Review: Belkin Leather Sleeve for iPod touch
One month after the release of Apple's new iPod touch, we've had the chance to test thirteen different cases that are in or on their way to stores in the United States. Many of the designs will be familiar to owners of other iPods, but for those who aren't familiar -- and for those who need additional information before making a purchasing decision -- we've created three comparative reviews to give you a big picture look at all of these options. One review focuses on four $20-30 armbands, the next on six $30-35 leather or neoprene cases, and the last on three $15-25 plastic cases.
Clockwise from Top Right: Belkin Leather Folio, Leather Sleeve; DLO HipCase; Griffin Elan Convertible, Incase Neoprene Sleeve, Leather Sleeve
Our second comparative review of the day looks at five cases that are made from leather, and a sixth that is almost identical to its leather cousin, except for its replacement of leather with soft plastic and neoprene. Belkin has the Leather Folio ($30) and Leather Sleeve ($30), DLO has the HipCase Leather Sleeve ($30), Griffin has the Elan Convertible ($30), and Incase has the Leather Sleeve ($35) and Neoprene Sleeve ($30). Since these cases have a lot in common with one another, we’ll quickly sum up their similarities, walk you through a table we’ve assembled to help you quickly understand their differences, and then discuss their individual features in separate reviews.
All six of the cases cover parts of the iPod touch’s sides, bottom, and face with leather or plastic: most of the cases cover all of touch’s sides and back, and only parts of its top, bottom, and face. Every case has a soft lining that varies from velvet to suede or soft neoprene, preventing touch from being scratched inside. And every case provides full-time access to the touch’s headphone port, Dock Connector port, and Sleep/Wake button.
From there, they differ. Two of the cases cover the iPod’s screen with a leather flap, while four of the cases do not; one includes clear film to protect touch’s screen. A different four cases come with a belt clip—none with the ability to serve as a video stand—and each case has at least one classy touch, though the amount of class, and color options, vary from case to case as noted below.
Belkin’s second design, Leather Sleeve for iPod touch, takes design cues from Incase’s past Folio cases. Using bright white stitching and the same type of honeycomb-embossed suede interior as the Leather Folio, Leather Sleeve comes in black or pink, and makes the touch look especially good from the back. Leather covers most of the touch’s easily scratchable surfaces, but Belkin fully exposes the screen and control buttons for easy access. Holes at the bottom let you use the Dock Connector and headphone port, while a Velcro tab at the top keeps the touch inside.
Leather Sleeve’s only omissions are four: it doesn’t include a screen protector, a belt clip, a hole for the brightness sensor, or coverage for touch’s top right and bottom left corners. Because of the position of a strip of leather on its bottom between the headphone and Dock Connector ports, in the same troublesome spot as Folio’s fabric strip, you again may need to nudge it around to connect accessories to touch’s bottom. With the exception of the screen protector, which we’d really have liked to see in the package, these are still minor annoyances, but ones that detract from the case’s otherwise nice design.
It’s worth noting that though Incase’s black Leather Sleeve and pink Neoprene Sleeve both manage to outclass and out-protect Belkin’s similar Leather Sleeve design, there are trade-offs: you’ll pay $5 more for Incase’s black Leather Sleeve than Belkin’s, and Incase’s pink version is at least currently only available in Neoprene, not leather like Belkin’s. Additionally, if you don’t like belt clips, Belkin offers a better option: the Incase Sleeves have them built-in, but Belkin’s don’t have them at all, and are consequently thinner.
Overall, the first crop of leather iPod touch cases didn’t really blow us away: though we liked three of the open-faced cases enough to generally recommend them to our readers, none was as protective as we’d expect for a $30 or $35 asking price, and each had at least a little something that could really benefit from a superior redesign. The other three cases rated limited recommendations for different reasons; Belkin’s Leather Folio looks good but interferes with normal use of iPod touch’s screen, Griffin’s Elan Convertible has the most protection and best belt clip of the bunch but is still too big, bulky, and otherwise inconvenient because of its flap, and DLO’s HipCase compromises a little too much in looks and side protectiveness. We’re holding out for the next round of leather designs in hopes that they’re better and smarter.