Review: Power Support Crystal Jacket 4G
Pros: Simple hard plastic protection for a 4G iPod, including Click Wheel protection.
Cons: Simple by comparison to otherwise more versatile options available at or around the same price.
Following publication of our original review, Power Support adjusted the price of the Crystal Jacket to $20.00, thereby mooting one of our major criticisms of this product. We preserve the text of this review as-was, but note the impact of the price change below.
Clear plastic used to appear only as an element in plastic or metal iPod hard cases, but in recent months three companies have ratcheted up their production of fully transparent iPod cases. We’ve previously looked at iPod mini cases from Power Support (Crystal Jacket Mini), Speck Products (Mini FlipStand) and Contour Design (iSee-mini); now the competition has spilled over to the fourth-generation iPod, with Power Support’s Crystal Jacket ($27.00), Speck’s 4G FlipStand ($29.95, sold for $21.00 and up), and Contour’s iSee-20 and iSee-40 ($19.95) all beginning to appear in stores.
Of these offerings, Power Support’s is unquestionably the simplest, but is also likely to be the most expensive depending on where you shop. Like the company’s iPod mini Crystal Jacket, the Crystal Jacket 4G includes three key pieces - front and back clear plastic shells that snap together to protect all of the iPod save part of its top, its Dock Connector port, and its Click Wheel. Unlike the mini Jacket, Power Support sells two versions of the 4G model molded to fit 20GB and 40GB iPods. Each includes a clear adhesive Click Wheel protector called Wheel Film, which neatly protects the 4G iPod’s biggest exposed component against scratching. (We’ve reviewed and previously liked the Wheel Film, and it hasn’t changed from its prior incarnations save having been sized to fit the 4G iPod.)
For some reason, Power Support also includes two clear adhesive stickers, the purposes of which aren’t entirely obvious because the included instructions are in Japanese. Given the size and shape of the stickers, one of which is cut with a Click Wheel hole, we can only guess that one is supposed to attach to each face of the inserted iPod for extra protection. We initially suspected that the stickers were necessary because of a potentially rough circle of plastic on the lower interior of the case’s back, but this turned out to be an integrated rubber spacer to hold the iPod more firmly in place. The stickers therefore remain a bit of a mystery. We’re beginning to hope that although the company is Japan-based, it will produce dual-language instructions at some point in the near future, as this is the first (but probably not last) time we’ve had to scratch our heads to figure out what something was inside of their packages.
Finally, a small hard plastic ring is included with each Crystal Jacket as a case removal tool. The Crystal Jacket’s two hard pieces are snapped on to the 4G iPod, and lock into place with two gentle plastic latches. Using the removal ring (or a fingernail), you can easily pop the case open after it’s been attached.
Although the 4G Crystal Jacket is more protective, Power Support’s Crystal Jacket for the iPod mini was easier to like. Less expensive ($20) and compatible with Apple’s packed-in iPod mini belt clip, the mini Crystal Jacket was versatile and a good value relative to other hard-case options available at the time. Its wide open top and bottom, while not as protective as many other cases, allowed users to enjoy maximum compatibility with top- and bottom-mounting iPod accessories. We found uses for that case that other hard cases didn’t have.
By comparison, the 4G Crystal Jacket is pretty close in price to our current favorite 4G case, Contour’s Showcase 4G ($32.95), but a lot simpler, and lacking in features. For that matter, it’s more expensive than Contour’s recently released iSee-20 and iSee-40 cases, which while not as impressive offer very similar functionality - plus detachable belt clips, plus pop-open covered Dock Connector holes that are admittedly on the very small side. The only difference is that Power Support’s option scratchproofs the Click Wheel (save the center Action button), and Contour’s doesn’t; however, you could buy a Click Wheel protector or two from any number of companies with the $7 you save on an iSee. We won’t do a direct comparison against Speck’s 4G FlipStand, but suffice to say that similar comments apply there, as well - and the FlipStand includes Click Wheel protection.
At the end of the day, what you get from the 4G Crystal Jacket is a simple plastic shell that has plenty of empty space on its top (but still can’t accommodate Griffin’s iTrip or iTalk), a fairly small Dock Connector hole on its bottom, and a sticker to cover the 4G’s Click Wheel. While we don’t dislike the case in any way, there are cheaper and better options, as well as slightly more expensive and better options. For the price, the Crystal Jacket is not a case we would dissuade someone from buying, but it’s also not one we would actively recommend given other available options.
Update: Based on Power Support’s last-minute price change, we have revised this product’s grade from its original C+ to a B-. While it is no longer more expensive than its two biggest competitors, it is still a very simple case by comparison to both of them.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His 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.