Review: OP/TECH USA MP3i Pouch
Pros: Well constructed, great belt clip and a more than ample slit for your headphone jack.
Cons: Extra room in front of the iPod could both pose a potential risk.
Following the release of the iPod, manufacturers rushed to get cases out for the new device as soon as possible, modifying their old cases ever so slightly, so they could be immediately offer “new” models specifically made for it. OP/TECH USA MP3i Pouch serves as a perfect example of both the benefits and disadvantages of this strategy. As a quick trip to their website will show you, virtually all of their pouches for products from cell phones to handheld computers are identical, with only slight dimensional changes depending on the particular device they are for. Both good and bad qualities stem from the use of this “templated” design.
Like most neoprene cases, the MP3i Pouch is the definition of simplicity. The case is little more than a pouch with a Velcro-secured cover and a slit through which you can connect your headphones when the case is closed. There are benefits sticking with a previous design. For one, by making so many similar cases, OP/TECH has gotten pretty good at it. The case feels incredibly sturdy and well manufactured.
Like many other of their cases, the MP3i Pouch includes what can only be called a belt clip on steroids. At first glance, it appears to be an average clip that you can easily slide on and off, but you’ll find a small bar at the base of the clip that lets you lock the it in place, so it won’t fall off on its own. This feature has amazing potential. Most clips are either very secure (and thus difficult to use) or easy to use (and likely to fall off). But OP/TECH gives you the best of both worlds. If you need the added security, you have it. But if you don’t want to bother with the bit of extra work, you don’t need to.
Another benefit of the case is incredibly simple and obvious, yet one that several other manufacturers have forgotten. Instead of a small hole in the top of the cover for your headphones, the pouch has an inch long slit. This is critical for those of us who choose to use headphones other than the included earbuds, especially ones with L-shaped connectors. Also, the slit allows you to easily open the flap and access your iPod without disconnected your headphones (whatever type they might be), which makes use on the go much easier.
You would think with a design so basic as the MP3i, there would’t be anything wrong. However, there are a couple flaws that take away from the cases initial appeal, but overall the case is extremely easy to use.
Most of OP/TECH’s cases use the same vertical Velcro strip to secure the cover. The Velcro is relatively secure and by mounting it vertically, it’s easy to open and close. But the vertical placement also worried me somewhat because the strip could possibly catch on something in your briefcase or backpack and get pulled open. Additionally, just modifying their base pouch design results in a fit that leaves a lot to be desired. While the height and width are about perfect - snug but not so tight as to make removing it difficult - there is about a quarter of an inch of extra room in front of the iPod. Pressing against the front of the case, you can easily feel yourself clicking the devices buttons. The jog wheel and buttons, the most fragile part of your iPod, end up getting the least protection from impacts. At the very least, the gap means that the iPod’s buttons can accidentally be hit while in the case, doing anything from switching tracks halfway through your favorite tune to turning on the device while it’s in your backpack, easily draining your battery.
The Bottom Line
My two only real problems with the MP3i Pouch were slight design flaws that held potential risks. The vertical Velcro could result in it falling out, and the extra room on the front might mean your iPod is not fully protected from impacts. In terms of my personal experience with the pouch, it worked great, and the case definitely feels well designed and manufactured. But any flaw that could leave you spending yet another $400 on a replacement iPod should never be overlooked.