Review: iPod Case Roundup

These cases protect my baby iPod, and do it well... (October 23rd, 2002)

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I like my iPod. I really do- and although I won't tell my wife this, I think having the iPod is teaching me a little bit about what it's like to be a new parent. We don't have children, but I think I understand how a parent feels, dreading the first scrapes and bruises, and trying to plan to protect and prevent those cuts and scratches.

These cases protect my baby iPod, and do it well, but each of them has their mild room for improvement. These companies must know, as Clint Eastwood said, "A good man's got to know his limitations."

There's nothing quite like a convertible

The Marware Convertible is a case that does it all. It holds the ear-bud headphones, it clips to your belt, it clips to a car mount, it can be worn AS a belt (useful for jogging shorts.) It can be worn on an armband, and it can even clipped to a mount on bicycle handlebars (more on this later).

The Sportsuit convertible has a nice neoprene construction, with heavy rubber protecting the sides of the ipod. lining the inside of the sides and back are plastic reinforcements for even more protection. It's got a plastic screen protector, leaving only the wheel and select button exposed, and even those get covered by the removable front cover- which holds the ear-bud headphones, or some of the accessory clips, which Marware calls their "Multidapt" system.

To insert the iPod, you remove the front cover, and open one side of the tab which crosses the center of the top of the iPod. This tab has a headphone jack hole in it. You then reattach the front cover, which protects the firewire port on iPods that do not come equipped with a firewire door.

The SportSuit Convertible is an excellent case, with a sturdy protective feel. Of course, it feels a little bulky, but if you're trying to jog and want to keep your iPod safe, this is a good case. If you ever drop the case, the neoprene will suffer road-rash, but then, protect the iPod, not the case.

Something that was important to me, is the quality of stitching on the SportSuit Convertible is perfect. There isn't a stitch out of place, and not a frayed piece of fabric. This is one well-made case.

SFBags

Waterfield Designs is almost the undisputed king of Apple Macintosh bags. *Almost* is a key word here, because they have good competition. Still, Waterfield's entry here is a hard case to beat. It features their ballistic nylon, a sturdy coated mesh that breathes to allow heat to escape, a neat belt-clip which has a tapered channel to prevent the ipod from popping out of the clip. The iPod has to be rotated ninety degrees in relation to the clip in order to remove it from the clip. Make no mistake, the iPod is securely in the clip, and the clip has a sort of J-hook to its jaws, so it's not coming off your belt, either. It is design choices like these that make Waterfield cases such a pleasure to use.

The case is nice. It's got a soft fabric to the inside of it's front cover. The front cover is permanently attached. The Waterfield method of inserting the iPod is, undo the velcro of the flap which covers the top of the iPod, and squeeze the device into the case. It's a tight fit, and takes some massaging to get the iPod to really fill out the bottom corners of the case. To access the firewire port and headphones jack, there's a slit in this top flap.

The Waterfield case has no clear vinyl screen protector. This is a mixed blessing- on a case with such a protector, if a bit of sand or grit were to get in between the vinyl and the screen, it would scratch up the iPod something awful, and be trapped there. Alternately, it tends to keep things from getting in there and scratching the iPod.

The soft fabric inside the front cover fulfills the same purpose as the cover on the Marware case- it holds the iPod ear-bud headphones. Nicely, Waterfields sews their toll-free number and web URL inside that pocket.

This case is a marvel, however there are some minor things I should mention.

I like the idea of the mesh that vents the heat of the iPod. The iPod is a hard drive, with a battery- it gets hot. Heat ages materials and parts more quickly. Venting heat is good. That said, I like the back of my shiny iPod, which has nary a scratch. I'd like to keep it that way, and the hard mesh and tough stitching for the clip mount may scratch the iPod back.

Additionally, the stitching on this case is well done, but the fabric on the hard mesh is fraying, and came that way from Waterfield. This should be the exception since there is evidence that they tried to heat it to melt the edges so it wouldn't fray, but the mesh is fraying on its left and right sides.

