Review: Belkin NE Classic Leather Case for iPod shuffle
Pros: A set of three differently colored leather iPod shuffle cases in a single package with small improvements upon earlier designs sold by Pods Plus. Compatible with either of shuffle’s USB caps.
Cons: Cases compromise a lot on protection of shuffle’s body and mostly add decorative appeal, exposing all four corners to some extent, as well as front and rear controls.
What would you get if you put a little extra gloss on the Pods Plus Leather Case for iPod shuffle (iLounge rating: C+) we reviewed back in March? The answer: Belkin’s NE Classic Leather Case for iPod shuffle ($34.99/3-pack, street price $20 and up). Most certainly produced by the same overseas manufacturer or one specializing in modestly improved clones, the Classic Leather Case is designed, cut, and stitched just the same as the earlier product, but features several relatively small changes that slightly improve its look and feel.
Unlike Pods Plus, Belkin sells these cases three to a pack: you get one white, one black, and one red Classic Leather, each with identical fit and concept. An adjustable flap at each case’s bottom opens to accommodate an iPod shuffle with either its standard or lanyard USB cap, holding closed with a small integrated loop of leather on the case’s front. The shuffle’s front and rear controls (including the battery light), status lights, and top corners are exposed, as are its bottom sides, and the lanyard necklace can easily stick out of those sides if you’re wearing it. This makes each case easy to use no matter how you want to use it, but not super protective.
In addition to its relatively trivial protectivity, we weren’t impressed by the Pods Plus case because of its look and feel: the leather seemed inexpensive and poorly reinforced, and the color of our sample wasn’t great. Belkin’s versions make small improvements: they are better reinforced than the Pods Plus design, each using a black interior lining to add a bit of extra strength to the case’s body. The leather seems a bit better as well, but not by enough to make much of a difference, and the red case in particular is a bolder color than the pale or off-shade ones offered by Pods Plus. (Their black and white cases, however, look virtually identical from the outside.)
Belkin’s only other addition to the design is a very trivial one: each case includes an integrated D-ring eyelet on its rear that can be attached to a lanyard or chain if you desire. However, Belkin doesn’t provide either, and the inclusion of the eyelet almost seems silly given that the case was designed to be used with the shuffle’s included lanyard.
To reiterate and expand upon our earlier Pods Plus comments in light of Belkin’s few innovations, we weren’t big fans of the earlier, semi-protective design, and wouldn’t have picked it as a template for a major manufacturer’s iPod shuffle case. As both earlier and more recent cases have proved, there’s no need to compromise this much on protectivity for an iPod shuffle. Unless you’re dying for a leather case, good looking cases such as Apple’s iPod shuffle Sport Case (iLounge rating: A) are substantially better, and though no leather case has done a perfect job of protecting and easing use of the shuffle, Vaja’s AP11 (iLounge rating: B+) has come closer than most.
The only saving grace of the Classic Leather Case is that you can get three of them for $35, the cost of one Vaja AP11 case. With our money, we’d buy one of the Vajas instead - the look, protectiveness, and quality are all considerably better, even if less than perfect overall. For that reason, at least until someone does something better, we’d also look outside of the leather case market at options such as Apple’s Sport Case, Tunewear’s Icewear shuffle (iLounge rating: A), and Power Support’s Silicone Jacket (iLounge rating: A-). They all look great, protect the shuffle better, and cost less than this option. But if you’re looking for something that’s cheaper per unit and a bit better than the Pods Plus design, the Classic Leather Case isn’t bad.