Price: $12 (nano), $13 (5G) + Shipping
Compatible: iPod nano, 5G
Capdase Crystal Clear Cases for iPod nano and 5G
Pros: A hinged clear hard case that shows off and/or color accents the iPod 5G or nano inside, depending on which of the included inserts you choose to use. Each case includes substantial iPod protection and a simple cord manager; 5G version also includes detachable belt clip and wrist strap options. Very good value for the dollar.
Cons: Headphone port on both cases is too small for earbuds other than Apple’s and similarly small options; both also expose Hold switch, while only 5G version exposes Dock Connector at all times.
Like commodity silicone rubber cases, transparent plastic iPod cases have become almost formulaic at this point: two-piece shells that lock together at their sides, coating an iPod in a hard, clear box. Following its innovative work with silicone cases, Chinese case maker Capdase has thankfully continued to evolve the hard plastic concept beyond the mundane; its new Crystal Clear Cases for iPod 5G ($13) and nano ($12) offer two nice twists on the predictable old formula, though they also have an issue or two that may limit their appeal to some users.
Both versions of the Crystal Clear Case rate really well on build quality - other than their slight tendency to show scratches, which is better than other clear cases we’ve seen, they’re perfectly tailored to their individual iPod models. The nano version fit our test 1GB, 2GB and 4GB nanos without incident, while the 5G cases are separately sized for 30GB and 60GB models, and similarly fit properly.
Both of the cases provide easy access to all of their respective iPods’ controls and ports, and though the 5G version is a little better than the nano one on this score, we actually prefer the nano case’s approach. As it turns out, both cases expose their iPods’ Hold switches, Click Wheels, and headphone ports, and the 5G version uses a double bottom hinge that permits a large Dock Connector hole as well. We preferred the nano’s design, which has a hinge on top and a locking mechanism on the bottom where nano’s Dock Connector is; you can easily pop the lock and lift the nano up inside the case to use the port. But technically, the nano version loses two points for this; it won’t be as easy to use in a car, for example, as the open-bottomed 5G version.
Both cases lose a point for their too-small headphone ports, the single worst feature of Capdase’s design. If you’re using oversized headphones, you won’t want these cases, because they just won’t fit. Of course, Apple’s standard earbuds and similarly small plugs work without an issue. We would have been much happier if this port hole was larger.
By clear case standards, there are two innovations here - one on color, and one on locking design. Though most of each case is clear plastic, Capdase includes two colored inserts in each case’s package - one white or black, and the other green or purple. These inserts become edging for the case, so if you’re looking to do something other than match your iPod, you can dress up the case a little. Matching Click Wheel guards for each insert are also included.
The locking system is also nice. Though Capdase’s hinge system isn’t as low-profile as many of its competitors, we did like the fact that these cases seal tight in a way that others, such as Contour Design’s iSee cases, do not. A lock on nano’s bottom is mirrored by one on the 5G’s top, and though they’re easy for the user to open, they’re not going to pop open accidentally.
As far as pack-ins are concerned, the cases vary. Shipped in insert-matching white or black, plastic belt clips are only included with the 5G version of Crystal Clear; their white or black nubs can’t be removed from their cases’ backs. Capdase also includes wrist straps with the 5G cases, for a two-point difference between the nano (3 points) and 5G versions (5 points). All of the cases come with a very simple clear plastic cord manager, which we don’t think is good enough to merit an additional point.
Both versions of the Crystal Clear Case are highly protective. Other than the 5G version’s exposed Dock Connector, which isn’t mirrored on the nano case - add one point to the 5G’s 8 here for that reason - and both cases’ Hold switch holes, they cover everything, and are very strong thanks to the hard plastic. Silicone rubber Click Wheel protectors are included and work well with both cases.
We’ve pointed out a number of times that Capdase cases are - at least for US customers - more expensive than their initially low prices would appear, because of a required international shipping charge that adds roughly $10 to their MSRPs. Even when that’s been factored in, though, Crystal Clear Cases remain very aggressively priced by iPod standards, and we affirmatively liked them enough to add one bonus point here. They would have earned more of a bonus if the headphone ports were larger.
Overall, we consider these Crystal Clear Cases to be some of the very best we’ve seen in the clear hard case genre, thoughtfully innovative and user-customizable, besides. But for their too-small headphone ports and differing approaches to Dock Connector coverage, we’d recommend them universally, but they’re quite deserving of their A- high recommendations as-is.
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.