Review: Belkin Sports Jacket for iPod mini
Pros: Three silicone rubber iPod mini cases in a single package, with one fabric lanyard that’s supposed to be for wrist wear.
Cons: Cases are nothing special, lacking screen or control protection, and leaving the iPod mini’s bottom more exposed than in top-rated silicone cases. Lanyard is actually a necklace rather than a wrist strap.
Having recently had the opportunity to check out the entirety of Belkin’s very large case lineup, we wanted to bring you reviews of all ten of them in a timely fashion. Today, we wrap up our reviews with looks at five different iPod mini and iPod shuffle cases.
Silicone rubber cases have almost become commodities - we use the word “almost” because there is a difference between the great and the so-so designs. Belkin’s Sports Jacket for iPod mini ($34.99/3 pack, street price $20 and up) is one of the so-so ones.
Unlike the company’s full-sized Sports Jacket for iPod 4G/20GB (iLounge rating: C-), the Sports Jacket set for iPod mini comes with three different translucent cases, one pink, one blue, and one “ice white.” Other than color, they’re identically made - holes for screen and Click Wheel controls, with thinner holes for the iPod mini’s top and bottom. Thankfully, none show dust and dirt as profoundly as the full-sized black Sports Jacket.
Each set also comes with a total of one white fabric lanyard that’s marked twice with the Belkin name. The lanyard is described by the company as a wrist lanyard, but is in actuality not - it’s more than long enough to wear around a neck, and way too big for a wrist. You can attach it through a hole on the left side of any of the cases, and detach it with a plastic clip mechanism.
As with the full-sized iPod version, Belkin notes that the case has a “grip texture for secure carrying,” which is either a reference to the case’s slightly textured back, which has ten small embossed grooves that are more decorative than anything else, or to the case’s matte body, which contrasts only a little with the shinier rubber used by some case makers. There aren’t any actual grips on the case, as with certain iSkin or XtremeMac designs; the case is almost entirely frosted rubber.
Though it isn’t quite as problematic as the full-sized iPod version, there’s nothing that we really liked a lot about this case design, either. Belkin hasn’t included screen or Click Wheel guards of the type that come with the best of the rubber cases we’ve reviewed - we continue to prefer Power Support’s 3D Wheel Film (iLounge rating: A-) as a protective solution - and their absence leaves key iPod parts out to be scratched.
The Sports Jacket also exposes the iPod’s bottom, relying on an unusual molding that exposes a fair bit of the iPod mini’s bottom plastic and metal surface. This design provides “easy access to the bottom sync/charge port,” and yes, you can peel back the rubber easily for this purpose. But we’ve much preferred the more protective flip-open bottoms of cases such as Speck’s, if this is to be accomplished at all. A similar hole at each case’s top provides easy access to the mini’s Hold switch and headphone port, but also leaves the space between them uncovered. We didn’t mind the extra exposure at the top as much as at the bottom.
As with the full-sized iPod version, it’s worth only a brief mention for some of our readers that the Sports Jacket for iPod mini does not include a belt clip. We don’t really need to have belt clips with our rubber cases, but if given the choice between a “wrist” strap or a detachable belt clip, we’d have to choose the latter. Otherwise, we’d do away entirely with both the belt clip and the strap, eliminating the lanyard hole on the case’s side in the process. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution on this, though; your feeling will depend on how you carry your iPod mini.
Having seen so many good iPod mini silicone cases in the past, this is definitely not a memorably good one, and we’d sooner not have to buy three of them at once, either. A single case with good screen, Click Wheel, and bottom protection would be a much better value for the dollar in our view, and one we’d sooner recommend. As just one example, consider Power Support’s Silicone Jackets, particularly Square Type (iLounge rating: A).