Review: Speck Products PortfolioSkin for iPod mini
Pros: An innovative, attractive rubberized wallet for iPod minis; different colors and interchangable straps add to appeal and customizability.
Cons: Alignment of interior holes is a bit off, Dock Connector hole is small, and price is comparable to what three rubber iPod mini cases would sell for.
Since the early 2004 launch of the iPod mini, we’ve reviewed over 50 different cases tailored to the unique size and shape of Apple’s mid-sized iPod. Today, we finish a series of quick looks at eight additional cases that range in materials from rubbery plastic to leather and felt, and in place of origin from Sweden to Germany, Japan, China, and the United States.
Speck Products is arguably at its best when making cases for the iPod mini and iPod shuffle. Two months ago, it released the “one-size-fits-all” PortfolioSkin for the full-sized iPod (iLounge rating: A-/B+/C), the first case we’ve ever had to review with three separate grades because of the way it fit three different types of iPods. But when Speck makes iPod mini and iPod shuffle cases, they fit properly, and thus we’re happy to give the iPod mini version of PortfolioSkin ($34.95) the praise it deserves.
Available in two colors, PortfolioSkin is the first rubberized fashion case we’ve seen for the iPod mini - a flip-open clutch with a design like an old-fashioned book. A flap on the left side folds over an iPod mini sheathe on the right, binding closed with a rubberized strap that runs across the case’s entire front and right side before hooking onto a peg on PortfolioSkin’s back. The strap is detachable and interchangeable: four straps come in each Portfolio package, with green, pink, black and white straps in the pink Portfolio set, and green, blue, orange and black in the clear Portfolio set.
When opened, the case gives you full access to the iPod mini’s screen and controls, which are uncovered, while leaving a hole to the left of the sheathe for iPod insertion and removal. There are small grooves on the inner top and bottom surfaces to let you easily remove your iPod with your fingers, while tailored holes are left for the mini’s top headphone port and Hold switch, as well as the bottom Dock Connector port. These top and bottom holes are the only parts of the mini left exposed when the case is closed - PortfolioSkin covers the rest in thick, soft Kraton plastic (its spin on rubber), and is therefore one of the most protective cases we’ve seen, but not the most.
The major innovation here is in the use of materials. Speck’s clear PortfolioSkin gives you a translucent, frosted view of any iPod mini inside of a wallet, a touch that’s especially nice with multi-colored iPod minis. Obviously, some people will prefer the opaque pink case - especially for the iPod mini - but even these people can play with the style of the case because of the wise addition of multi-colored detachable straps. Not only do the straps look good and provide customizability; they also work well, doing a good job of holding the PortfolioSkin closed.
Unlike the full-sized version of this case, the mini PortfolioSkin is properly aligned at all times with the iPod mini’s ports. Speck leaves enough room to access the mini’s Hold switch and extended headphone port, and we had no problems using oversized headphones with the case. The Dock Connector port at the bottom is just large enough to accommodate Apple’s accessories and cables, though, so be careful in purchasing if you’re planning to use this case with larger accessory plugs such as Monster Cable’s. It’s worth a quite note that the interior screen and Click Wheel holes are slightly misaligned, such that the iPod mini’s metal can be seen in the right upper corner of each.
That’s one of two factors that detracted from our ability to give PortfolioSkin for the iPod mini our highest recommendation. At $34.95, this isn’t a cheap case - in fact, it’s as expensive as the larger, full-sized iPod version, a pricing trend that we find a bit troubling. When you can get three rubber, plastic, or fabric iPod mini cases for less than the same price as PortfolioSkin, you really need to ask yourself whether this one is so special that it’s worth the premium. Some people won’t think twice because they’ll like the look so much. Others may pass.
Overall, PortfolioSkin earns generally high praise for innovation and appearance: we really liked the looks and feels of both colors, ourselves preferring the clear one to the pink one, but finding both appealing for their own reasons. A little more attention to the interior alignment and more aggressive pricing would have made this a must-have case for young women in our minds, but as-is, this is still an eye-catching and recommendable case design.