AVA Showcase nano LAVA
Pros: A silicone rubber case with a unique shape, substantial protection, and included magnetic cord manager. Highly affordable and available in ten colors.
Cons: Exposed Hold switch and bottom surfaces, though both are surrounded by thick rubber edges.
If you’re going to make a silicone rubber iPod case these days, you need to have a novel shape, price, or quantum of protectiveness to stand out. AVA Showcase’s nano LAVA case ($15, aka Lava) has all three: shaped like a bar of soap or soft-edged bone, Lava feels good in your hand, makes your iPod look a bit different - in a good way - and covers almost everything against potential damage. Ten different colors are available, ranging from predictable black, white, and gray to bright shades from the rest of the rainbow. For the price, it’s one of the very best iPod nano cases we’ve seen.
We can’t point to any major flaws in the build quality of Lava: like most properly-made silicone cases, it’s precision-tailored to the nano’s various features, and won’t scratch your iPod. Though we noticed during extended testing that the white case can attract smudges, they’re easy to remove with a quick cleaning; the case otherwise doesn’t show marks, permanent or otherwise.
AVA’s design provides essentially unencumbered ease of use: the Hold switch, screen, Click Wheel, headphone port and Dock Connector are all available to access. Though there is a thick lip of rubber at the case’s top and bottom, sticking your finger or a connecting accessory into any of the holes lets them expand as much as necessary to work without a problem.
Two of the four points we award for special features are for AVA’s selection of ten Lava colors: green, yellow, orange, blue, pink, red, purple, gray, white, and black are all available, and nice-looking in person. Another design point is attributable to Lava’s unique shape; it’s organic and mod rather than the nano’s standard “sleek,” and though it might or might not appeal to you, there’s no doubt that it looks unlike any other iPod case out there right now. As we don’t add or detract points for attractiveness, it’s your call as to whether they match your style and preferences.
The last point comes from a simple pack-in, AVA’s magnetic Cable Grip, which comes in gray only and keeps your headphone cords from tangling. The Grip is easy to lose if you don’t pay attention to its location or keep it attached to your cable when not in use as a manager, but it’s a simple, viable design.
Thanks to the case and its detachable hard plastic screen protector, which works well, Lava protects the entirety of your nano save for two parts - its Hold switch and bottom. In other words, the Click Wheel is covered - here, with a thin layer of rubber that doesn’t impact nano usability - and the rest of the iPod has an abnormally thick layer of rubber as a scratch and drop guard. In most cases, we’re more concerned about open tops and bottoms than we are here, but because the rubber’s pretty tall on the sides of both exposed holes, Lava does a good job of protecting these surfaces against everything but directed scratches.
At $15, the Lava cases are priced a little more than appropriately for what they are - simple silicone cases with a couple of nice design twists. Because of their price aggression and the fact that we legitimately liked the designs, they rate a score of 8 on value, which is unusually and sadly high by today’s standards. Taken along with the fact that they’re well-made, very protective and yet usable, original and colorful, their good value helps the Lava cases fully earn our unqualified flat A, high recommendation. If you’re a nano owner on a budget, or just want something different and eye-catching to keep your iPod safe, this should be one of your very top choices.
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.