retails for. I have no proof, but it legitimately looks to be an off-the-shelf Chinese product that goes for $0.50 apiece in bulk on Alibaba. The profit margins on this screen protector must be ridiculous — which would be fine, if it were actually a well-rounded product. Sure, it's quite a bit cheaper than the OtterBox and ZAGG offerings, but there are well-reviewed Pixel 4 glass screen protectors on Amazon for about $2.25 a pop in a 4-pack. There is no world in which I can recommend Peel's offering.
Verdict: Don't buy it.
Speck Presidio Grip
If there's one case I knew I could rely on, it's Speck's Presidio Grip. I've used this model of case with many phones over the years, and the formula has always stayed the same. The Pixel 4 version is exactly as good as I expected, and it's a great option for most.
|Design||It's classic Speck — just the right blend between rugged looks and functionality.|
|Protection||It feels exceedingly sturdy, and the rubber strakes are good for both grip and shock resistance.|
|Size||It's protective without being massive like some competitors.|
|Price||At an MSRP of $40, it isn't cheap, but it's worth it.|
Much of this will be a repeat of what I said last year about the Pixel 3 version, but that's because it's still just a good case even without any changes. The design is still clean-looking, with the rubber strakes adding some flair (and also grip and shock absorption). The hardshell surround is very solid-feeling with just a bit of flexibility, and the inside has a rubber lining. The corners are reinforced, and the lip up front ensures that your screen stays protected.
As expected, the buttons are nice and tactile — they require a little bit more force to depress than I'd ideally like, but it's not a dealbreaker by any means. The cutouts are all precise, with good clearance for larger USB-C cables and protection for the massive rear camera module. Speck's logo is on the top right of the back, as it always is on these cases.
The Presidio Grip is the case I'd grab whenever I'm doing something outdoorsy. That's not to say it's unusable for other routines — I just have other, slightly less bulky cases I'd rather use on a daily basis. If you're a bit of a klutz or just do a lot of work outside, this is a great case. It stickers for $39.99 for both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL versions, but the Pixel 4 model can currently be had for about $10 off on Amazon. It's available in black/black, Marble Grey/Anthracite Grey, Bali Blue/Skyline Blue, Coastal Blue/black, and Parrot Pink/Papaya Pink.
Verdict: Buy it if you need something with a bit more protection than your average case.
Spigen Liquid Air
Spigen is one of the best-known case manufacturers in the business right now, and for good reason — the company consistently produces high-quality, yet affordable cases. The Liquid Air is perhaps one of the best examples, as it's something that the regular consumer who just wants a good, no-frills case will be entirely happy with.
|Design||It's just a simple TPU case with a slight pattern on the back to keep things interesting.|
|Protection||Everything is protected by a decently thick material.|
|Price||For $12, you can't go wrong.|
As you might be able to tell from the lack of a "not so good" section above, I can't really find any flaws with the Liquid Air. It's not a fancy case with exotic materials or special features, but it doesn't try to be one. It's basically just a pretty protective TPU shell, and that's all most people will want out of a case. The pattern on the back is very faint, but it does add the tiniest bit of flair. There are also small diagonal ridges on the sides of the case that probably marginally enhance grip. There's also some unnoticeable Spigen branding near the bottom of one of the sides.
In terms of protection, this is a surprisingly solid case. The sides are stiffer and slightly thicker than the back, assisting with shock absorption and keeping the case tightly wrapped around the phone. The lip easily clears a glass screen protector and makes no attempt to detach from the phone when in a face-down impact, and the camera gets a slightly elevated portion for a bit of extra protection. The buttons are tactile and easy to push, and the cutouts are all quite precise.
The Liquid Air is a good case, plain and simple. It's protective, it isn't offensive-looking, and at $11.99, it's cheap. If you're the type of person who really doesn't care what's on your phone as long as it's protected, this is a great option. You can have it in any color... as long as it's black.
Verdict: Buy it if you just want a good, no-frills case.
Spigen Thin Fit
For those who like to retain their phone's slim profile while still adding a bit of protection, Spigen's Thin Fit has long been a great option. The Pixel 4 version is no different; it doesn't really add anything new, but it didn't really need any improvements.
|Design||It's a simple, good-looking case.|
|Feel||The soft-touch texture is very nice in the hand.|
|Magnet insert||Like all Thin Fits from the past few years, it has an insert for a car mount magnet.|
|Price||At $9.99, it's extremely well-priced.|
|Protection||It's just a thin, hard plastic layer with no real shock absorption qualities, so don't expect too much out of it.|
As always, the Thin Fit lives up to its name. Short of the paper-thin Peel and MNML cases, this is pretty much as slim as it gets. It's constructed of a single piece of polycarbonate and simply snaps onto the phone. The back has a nice soft-touch finish, which is fairly resistant to fingerprints. There are no buttons, just some cutouts, which I personally prefer on this style of case. The Spigen branding on the back seems to have grown a bit from the Pixel 3 Thin Fit, but it's still pretty much unnoticeable with the black color. I'm also a big fan of the magnet insert space that Spigen provides on every Thin Fit, as it makes using it with a magnetic car mount a breeze.
If you're looking for maximum protection, this obviously isn't the case for you. There is a small lip on the front that might protect your screen from impact, but it does not clear a glass screen protector. It's also missing around the buttons to make those easier to push, so that area of the front is a bit more prone to damage. The camera module gets a small hump, which is good. Of course, there's no real shock absorption with a case like this, so you definitely want to be a bit more careful with this.
For $9.99, you really can't go wrong with a Thin Fit. It's nothing fancy, but it's a great case in general for those who are a bit more careful with their phones. It's available on Amazon for both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL in black and white (though the white colors command a premium for whatever reason).
Verdict: Buy it as long as you're not completely clumsy.