Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, color/photo, iPod mini
Belkin Sports Jacket for iPod 4G/20GB
Pros: A black silicone rubber case for 20GB black-and-white iPods with a generally reasonable compromise of top port access and coverage. Includes lanyard and way to access full bottom of iPod.
Cons: Very generic design. Screen, wheel, and bottom aren’t well-protected; case shows dirt and dust like no other, and very rapidly at that, looking bad within short period of time. No belt clip option. Neck lanyard not super useful for full-sized iPods.
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.
If every major iPod accessory manufacturer was required to sell at least one silicone rubber case, the Sports Jacket for iPod 4G/20GB ($24.99, street price $12 and up) would officially fulfill Belkin’s quota. The nearly generic jet black case is sized specifically to fit the now-discontinued 20GB black-and-white iPod, and doesn’t properly fit 20GB or 30GB color iPods, let alone anything larger. We in no way detract from the case’s rating for this, but do note that Apple’s decision to call today’s 20GB color iPods by the same name as their predecessors has unfortunately rendered this case’s packaging and marketing outdated.
Belkin notes that the case has a “grip texture for secure carrying.” We assume that the reference is either to the case’s slightly textured back, which has ten small embossed grooves that are more decorative than anything else, or to the case’s matte body, which contrasts only a little with the shinier rubber used by some case makers. A detachable lanyard with Belkin’s name is also included with every Sports Jacket. It is said to be there just in case you want to wear your full-sized iPod on your wrist, but the one we got was necklace-sized. Belkin includes a well-reinforced hole on the case’s left side for the lanyard, suggesting that a wrist (rather than central-mounted neck lanyard) was intended; we don’t think neck-mounted full-sized iPods are a great idea.
By comparison with the better silicone cases we’ve seen for fourth-generation iPods, the Sports Jacket is neither especially well thought through or attractive. We say that for three reasons. First, it shows lint, dust and hair like no other case we’ve tested, which is probably equally due to its use of black rubber and its lack of an anti-dust coating. It started to look dirty only moments after coming out of its package. Our first two shots were taken soon after it arrived, and our latter three were snapped after a bit of use. (A white version is also apparently available, but we haven’t seen it.)
Second, it lacks the screen and Click Wheel guards that come with the best of the rubber cases we’ve reviewed. Whether integrated into the case or sold as separate add-ons like Power Support’s 3D Wheel Film (iLounge rating: A-), these guards make all the difference between a case that properly protects all of your iPod and one that leaves key parts out to be scratched. Here, they’re left out to be scratched.
So is the iPod’s bottom. In addition to the other issues, Belkin uses an unusual molding that exposes more bottom plastic and metal surface than virtually any other full-sized iPod rubber case we can recall. To be generous, this is explained as a way to provide “easy access to the bottom sync/charge port,” and yes, you can peel back the rubber easily for this purpose. But we’ve much preferred the more protective flip-open bottoms of cases such as Speck’s, if this is to be accomplished at all. There’s a hole at the top of the case for the iPod’s Hold switch and headphone port, which isn’t bad, but does leave a bit of extra top surface on the left side unnecessarily exposed as well.
It’s worth only a brief mention for some of our readers that the Sports Jacket does not include a belt clip. We don’t really need to have belt clips with our rubber cases, but if given the choice between a wrist strap or a detachable belt clip, we’d have to choose the latter. Otherwise, we’d do away entirely with both the belt clip and the straps, eliminating the lanyard hole on the case’s side in the process.
Overall, this is one of the weaker case designs we’ve seen from Belkin, and certainly not one that should be left untouched if the company plans to create future silicone cases for full-sized iPods. We’d work first on protectiveness and dirt issues, and then on aesthetics and functionality, all issues that appear to have been glossed over here. There are too many great rubber cases out there for this one to be even a good alternative.