Review: Capdase Soft Jacket for iPod mini
Pros: Original, attractive metal/rubber iPod mini case and pretty good individual leather and rubber cases, all at affordable prices.
Cons: Mediocre belt clips on all models; leather and pure rubber cases aren’t standouts on anything except price given competing options, and have bad Dock Connector access.
Every month or so, another PDA accessory maker enters the iPod accessory market with a slate of new products, and most of the time, they’re yawn-inducing look-alikes of another company’s products. So we were thrilled to discover that Hong Kong-based Capdase - actually the word “PDA” spliced into the middle of the word “Case” - actually took the time to develop at least one new and iPod-appropriate case design for its new line of iPod and iPod mini cases.
The case in question is the generically named but uniquely designed Metal Case for iPod mini ($29.95, available for $16.50 and up), a chromed stainless steel shell that includes a rubber “soft jacket” inside. Capdase properly describes this combination of metal and rubber casings as “an innovative idea of high reliability” on its packaging. Metal protects the mini from serious external harm, while the rubber protects it from internal scratching or metal-on-metal scuffing. It’s a great idea, and it works well in practice, too.
Insertion is simple: just pop the iPod into the case’s open top, and don’t separate the metal and rubber cases unless you intend to use the rubber case alone. The two parts fit tightly together, with a small lip at the rubber case’s bottom to guarantee proper alignment. Once your mini is sheathed, everything but its top and Click Wheel are well-protected from scratches and other damage. A hard plastic screen protector - described by Capdase as “unbreakable” - integrates into the case and protects the iPod mini’s screen. While it fits into the rubber case, it’s a hint loose when the metal case isn’t attached, so we wouldn’t recommend using it without full metal protection.
We really liked the Metal Case’s chromed appearance, which enables an entire iPod mini to resemble the mirrored rear of full-sized iPods. It looks so good that it raises a question only obsessive iPod owners will appreciate: will you want a case to protect this case?
Even the smoke gray rubber interior jacket is cool, with a textured interior grid pattern that looks great as a standalone iPod mini case. Texture and shapes are design concepts too little explored in iPod cases to date; like Power Support’s great Square Type case for the iPod mini, Capdase’s effort proves that there’s still some room for rubber case innovation.
Special commendation is due for the Metal Case’s Dock Connector hole, which is particularly well-sized for compatibility with all sorts of bottom-mounting accessories, yet doesn’t completely expose the iPod mini’s bottom. While larger than the holes of some other companies’ iPod mini cases - and even Capdase’s other products - the Metal Case’s hole is as close to ideal as we’ve yet seen for our in-car purposes.
The Metal Case also includes two mounting accessories - a lanyard and a belt clip. While the lanyard is great - clear plastic around a shining metal cord, with a chromed metal post at the end - the thin, one-piece plastic belt clip is one of the least impressive we’ve seen. Admittedly, it suffices for light typical use, but we didn’t like its locking and unlocking mechanism or overall flimsiness much at all. Thankfully, it and its plastic belt clip nub are fully detachable, and as we don’t belt clip our iPods, the issue didn’t matter to us. But active users who clip their iPods might want to look for other options.
Even at its suggested retail price, the Metal Case is attractive, but our online searches yielded some surprisingly low numbers that represent an even better value for the dollar. Because of its unique iPod mini protective design and fair pricing, we have no hesitation highly recommending it to our readers.
Other Capdase iPod mini Cases
We also checked out two other iPod mini cases from Capdase, the company’s rubber Soft Jacket Set ($14.95), and its Flip Top Leather Case ($15.95). Both cases were a bit more than competent and acceptable overall, but not as unique or recommendable as the Metal Case.
The Soft Jacket Set includes a simple rubber case, the same underwhelming belt clip found in the Metal Case, and a somewhat garish white and reflective silver lanyard. While the case’s rear includes attractive and distinctive slits at its top and bottom, and Capdase has nicely engineered precision-cut holes at the case’s top for the iPod mini’s headphone port and Hold switch, the Soft Jacket looks a lot like Speck’s Mini Skin (iLounge rating: B), only with a pointlessly small Dock Connector hole at the bottom. None of the Metal Case’s textured rubber interior is here, either, and there’s no screen or Click Wheel protection. While not terrible, we wouldn’t pick this case as one of our top 10 in the rubber category.
Similarly, Capdase’s Flip Top Leather Case is a me-too take on Tunewear’s far more impressive Prie series. With a padded PDA case design and an inside face that looks a little too generic, the case we tested offers fine protection for almost all of the iPod’s body when closed - save its top and bottom side corners, the latter of which are oddly unsewn and loosely half-closed. Pink on the outside, the Flip Top case is white on the inside, with silver-colored metallic accent pieces on its rear; black and white exterior versions are also available.
The screen and controls are fully uncovered when the case is open, and though Capdase’s holes are cut a hint on the small side, most people won’t mind. At the top, there’s only a headphone port hole - reasonably sized for Apple’s remote and phones, but not for larger headphone plugs - and at the bottom, there’s an imprecisely matched Dock Connector hole that we’d rate a bit too small for many third-party accessories. An adjustable large arm strap with metal lobster claw clasps fits onto two D-eyelets on the case’s back, and the lid holds closed with a snap on the bottom rear.
Prie stood out because of the high quality of its leather, and several other little classy touches. Though Capdase has tried to do something similar, there’s no doubt which case looks or feels better. The Flip Top cases interior is visually just a little off - again, not terrible, but not great.
But when compared against the wider range of iPod mini flip-open cases, the Flip Top Leather Case is a better than average entry. Though we’ve seen much more innovative and better-made leather products, it will likely satisfy those with mid-grade quality expectations and little need to use third-party headphones or Dock Connecting accessories.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.