Review: Marware SportSuit Basic and Sleeve for iPod video (5G)
Pros: Evolved neoprene cases for the iPod 5G, with excellent protection and superior looks to Marware’s prior versions. Each comes with detachable Krusell Multidapt spring-loaded belt clips, and both are available at reasonable prices.Sleeve includes a nice headphone pocket made from an attractive Orca-style neoprene, which we really liked.
Cons: Sleeve requires you to remove your iPod for access to its video screen and controls, a case design that’s becoming decreasingly practical as the iPod’s screen becomes increasingly important. Basic’s clear plastic face doesn’t align as neatly on the 60GB iPod as on the 30GB version, and isn’t the cleanest plastic cover we’ve seen. Non-vulcanized neoprene is still not our favorite iPod case material.
Back in 2002, we reviewed the first version of Marware’s Sportsuit Sleeve, a neoprene case for the original iPod, and last year, we looked at the company’s Sportsuit Basic for fourth-generation iPods. Now Marware has released Sportsuit Sleeve and Basic for the fifth-generation iPod ($20 each), visually tweaked versions of these cases that strongly resemble the iPod nano Sleeve and Basic cases we reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
Sleeve is a neoprene pouch-style, one-size-fits-all case that covers all of a 30GB or 60GB iPod’s body, even including its screen and controls. Black and blue versions are available, each with a detachable black Multidapt belt clip on its rear. Unlike the clips included with the otherwise similar iPod nano versions of this case, Marware’s belt clip here is one of Krusell’s low-profile spring clips, which we prefer. If you’re looking to mount the case in your car, or on a bike, the company’s new packaging goes to lengths to point out the interchangeability of the numerous Krusell clips, which we’ve discussed in earlier reviews.
Use of the Sleeve is simple. You open a Velcro-sealed flap on its top, slide the 5G iPod inside the soft gray fabric interior with its top facing up, and close the lid. A small groove on the right side of the flap reveals the only portion of the iPod that’s exposed, giving you a place to connect your headphones.
The only unique things about the fifth-generation Sleeve are its new-to-full-sized-iPod visual touches. There’s a pocket on the front made from Orca-style neoprene, a shiny, smooth material that’s like whale skin in look and texture, and we really like how it looks in both black and blue variations. The pocket holds your earbuds when not in use, or could conceivably hold a couple of keys or something else small, assuming you don’t flip the case over - there’s no Velcro on the pocket. As with its nano case, Marware’s also using slightly more stylish branding of its name and logo than in its earlier versions, with a gray stripe of a logo on the top flap and matching gray name mark on the case’s left-hand side. These are nice touches, and the case is a solid evolution of its predecessors.
Our major issue with the Sleeve is one we’ve mentioned in many recent reviews of 5G iPod cases: covering the new video-ready iPod’s screen and controls at all times makes even less sense to us today than it did with cases for earlier iPods, and as much as we like the way this case looks, we don’t want to have to pop our iPods in and out all the time to use them. The problem’s exacerbated by Apple’s removal of the iPod’s top-mounting remote control port, which means that you can’t - at least for now - run a cable out of the Sleeve and use your iPod’s controls at all.
If you don’t mind sacrificing access to your iPod’s video screen and controls, Sportsuit Sleeve is one of the very nicest pouch-style designs we’ve seen, and still worthy of our recommendation on that basis. However, as the iPod has continued to evolve, pouch-style cases have made less and less sense to us, and though there may be an exception in the future, we think Sleeve’s is pretty close to the ceiling of how pouch-style designs will rate for video-enabled iPods going forward.
As we noted in our review of Sportsuit Basic for iPod nano, Marware’s earlier Sportsuit athletic cases were bulky and semi-protective, using neoprene, rubber, and a bit of clear vinyl to largely cover full-sized and mini iPods. Thankfully, the company opted to update the look and feel of its aging designs, creating a thinner neoprene shell that loses the big rubber side grips found on last year’s Sportsuits, adds additional protection to the iPod’s body, and looks better, too. Available only in black, the new Sportsuit Basic is equipped with the same detachable low-profile spring-loaded belt clip found on Sportsuit Sleeve, which we really like.
The new case starts with a 2mm neoprene and clear vinyl shell that protects literally every part of the 5G iPod save a tiny hole for its headphone port - a fact which we sincerely appreciated. Since Sportsuit is a one-size-fits-all case, the hole centers properly on the 60GB 5G’s port, but can easily be moved a little for the 30GB iPod. Like the iPod nano version of the case, this hole worked properly with all of the headphone plugs we tested, including oversized ones. If need be, you can easily access the Hold switch through the neoprene, marked with a gray indicator. Kudos to Marware for this highly protective solution.
Sportsuit Basic’s front is similarly protective. Gone are the holes Marware used to leave for iPod controls: now a form-fitting clear plastic cover protects both screen and controls, but the Click Wheel’s still entirely usable underneath. Even the case’s bottom is smart - it closes with a tuck-in neoprene fold at the bottom that can be temporarily opened to remove your iPod or use the Dock Connector. The rest of Sportsuit’s body grips the 30GB or 60GB iPod enough that there’s no problem whatsoever, even when the bottom is open. Again, another big bravo for Marware here.
Other than the fact that we’re not huge fans of non-vulcanized (read: shiny) neoprene cases, an aesthetic preference you may feel differently about, there are only a couple of real issues with Sportsuit Basic. On a 60GB iPod, the neoprene and clear plastic front of the case doesn’t align as neatly as it does on the 30GB version, which also happens to be more noticeable on a white iPod (because of the black case) than on a black one. This detracts a bit from the case’s otherwise nice appearance. The plastic also isn’t the clearest screen protector we’ve seen, but it more than suffices here.
In our view, both Sportsuit Sleeve and Basic are very good values at $20 - they both do a superb job of protecting your iPod, though Basic’s approach to screen and control visibility is far more practical for the video-enabled 5G iPod than Sleeve’s fully protected front. If you’re looking for an easy way to carry your new iPod around without fear of damage, either one of these cases will do a great job, though you’ll probably find Basic much easier to use.