Review: Power Support Silicone Jacket 4G
Pros: More than adequately protects the 4G iPod’s screen, Click Wheel and body for a reasonably competitive price.
Cons: Top of iPod is partially exposed, only one color of this case is available.
Context is critical. When you’re starving, a day-old McDonalds hamburger suddenly looks like a gourmet meal, and when you’re a millionaire, a $100 gift suddenly doesn’t seem so impressive.
In August, iLounge reviewed a third-generation iPod accessory from Power Support called the Silicone Jacket Set, a rubber case (with stickers to protect the iPod’s screen and Wheel) that was stuck in a bit of an international time warp. Released many moons ago in Japan, the 3G Silicone Jacket arrived in America at the very tail end of the 3G iPod’s lifespan, and rated a flat B from us - owing mostly to the fact that there have been so many other 3G rubber cases we’ve reviewed and liked.
Now the fourth-generation Silicone Jackets have arrived, and instead of being last to market, the 20GB- and 40GB-sized versions are actually the first silicone rubber cases we’ve received from the 4G iPod. (For reference, Speck’s “one size fits all” 4G Skin Tight case is made from the slightly harder Kraton plastic material, and the difference in texture is noticeably in Power Support’s favor.) While the 4G Silicone Jacket is not a dramatic departure from the prior case’s formula, which you can read about here, it does come in a slightly improved Silicone Jacket Set package - including screen and new Click Wheel protection - that’s worth knowing about.
The Silicone Jacket can be briefly summarized as a no-frills frosted transparent silicone rubber enclosure for the 4G iPod, lacking company logos or embellishment of any sort. It covers the entire iPod save for its screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector port, and a thin contoured slit at its top. A modest change has been made to the top slit, leaving slightly more of the iPod’s top exposed to permit easier connection of top-mounting iPod accessories, but also permitting easier scratching if you’re not using such accessories. Additionally, the Dock Connector port hole is now a rounded rectangle, perfectly paralleling the shape of the port itself. The Dock Connector hole could stand to be a little larger, but works with official Apple Dock Connector accessories without a problem, and looks nice.
At first glance, holes for the screen and Wheel are unremarkable but for a tiny ring located a couple of millimeters inside the Wheel’s hole. Oddly, the inner ring matches the actual outline of the 4G iPod’s Click Wheel, whereas the outer ring - the edge of the case - falls slightly inside the Click Wheel’s surface. As a result, a couple of millimeters of the Click Wheel’s edge is covered by rubber, apparently intentionally. Like the metal iShield case we recently tested from Pacific Rim Technologies, we first thought that the designer expected the Click Wheel to be smaller, yet the precision of the internal ring suggests that the slight coverage of the Wheel was intentional. It’s a bit weird, but doesn’t limit use of the iPod, and unlike the extra metal on the early iShield we received, your fingers won’t get hurt touching or rubbing against the extra rubber.
In fact, we found the entire rubber case pleasantly soft to the touch, and it was easy to insert and remove an iPod - certainly easier than in Speck’s Kraton cases. It’s certainly not hard to look at, either, though it’s equally true that it’s neither as embellished as the typical iSkin case nor as colorful as the standard Lajo case, and it doesn’t feature any of the rubber molding innovations (differential thickness rubbers, flip-open bottoms, etc.) or belt clip options of those companies’ past products.
The simplicity of the Silicone Jacket is redeemed by the overall protectiveness afforded by its included components. As with its prior version of the Silicone Jacket, Power Support includes two types of “Film” with each Silicone Jacket: a thin sheet of transparent adhesive Screen Film covers and protects the iPod’s screen, while a similarly thin and transparent piece of Wheel Film now covers and protects the iPod’s Click Wheel - save for its central button. Each piece of film includes attachment instructions in Japanese, which we’d like to see translated into English in the near future, and we only found it a little hard to peel off the backing on the new Wheel Film. The adhesive attaches to the iPod without leaving any residue, and the only issue is whether you’ll bend the Film trying to place it on your iPod - a mistake we made unintentionally even after a bit of practice. Wrinkled film provides a less firm seal on the iPod’s surface, but still remains protective enough.
Regular readers will note that we preferred the look and feel of the transparent Wheel Film - previously used in Power Support’s iPod mini cases - to a matte white film that was included with the 3G version of the Silicone Jacket. Power Support’s decision to switch to clear Wheel Film for the 4G Silicone Jacket Set is thus welcome, and in fact looks great when added to the surface of the Click Wheel. When attached, the Wheel Film makes even more of the iPod’s surface look like clear acrylic - a nice touch, and a protective one too. However, the 4G Wheel Film still leaves the iPod’s scratchable center button exposed - an omission in the prior versions, as well - which is made more glaring by the new higher-gloss button used on the 4G iPod. We’d still like to see Wheel Film that addresses this concern. The Screen Film is the same as before, a slightly more matted transparent sticker that extends beyond the iPod’s screen on all sides and offers sufficient anti-scratch protection to satisfy most users’ needs.
With the Silicone Jacket, its Wheel Film and Screen Film all put together, the Silicone Jacket does a very solid job of protecting almost all of the 4G iPod - excluding of course the Click Wheel’s central button, the space at the top slit of the case, and the area surrounding the Dock Connector port. From the standpoint of simple protectiveness, there’s no doubt that this is a good product, though it’s neither the flashiest nor the most aggressively priced option that will emerge in the next 30 days. At $28.00 for the Silicone Jacket Set, some users may be tempted to wait for other options from low-priced competitor Lajo or feature and bundle competitor iSkin, but as we haven’t seen those products yet, we cannot comment on their respective values for the dollar.
While it would be easy to ask for a version of the Silicone Jacket with a perfectly sized Click Wheel hole and a slightly larger Dock Connector hole, we are really salivating for a 4G iPod version of Power Support’s more impressive Square Type case for the iPod mini, which would be a more dramatic visual departure and offer additional protection. As is, this version of the Silicone Jacket isn’t a lot to get excited about, but in the context of so few other options, it’s a substantially competent and solid early offering in the 4G iPod rubber case category.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge. A consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time, Jeremy’s recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.