Review: Gadget Accessories Aluminum Case for iPod mini
Pros: A mostly well-designed alternative to metal iPod mini cases from Matias and Innopocket with plenty of aluminum protection on all sides save its front. Smart latch and hinge placement, nice detachable belt clip.
Cons: Leaves both iPod mini’s screen and Click Wheel completely exposed without any form of protection, unlike competing options.
Gadget Accessories is rapidly carving out a niche for itself in the iPod accessories market, producing low cost items that in some cases are a little rough around the edges. Some of the company’s newest products are outright clones of popular metal case accessories we’ve reviewed from other companies: in a separate review, we examine their 4G iPod clones of Matias’ iPod Armor and open-faced cases from Innopocket and Pacific Rim, but here, we look at a slightly different take on Innopocket’s Metal Deluxe Case for the iPod mini.
After early iPod aluminum case innovator Matias opted to switch to a hybrid metal- and plastic-bodied case for its iPod Armor mini, Innopocket stepped in with the Metal Deluxe Case, a solid aluminum shell with holes for the iPod mini’s controls, top and bottom ports. Though potentially more crush-resilient than the iPod Armor mini, Innopocket’s Metal Deluxe Case made the somewhat controversial choice to leave holes for the iPod’s Click Wheel, Dock Connector port, headphone jack and hold switch, plus a hole in the back to help you easily pop your iPod mini out. The options available were thus substantial protection in a plastic and metal case, or less substantial protection in an all-metal case.
Gadget Accessories’ version ($14.99) makes interesting and somewhat different choices than Innopocket’s: it leaves an appropriately-sized hole for the Click Wheel and better-sized holes for the Dock Connector port (larger) and headphone/hold switch (smaller). There’s no rear hole to help you pop the iPod mini out, which leads to better protection of the mini’s back; best yet, you don’t need one because the Dock Connector hole is big enough to let you wiggle the mini out that way, and the soft interior padding of the case is well-designed enough to prevent scratching in the process.
We also liked Gadget Accessories’ placement of the hinge at the top of the case, rather than at the bottom; the case stands easily on its own with an iPod inside, and looks very professionally thought out and well-made. It’s a little thin on aluminum, but adequate for its intended purpose, and uses a simple metal-on-metal latch mechanism to open and close. This actually turns out to be a better solution than the metal-on-plastic system used in the company’s 4G iPod version of this case. A screw-on metal belt clip nub and adequate black plastic belt clip are also included for those who want to clip their iPods; the case looks plenty good without these add-ons.
But the case also includes one critical design error: for no apparent reason, it leaves a large unprotected hole at the iPod mini’s screen, and includes no screen protection. Like the Click Wheel hole on Innopocket’s case, the hole on Gadget Accessories’ case is large enough to allow anything from a pen to keys to pop right in and get to the face of the iPod. As a result, this is the least protective of the metal iPod cases we’ve seen so far, though still not terrible given the spectrum of other types of cases available.
Each of its competitors addresses this issue with a hard clear plastic screen protector, though one gets the sense that this may have been left out because it would have added too much to the Aluminum Case’s price. There’s almost a $20 difference between Innopocket and Gadget Accessories’ cases, and a $35 difference between Matias’ and Gadget Accessories’ products. You could buy your own mini screen protector for that price; the only problem is that it won’t fit on the case, only the mini. Dangerous items can still find their way into the case from the front holes.
In the hard iPod case category, we tend to view the absence of screen protection as more serious than in other categories, as people often buy these cases to provide superior iPod protectiveness on all angles, and it’s harder to add after the fact in a fashion as protective as the rest of the case. The lack of screen protection makes the Aluminum Case for iPod mini a tiny step under our recommendable level, but if Gadget Accessories remedies this one point in the future, we think they’ll have a serious competitor to Innopocket’s product on their hands.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge. 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.