Review: Belkin Neoprene Sport Case with Drawstring for iPod
Pros: A good neoprene sports case with a great top drawstring design that enables one case to fit multiple iPods and seal out the elements from above. Integrated belt clip can be turned in your choice of directions for horizontal or vertical iPod mounting on a belt.
Cons: Though sold as a sports case, isn’t compatible with the (possibly later-developed) armband and hand band accessories developed by Belkin for its Leather Sports Case - can only be worn on a belt. Belt clip is non-detachable. Front PVC material lets you use controls and screen, but doesn’t offer ideal precision for controls.
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. Over the course of the next two days, we’ll look at five cases per day, moving quickly through the good and bad points of each one. Today’s cases are all for full-sized iPods, and though most are designed as one-size-fits-all offerings, most are better suited for black-and-white 20GB and 40GB fourth-generation iPods, or 20/30GB color ones, than thicker 40GB or 60GB color models.
The exception to that rule is Belkin’s Neoprene Sport Case with Drawstring for iPod ($24.99, street price $20 and up), a unique and somewhat smart take on the neoprene case genre. There’s black neoprene at the rear, metallic gray neoprene on the front, plus stitched, textured rubber on the sides and bottom to hold them together. A clear PVC front gives you screen and control access, while a drawstring-laden polyester top opens or almost entirely closes, keeping your iPod safe from whatever’s outside. There’s a very small hole for headphones that remains open, but nothing else on the top.
While the case is marketed as water-resistant, its holes and materials render it less than waterproof, so it’s fine to sweat on but not submerge in water. A small Dock Connector hole on the bottom is right-sized for Apple’s cables and accessories, but not most others - frankly, as an otherwise water-resistant sports case, the hole is probably a bit unnecessary, though it’s not a bad feature to have by any means.
Because of the drawstring top and ample interior room, the Neoprene Sport Case fits all full-sized iPods quite well, even including thicker 60GB color iPods. Pulling thicker iPods out is a bit more of a challenge than it is with thicker one - most likely because the case was designed before the newer color iPods were introduced - but it’s not a real problem in any case. Regardless, we very much like the way the case opens and closes with the drawstring; an included, spring-loaded plastic bulb locks into place and keeps the case closed without a problem.
As with Belkin’s other cases, the PVC front is fine for looking at the screen, and reasonable - not spectacular - for accessing the iPod’s touch-sensitive controls. It works about as well as one would expect when putting a millimeter-thick plastic insert between controls and your finger, which is to say with occasional stutters, but surely better than no protection at all.
The two major oddities of the Neoprene Sport Case are related: there’s a non-detachable metal belt clip on the back, covered in what feels to be either leather or faux leather, and stitched nicely with white thread. This belt clip looks good, and like other non-detachable Belkin belt clips, swivels so that the case can be worn vertically or horizontally in your choice of orientations - even conceivably upside down, however ill-advised that would be. We’re still not quite sure, however, that leather’s the best-suited material for any “Sport Case,” and tend to think that an all plastic clip (particularly a detachable one with a spring-loaded clip) is a better idea - assuming you want to wear your iPod on your belt.
That ties into the second issue - people tend to want to wear sport cases on their arms, but there are no armband or hand band attachments with this case, as there are with Belkin’s Sports Leather Case (iLounge rating: A-), which also remedies the belt clip issue we noted above. However, because of its body material, that Sports Leather Case is one we’re less likely to actually use for sports because of its leather body - as we explained in its separate review, that’s more of a sporty leather case, in our view. This Neoprene case would have been more ideally suited for exercise applications, but the only way you can use it is on a belt, which is sort of limiting.
Overall, this is a generally well-designed case that is best suited to one particular type of user: the person who works out with an iPod but doesn’t want to wear it on his or her arm. For his reason, we wrestled with awarding this the right rating, seeing this as a particularly good implementation (B+ rating) of a niche product (B- rating). Our choice to rate this a flat B as recommendable underscores the fact that it’s a very good product for its intended audience, but not right for everyone. If you exercise without an armband, you’ll like the Neoprene Sport Case with Drawstring - otherwise there are better options for your needs.