Ballistic SG MAXX Case for Nexus 5: The OtterBox Rival?

After spending nearly two weeks protecting my Nexus 5 with Ballistic’s heavyweight champion case, the SG MAXX, there were certain aspects that stood out to me that I rather enjoyed and some that came up short. Having hands-on experience with heavy-duty cases of this sort, Ballistic has definitely manufactured a crowd pleaser and without a doubt given their competitors a run for their money. I’ll touch on, what I’ve found, as the pros and cons of the Nexus 5 SG MAXX Case in this detailed hands-on review.

nexus-5-sg-maxx-case-7What’s Inside

Upon opening the package of the Nexus 5 SG MAXX Case, there were the basic case essentials including the skin, shell and holster. An added bonus was the high-impact screen protector and Ballistic sticker. I appreciated the fact that the screen protection wasn’t built-in the case itself, like OtterBox tends to do with their Defender line. Sure it’s easier to install, but it gets to be a pain having to clean the dirt and debris from inside all the time. Ballistic’s removable protector looks to be heavy duty enough to take a beating and simple enough to replace when necessary.

Layers of Protectionnexus-5-sg-maxx-case-2

The silicone core of the SG MAXX is pretty flexible and definitely thickens up around each corner. They refer to them as “Ballistic Corners”, and they’re certainly designed to handle a serious impact. I was originally concerned that these ultra-thick corners would be almost too much in terms of size and weight; but with the plastic shell around the skin, it looks and feels quite even.

nexus-5-sg-maxx-case-3Silicone plugs cover the headphone jack and charging port of the Nexus 5 to help keep out dust, dirt and other debris. I found this to be both a blessing and a curse. I’m constantly plugging in my 3.5mm audio cable when driving to listen to Pandora, and trying to fight this particular port cover with one hand has proven to be irritating to say the least. A simple cut to remove it would be a quick solution to that problem (or plug it in before driving), but I haven’t brought myself to permanently alter the case or my driving habits just yet. As for charging port cover, I hardly ever use it with my array of wireless chargers laying around. The side buttons, however, have all been raised on the skin and are easy to access with both layers on.

Speaking of wireless charging, the answer is yes. The Nexus 5 does charge wirelessly with the SG MAXX on. Occasionally I’ll have to apply a slight amount of pressure on the device for the pad to pick it up, otherwise it’s flawless. Keep in mind, I’m using a ZENS Wireless Charger, so the charging result may vary depending on the strength of the pad.

nexus-5-sg-maxx-case-1One thing to consider with this case is that it’s not pocket friendly. The few times I tossed my N5 into my pocket, I had to fight to dig it back out. Not only does it stick, it will pick up every little piece of lint and dirt you’ve been saving in there, especially in the corners of the screen. My advice: Utilize the holster.

The plastic shell itself is damn tough. I opted to pick up the black/white model for my Nexus 5, so the contrast between the black textured backing and the white edging around it looks awesome. On the underside of the shell there’s a ring around the camera opening that elevates it from being flush with the plastic. There’s also a side cutout for the volume buttons on the skin to poke through.

Camera quality is surprisingly perfect with the case on. Usually it’s something you have to consider with thicker cases like these, but there was no issues with lighting or color when shooting both stills and video.

nexus-5-sg-maxx-case-6As a whole, the SG MAXX looks compact and ready for just about anything you throw at it. Having used OtterBox cases in the past, they just always seemed excessively bulky for what they’re designed to do. With these Ballistic cases, I know that my phone can handle a harsh drop while still keeping a fairly slim profile for sporting multiple levels of protection.

Rigid Screen Protector

On the bright side, the screen protector included with the SG MAXX is cake to apply. It has contoured edges so it’s nearly impossible to install it unevenly. Nearly. To be honest, I used this protector for about 3 days until I removed it. Not because it didn’t do its job of shielding from scratches, but because of the severe amount of glare it picked up. I opted for an anti-glare protector instead and that works just fine for me.

nexus-5-sg-maxx-case-5SG MAXX Holster

The holster is one of the most important aspects of these rugged-style cases. If you don’t have a quality clip then you’re stuck with a thick case in a thin pocket. Undoubtedly, the SG MAXX’s Holster holds its own with an ultra-thick plastic construction, 360-degree rotating clip and a secure belt latch that keeps the Nexus 5 fixed to your side at all times.

I was extremely impressed with the durability of this holster. The two times that I managed to drop my Nexus 5 on accident while not clipped to anything, not only did the phone stay clipped inside the holster, but nothing even broke off. Escaping those blunders with nothing more than a few battle wounds on the holster tells me that Ballistic has a solid build here. I also like the audible “snap” when you drop in the Nexus 5. Not having to look down constantly to make sure I’ve clipped it in properly was a plus. The SG MAXX’s holster gets two thumbs up from me.


  • Durable & secure holster
  • Comfortable and compact design
  • Wireless charger compatible
  • Easy access to side buttons
  • Nice rugged design and texture
  • Camera quality unhindered
  • Excellent drop protection


  • Silicone port covers (personal con)
  • Not pocket friendly
  • Dust and debris magnet (skin)
  • Included screen guard glare

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Final Thoughts

Does the Nexus 5 SG MAXX hold up against others of its kind? You bet. At the time of writing this review, I don’t believe OtterBox even has their line of cases out for the Nexus 5 yet. That said, this case is great alternative for anyone shopping for a rugged, durable and reliable case and holster for the Nexus 5 at a more reasonable price.

Nexus 5 Ballistic SG MAXX Case Giveaway Entry Form