Review: Sumo Cases PlayThru Vertical 4G
Pros: Highly attractive and reasonably priced fabric sleeve-style cases that do a nearly perfect job of protecting all of your iPod, using a top flap for access. Solid metal belt clip.
Cons: Belt clip is not detachable, repositionable; bottom hole is a little too generously sized, and not fully covered by bottom Velcro tab.
With so many 4G iPod cases on the market, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were overwhelmed by the options at this point - or bored of them. In truth, we’ve seen so many that it’s hard to get excited over any new case, and we’re especially sensitive these days to designs that repeat the well-documented mistakes of the past.
That’s why Sumo Cases’ new PlayThru Vertical 4G cases ($29.99) are so appealing. For months, we’ve been using the company’s suede Flap case (iLounge rating: A-) as our primary everyday iPod carrier, but as we lamented at the time of its release, you do need to pull the iPod out to access both its screen and controls. PlayThru solves that issue while retaining virtually all the features we liked in Flap.
From a distance, PlayThru looks a lot like Flap: it’s a soft ballistic nylon iPod holder that resembles a PDA case, but has no hard, reinforced parts: instead, all of its sides are soft, and its front and back are padded. Unlike its predecessors, which were either made from nylon, leather, or suede, PlayThru’s flap is a stylized combination of both nylon and leather that match each other in color, but differ in texture. You can choose from at least six colors; we’ve seen black, gray, red, green, blue and pink, each of which is equally nice. The inside of the flap includes a small Spandex-like pocket large enough to hold a credit card or two, the one and only extraneous feature of the design.
Once the front flap opens to reveal your iPod, you’l find holes that are cut for its screen and controls. We tested PlayThru with various thicknesses of full-sized 4G iPods, and thanks to rear internal padding, each one fit well: the soft fabric isn’t taut (or intended to be so) against any of their faces, and even the 4G 60GB iPod fits without an issue.
Two other smart design decisions merit additional attention. Sumo has used a slit at the PlayThru’s top rather than a single-sized hole; the slit opens only as much as is necessary to temporarily provide access to the iPod’s headphone port and Hold switch, and doesn’t permanently expose either. We really like this idea, and prefer it to the tops of other fabric cases we’ve tested.
Sumo also leaves a hole for the iPod’s Dock Connector at the case’s bottom, which is a little on the large side - enough for any accessory you can think of. When the case’s front flap is closed with a small fabric and Velcro tab at the bottom, this hole is almost entirely covered. Combined with PlayThru’s lack of other holes at the bottom - an unfortunately common part of most PDA-style cases - your iPod is sealed inside and almost fully protected when the case is closed. With all of these factors taken together, this is one of the most protective cases we’ve seen.
Other than the fact that the hole at bottom is a little too large, the only other issue we have with this case is a small one - Sumo uses a non-detachable, one-piece metal belt clip that’s fine on workmanship and sturdy, but not optimal. We’d prefer a detachable, metal screw hub-based clip, and arguably a ratcheting, pivotable one with a spring-loaded clipping mechanism, to the fixed and fixed-position one that’s here. There are two reasons for this: first, Sumo has planned to release a separate version of this case called PlayThru Horizontal with a clip mounted in a different direction, but virtually the same end could have been accomplished here with a different clip. Second, we prefer not to belt clip our iPods, so having the option to remove the clip is preferable. With all of that said, however, Sumo’s clip is unoffensively small and won’t preclude you from carrying PlayThru in a bag if you want to.
Overall, PlayThru Vertical 4G is one of the very best cases we’ve seen for 4G iPods. With in-store availability set for Thanksgiving, the price is right, the look is great, and the protectiveness level is very high - a nearly perfect option for people who aren’t planning to upgrade to 5G. WIth slight tweaks, this case could be even better next generation, so we’ll be anxious to see how Sumo has evolved the design.