Company: Pacific Design
Model: Uptown Clutch
Compatible: iPod nano
Pacific Design Uptown Clutch for iPod nano
Pros: Conceptually practical carrying case advertised as compatible with both versions of the iPod nano, available in five different colors. Functions as a wallet with room for four credit cards and money holder. Includes headphone storage compartment and wrist strap.
Cons: Design elements don’t work equally well for both nanos, with misalignment of holes for Click Wheel, bottom Dock Connector and headphone port. When used with the second generation nano, has tendency to let nano fall out of the case.
Though its case reviews on iLounge have focused on iPod-related products, Pacific Design is well known for a wide variety of carrying accessories, ranging from laptops to totes. Its Uptown Clutch ($30) is a cute and functional case designed for the iPod nano, and available in five colors, combining the features of a woman’s wallet with the functionality of a case. Although this case does function as a wallet, holding credit cards and money in addition to an iPod nano and headphones, we review Uptown Clutch solely on its utility as an iPod case.
[Editor’s Note: Pacific Design has advertised the Uptown Clutch for the first and second generation nano, which we used in our testing, however, we note up front that the case would have rated a full grade point higher if it had only been marketed as a first-generation nano holder; its performance problems are more pronounced with the current, second-generation nano.]
Uptown Clutch tries hard to blend the features of a woman’s wallet with the convenience of an iPod case, but doesn’t quite execute right on the specifics. There are three flaps to the case: two full-length halves that respectively hold your iPod and wallet items, then a third half-height flap that holds the other two together. A first- or second-generation nano is stored either face out or face in within the Clutch’s iPod flap, held in place with a unique two-position nano mount located inside that flap. In concept, this is a smart design, but it’s executed poorly in some key ways here. When the nano’s facing outwards, you can expose its screen and controls just by opening a magnetic latch on the case’s third flap; but when it’s facing inwards, you have to open the entire case to use the screen and controls, and the nano’s back shows through the rectangular and circular holes on the flap’s other side.
The problems are all in the fit. While the first-generation nano fits fairly well inside the case - the holes are mildly but noticeably misaligned - the nano mount uses elastic for horizontal mounting and tiny support straps for vertical mounting, neither doing a great job with the second-generation nano. When connected to headphones, the bottom Dock Connector and headphone port don’t match up properly with the case’s bottom support straps; one of the straps partially blocks the nano’s headphone port, and sometimes slips off the nano, making it partially fall through on one side. We also noted that after some testing, the soft case does show minor scratches and/or indentations, contributing to a middling score of five for build quality.
While it is somewhat practical to have a nano case incorporated into a “on the go” clutch wallet, operating your nano while inside the clutch proves to be rather impractical. In order to see the screen or controls, the clutch has to be opened - a design that could have been easily fixed had Pacific Design moved the nano holder downwards, and used clear plastic screen and Click Wheel protectors rather than covering the nano with the magnetic latched third flap. Additionally, we found that listening to the nano while using the clutch with the included wrist strap wasn’t totally comfortable - during walking, this average-sized female found that the length of Apple’s earbud cables wasn’t quite right for a case that dangles low below the wrist. In sum, you’ll have to adapt your use of the nano to this case, which isn’t fun.
The Clutch is available in five different colors: “jet black,” “rich brown,” “cherry red,” “sky blue” and “precious pink,” together earning one Special Features point, and though the concept of two-in-one cases is not a new one, we liked the overall idea behind the Uptown Clutch’s reversible mount, so we awarded an extra point for design concept. The case also comes with a detachable wrist strap and a pocket for headphones - both of which we liked, for a total of four points here.
Uptown Clutch scores pretty well in Protectiveness overall: with the exception of the top of the nano, the entire iPod is covered when the clutch is buttoned closed, meaning that if the case is held properly, you’ll have little damage to worry about - it provides medium-thickness protection of the rest of a nano’s body. But as noted above, we had to deal with an unusual issue here, namely that nanos actually have the potential of falling out of the case when carried normally. Because of its thinner body, the second-generation nano has a greater tendency to do this than the first-generation model. We deducted a point for this, and caution users not to hold the case upside down.
A potential saving grace of the Uptown Clutch is its price: for $30, it is less expensive than many other, iPod-less clutches and women’s wallets on the market, and it offers a convenient carrying case for the nano, besides. It’s even a little lower-priced than Marware’s CEO Billfold Wallet (iLounge rating: B+), a comparably sized and featured nano wallet for men. The reasonable pricing is offset by the case’s design issues, which we were not impressed by, and for that reason, we did not award any additional points for value. Though it was a nice idea, the execution of Uptown Clutch was off by enough, especially for second-generation nano owners, to make it only an “okay” case, worthy of a C rating overall. We hope that Pacific Design will continue to develop female-friendly case designs, but do so with greater attention to usability, protection, and fit for the iPods inside.
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.