Models: Shield 4 Nano, VideoShield
Compatible: iPod nano, 5G (30 or 60)
Agent 18 Shield 4 Nano and VideoShield
Pros: Cleanly designed two-piece hard shells for the iPod nano and 5G, constructed to fit in Universal Docks (and similarly large alternatives) without being removed; nano version even includes its own custom Universal Dock Adapter. Unique combination of glossy and frosted plastic finishes. Reasonable pricing.
Cons: No protection for Click Wheel or bottom of either iPod model; no pack-in frills other than the nano’s custom Adapter; very similar to most other hard plastic cases we’ve seen in appearance.
Perenially popular, Agent 18’s clear hard plastic Shield cases have been protecting iPods for years. Now the company has released fifth-generation iPod ($25) and nano ($20) versions called VideoShield and Shield 4 Nano, respectively, each a two-piece shell that snaps together on the iPod’s left and right sides. What visually distinguishes the Shields from myriad other clear plastic iPod cases is their unique combination of glossy and frosted finishes: Agent 18 leaves the iPod’s screen, sides, and Apple/iPod logos behind clear, glossy panels, frosting the rest of the iPod with a matte texture that doesn’t show scratches as easily. At a distance, though, they’d be hard to tell apart from similar offerings we’ve previously covered.
Like most competing cases, different-sized VideoShield versions are sold for the 30GB and 60GB iPods; it also merits a note that this is actually Agent 18’s second stab at an iPod nano shell - the company previously released a three-piece version which we didn’t review. The new iPod nano version includes a special white Universal Dock Adapter that lets you dock the encased iPod nano inside any Universal Dock-ready accessory.
As with most of the clear hard plastic cases we’ve tested, all three Shields (nano, 30GB and 60GB) rate a near-perfect score on fit, finish, and resilience, as explained by the drop-down box above; Agent 18’s attention to each iPod’s curves and holes is without fault. The cases hold their iPods as much like gloves as any plastic case we’ve seen, and lose one point only in resilience - their screens and other clear surfaces can show scratches over time.
Each Shield provides complete access to its respective iPod’s controls and ports - the Hold switch is fully exposed, as is the iPod Click Wheel, Dock Connector port, headphone port and screen. Oversized headphones work with each iPod without a problem, and Apple’s various Lanyard Headphones also work with the nano case’s fully open bottom.
In terms of special features and innovation, the Shields are fairly bare: the two-piece clear iPod shell concept isn’t new, and other than their combination of clear and glossy textures - worthy of a point here because of its distinctiveness - they don’t bring much else to the table. Each case does receive a point for its approach to iPod dock compatibility, though: Agent 18 has taken special care to keep each iPod’s bottom surface as close to the bottom of the case as possible, and even includes the aforementioned Universal Dock Adapter with the Shield 4 Nano to make it look nice in any Universal Dock-equipped accessory. Truthfully, you needn’t use the custom Adapter, as the nano still fits into any dock without it, but it’s a nice idea nevertheless. Similarly, the 5G cases are thick enough on the sides that you can’t fit them into many old iPod docking accessories, including Apple’s pre-Universal Docks, but they will fit into Universal Docks and some others as well.
As hard plastic cases, the Shield score two points here for strength, aiding the so-so five points they merit for the extent of their coverage. Agent 18 still leaves each iPod’s Click Wheel exposed - there’s no included detachable protector in their packages - and also exposes the full bottom of both the 5G and nano, with less of a plastic barrier down there in order to ensure Universal Dock compatibility. It’s a measured tradeoff, better for those who care about accessory use than those who are carrying their iPods in pockets with other items.
Priced reasonably by 5G and nano case standards, both VideoShield and the Shield 4 Nano represent pretty good values - they’re a bit under the price norms we’ve seen, but also include less frills in their packages. As with their predecessors, we think these are solidly recommendable cases overall, especially for people who use newer iPod docks and speaker accessories, though their approaches to iPod protection and lack of pack-ins may endear them less to some users than others.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.