Review: Belkin Hard Case for iPod mini
Pros: An attractive aluminum hard case design with easy access to the iPod mini’s screen and controls, good detachable belt clip and nub.
Cons: Wide open top and back hole won’t be right for all users, lack of any Click Wheel protection may turn off hard case buyers looking for comprehensive protection.
Having recently had the opportunity to check out the entirety of Belkin’s very large case lineup, we wanted to bring you reviews of all ten of them in a timely fashion. Today, we wrap up our reviews with looks at five different iPod mini and iPod shuffle cases.
Apparently not content to just make one, two, or three types of iPod mini cases, Belkin has tried its hand at virtually every sub-genre of case design available, perhaps most interestingly with the aluminum-bodied Hard Case for iPod mini ($29.99, street price $20 and up). With a design that’s nearly identical to Innopocket’s earlier Metal Deluxe Case for iPod mini (iLounge rating: B+), the Hard Case uses an aluminum outer casing to protect almost all of an iPod mini’s front, back, sides and bottom, exposing its Click Wheel and parts of its top and bottom to the elements. A clear hard plastic protector gives you full-time access to the iPod mini’s screen.
The Hard Case flips open into two halves: a rear portion that shields the mini’s back, bottom, and sides, and a front face that overlaps the sides as well. All surfaces that touch the iPod mini are lined with a soft black foam rubber film, and our first- and second-generation test minis fit perfectly, showing no signs of scratching inside. Belkin’s front panel opens only to help you remove your iPod mini; otherwise it stays closed and covers everything save the mini’s Click Wheel.
Like Innopocket, Belkin also includes a detachable rear belt clip that uses a screw-off metal nub for attachment and detachment. We really appreciate when menufacturers include these detachable features, and are glad to see these ones here, particularly (and for a change) the included spring-loaded belt clip. It’s worth only brief mention that Belkin’s nub is smooth on its sides and difficult to remove without using a screwdriver - perhaps intentionally. The best ones we’ve seen have textured sides so that you can remove them with your fingers in a pinch.
Since the days of Matias’ iPod Armor for full-sized iPods, a full set of aluminum armor plating that covers virtually every part of an iPod, our basic issues with all aluminum cases have been the same: how much of the iPod do they protect, how practical is their ease of access to the iPod’s controls, and how much do they cost? We’ll run through these answers for the Hard Case quickly below.
On protection, Belkin’s choices in designing the Hard Case are similar to Innopocket’s, and unlike Matias’ iPod Armor mini (iLounge rating: A-): there are a bunch of holes that expose areas of the iPod. A Dock Connector port at the bottom is very small - like Innopocket’s, with just enough space for Apple’s connectors - and there’s a connected hole in the bottom rear of the case to help you push your iPod mini out. The top of the case is pretty much wide open, just like Matias’s and moreso than Innopocket’s, which is great if you want to attach accessories like Griffin’s iTrip but not if you’re looking for complete hard protection. We preferred Innopocket’s use of a small metal tab between the Hold switch and headphone port - it’s a little extra buffer against damage just in case you drop your mini on the ground.
Our comments on the practicality of Innopocket’s case were these, and are the same for Belkin’s: if a hard case is intended to be thoroughly protective, a case design with holes all over doesn’t do as much good as a flip-open full-front/back shield like iPod Armor. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a compromise between good metal looks and ease of access to the iPod’s ports, the Hard Case does fine.
And on cost, the Hard Case is in the right general ballpark. All of these aluminum hard cases for the iPod mini now retail for around $30-35 with fluctutations in street price, and the Hard Case is at the same level - less if you shop around.
But would we prefer this to Innopocket’s or Matias’ earlier designs? No. We’d have to give each of those cases the edge because of their added protectiveness - Matias on the front, and Innopocket on the top. As their grades suggest, however, none of these cases will be ideal for all users. Any one of them will generally satisfy your needs if you’re looking for a more resilient way to protect your iPod mini than the average soft case, and the Hard Case will be best if you’re looking for an Innopocket-style body with a Matias-style open top.