Company: Contour Design
Model: Showcase nano
Compatible: iPod nano (aluminum)
Contour Design Showcase nano (2nd Generation)
Pros: An attractive, durable and easy-to-use case that combines clear hard plastic and rubber edging to “showcase” your second-generation iPod nano.
Cons: Bottom ports are recessed beneath narrow lip of hard plastic, making larger accessories and headphone plugs problematic to connect. As of press time, only one color choice - black and clear.
New for the second generation nano but part of Contour Design’s well-established Showcase series, the new Showcase nano ($33) provides hard plastic protection with a little extra style. As with previous Showcase models, the front and rear panels use clear plastic to show off your iPod, while the sides are protected by opaque plastic and rubber. New to this version are three optional components that were first introduced in the company’s iSee nano V2 case (iLounge rating: A), described below.
As with prior Showcases, Showcase nano consists of two interlocking pieces of durable, hard plastic held together on the left side with a rubber hinge, and on the right side with a sliding plastic latch. Like iSee V2, the new Showcase is resistant to scratches and scuffs, and precision-molded for perfect alignment of its Hold switch and Click Wheel holes. Contour Design’s package also includes two rubber covers - one for the Click Wheel and one for the nano’s bottom ports - which each stay firmly in place while in use, and properly fit both the case’s holes and their respective parts of the nano inside.
Like the very similar iSee, Showcase scored pretty well in the Ease of Use category. Showcase’s design starts with a plastic shell that offers full screen visibility, plus a hole that provides complete access to the nano’s Click Wheel; you can cover the Click Wheel with the aforementioned rubber insert, without compromising the Wheel’s performance. Additionally, the Dock Connector and headphone ports are left open by default, but optionally covered by an included, fully removable silicone rubber flap, which you can open on one side and leave on the Dock Connector while still using the headphone port, or remove altogether - a feature that we really liked. Unfortunately, the openings for the headphone port and Dock Connector leave the nano so recessed beneath the plastic that it proved challenging to use with medium- and large-sized test headphone plugs - a little less convenient than the iSee V2. Similarly, Dock Connector accessories such as uncabled FM transmitters proved difficult to use because of the narrow opening, though Apple’s components work without an issue.
As with iSee V2, we were generally impressed with the design of the Showcase, which Contour pioneered for earlier iPods and has successfully transferred to the second-generation nano without significant compromises. Though the two-tone enclosure doesn’t do as much for us with the newly colored nanos as it did with prior models - as with the third-generation Showcase, other colored versions matching the new nanos would have been nice - it is still unique, and deserving of a couple of points for its design innovation. We also very much liked the detachable, four-position metal and plastic belt clip that easily rotates and locks into any of four cardinal directions on the case’s back. Thanks to this clip, you can wear the nano with its headphone port and screen up, down, or on either side, a great feature.
The Showcase scores high on Protectiveness. We really liked not only the thick clear plastic face, but also the durable, semi-shock-absorbent rubber sides, which alone or together help this case look and feel very strong. Thanks to the detachable Dock Connector/headphone port cover and Click Wheel protectors, everything with the exception of the nano’s Hold switch can be fully covered and protected, resulting in a score of 9 for Protectiveness.
As much as it hurts to say it, when judged on value, Showcase is a victim of Contour’s own design success. Priced at $33, the Showcase is a little more expensive than the typical iPod nano case, and a whole $13 more expensive than the iSee nano V2, even though iSee offers virtually equivalent protection and all of the same great features. Though you give up Showcase’s rubber edging and hinge system, you don’t compromise on ease of use - iSee is actually a little more headphone-compatible - and we actually preferred iSee’s looks, besides. While Showcase is still a very good and visually unique design, one we would recommend to any reader who likes the two-tone design or the easy-open hinge, and a top pick for full-sized iPods, the spectacular iSee V2 would be our top choice for the smaller, colorful new nano.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.