Review: Contour Design Showcase Classic
Thanks to the strong similarities between the iPod classic and earlier fifth-generation iPods, some casemakers have almost no work to do when releasing iPod classic versions of their earlier cases. Sold in separate 80GB and 160GB iPod classic-ready versions, Contour Design's Showcase Classic ($35) is one such case, and based heavily upon the company's prior Showcase Video for fifth-generation iPods. Black rubber is used to frame clear hard plastic front and rear shields, while oversized holes are left for the classic's headphone port, Dock Connector, and Hold switch. A black detachable belt clip is included in each package, and designed to mount the iPod classic horizontally on your belt, rather than vertically. As before, no Click Wheel cover is included in the package; the only major difference is a $2 price increase from the prior model.
Because of the similarities between the products, the text below is an updated version of our prior Showcase Video review, with only one difference: the rating. Fifth-generation and iPod classic cases have come some way since the early 2006 review of Showcase Video, adding features such as video stands and comprehensive body protection, but Showcase Classic has stood still while increasing its price. Though we continue to very much like how Showcase looks—a reason it has repeatedly received our high recommendation in the past—plastic iPod cases are rarely this expensive these days, and with very good options available for as little as $20, companies need to work harder to earn a premium $35 price. Our B+ rating reflects our belief that many users will be happy enough with the way Showcase looks to enjoy it anyway, as well as our desire to see Contour do more with its future versions to more fully earn a premium asking price. The remainder of the text below is based on our earlier Showcase Video review.
Showcases cover full-sized iPods with a unique combination of clear and colored plastic, allowing the majority of the iPod’s face and back to show through, but lining its sides with just enough rubber to absorb shocks from accidental drops. A low-profile left-side hinge is invisible when the case is closed, and now two separate locking latches on the case’s right side keep it from accidentally popping open. Thanks to the separately molded 80GB and 160GB cases, each Showcase’s fit is spot-on: all of its holes are centered as they should be, and smart molding is used to good effect on its front Click Wheel opening. Additionally, our cases arrived in perfect condition, and don’t cause any damage to the iPod classic inside. After days of use, the surfaces showed only light, hairline scratches, none enough to detract from the looks of the iPod inside.
All of the iPod classic’s key access points are fully accessible in the Showcase: the iPod’s headphone port remains totally accessible for even oversized headphones, the Hold switch and Dock Connector port both have generously-sized holes that won’t limit their use in any way, and the Click Wheel is precisely exposed with a gently beveled front center hole. The iPod’s screen is easy to see behind clear transparent plastic, framed with deftly blended rubber and hard plastic, and secured with Contour’s excellent locking and hinge systems, which provide thinner-profile protection than hinged metal cases while offering equivalent protection. Also nice is the detachable, two-position belt clip, which is black and sturdy, and uses a spring to attach and detach from the case. As we’re not big belt clip users, we very much appreciate the ease with which the clip comes off the case and leaves nearly the iPod’s entire back visible, but some of those who want to use the clip may prefer to see the video screen aligned vertically, which isn’t possible. You can only choose two horizontal orientations - screen pointing left, or right. Unlike some of the best iPod and iPod classic cases we’ve seen, Showcase’s clip doesn’t serve as a video stand; it’s just there for your belt.
Showcase Classic is a bit better than average on protection. On the bright side, it not only covers the vast majority of the iPod classic inside, but does it well, with the shock-absorbant rubber sides and hard plastic everywhere else. But each of the access points noted above is left fully exposed - Click Wheel minimally, headphone port appropriately, but Hold Switch and Dock Connector ports generously. Despite the big accessory hole at the bottom, however, Showcase Classic doesn’t work with Universal iPod Docks—it’s just too thick. Other cases we’ve tested, such as Griffin’s iClear, take different approaches to bottom accessibility; this one is better suited to car kits and portable plug-ins than home stereos and other accessories with docks.
From our perspective, Showcase Classic is amongst the sharpest-looking plastic iPod cases out there, but it comes at a higher price than last year’s model without adding features or keeping up with aggressive competitors. While it’s certainly a looker, Showcase Classic could benefit from tweaks to make subsequent versions more protective and accessory-friendly; Contour’s past engineering innovations have shown that it’s capable of doing even better for iPod users.