Marware CEO

Now, the two previous cases are fine for jogging and weekend use, but can you really wear them to the office and not expect to be looked at a little funny? And why are you wearing headphones in the office, anyway?

If you want to have the iPod on in the office, and more offices are returning to business dress as opposed to casual, you must have a case that matches office attire.

That's where the Marware CEO Classic case comes in. It's a beautiful black leather, with a leather lined interior. It has the plastic screen protector, and an earphone storage pocket on the leather lid. The leather lid is removable and attaches with nice snaps, that really have a strong, positive feeling when you attach them.

It also uses the Multidapt clip mounts, so any place you use the SportSuit Convertible clips, you can use the nice leather case- although leather on jogging suit is as out of place as neoprene in the boardroom.

This case is well made from nice leather, and has every stitch in place. The snaps work well, and the Multidapt clip is easy to use. This is the case to have for a professional environment.

EverythingiPod.com

I also bought the Everything iPod connection kit. The kit includes a neoprene case with plastic screen protector, a button and clip assembly, a car clip, a tape cassette adapter, and a car charger.

The case is unimpressive. It's a neoprene case, but there is no plastic reinforcing the sides or back. It may protect the case from scratches, but offers nothing more. The button is held in place with a vinyl rectangle that is glued in from the inside back of the case. The glue was soft and the vinyl patch moved around in the case, and glue got on the back of the iPod. The glue cleaned off easily, and I put a piece of paper in the case to protect the iPod.

The cassette adapter is a pretty standard cassette adapter.

What's really nice here is the car power adapter. Everythingipod.com makes their own charger in house. It's their own design, and they take pride in the quality of it. When my first one had a problem, they sent me one of a new design, and it is undoubtedly the single best charger out there, backed by a company with good support for it.

Accesorize!

The Marware folks make many different accesories that work with the Multidapt clip system. There's a car holder, the standard swivel belt clip, a leather swivel clip, a lanyard clip, and if that wasn't enough---

The bike holder.

The bicycle holder. I love the bicycle holder. I clamped the holder on the handlebars of my Cannondale Killer V500. To use it, you lift the topmost cover of the bike mount, which is under spring tension, and slide the button on the back of the case into the holder. A center pin in the bottom-most part of the holder sits in the center of the button, and the topmost part springs down, clamping it in place.

I went on a two hour bike ride over a gentle paved trail, with few bumps or cracks (Hey, my iPod's on board! I'm not going downhill racing!) It was pure pleasure.

The Waterfield comes with its ultimate belt clip, and a lanyard and car mount are also available.

Don't Try This At Home, Kids!

All buttons and clip systems are not identical. They appear to be, but on close examination, the slightest difference in dimensions can mean a case that comes unclipped. Don't let this happen to you: do not use one case in a clip intended for another.

I went bike riding with the Waterfield case clipped in the Marware bike mount. I went over one crack in the sidewalk and my iPod fell to the ground, and I rode over it with the rear tire.

Read that again. I rode over the iPod with my rear tire.

The Waterfield case protected it, with little or no damage to the case, and a very minor, almost undetectable dent to the plastic corner of the iPod.

Roundup

These cases and accessories are great. If I had to buy just one, I'd be torn- the Waterfield is a tough case. My only reservation is a fear that the mesh would scratch the iPod, and that seems to be unfounded. The Marware cases are nice, and while neoprene scars quickly, it's a very very durable case. The bike mount with the Marware cases is a perfect combination. The EverythingiPod.com case is nothing special- but the car charger is their winner.

Waterfield: + :Tough. Unstoppable. Good clip that won't let the iPod out accidentally. - : Mesh is frayed and may scratch iPod.

Marware SportSuit Convertible: + : Tough, well-made, fantastic clip accessories available. - : neoprene.

Marware CEO Classic: +: good leather -: not an outdoor sport case- but then, it wasn't meant to be.

EverythingiPod.com: +: good charger. good support. -: mediocre case.

by Victor Marks


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