Review: Contour Design iSee Classic 80/160
Functional. Simple. These are the words we'd use to describe Contour Design's new iSee Classic 80/160 ($30), a clear hard plastic case that competes with earlier releases such as Griffin's iClear. Sold in a single version with separate rear plates for the 80GB and 160GB iPod classics, iSee Classic does away with some of the frills Contour has previously associated with its all-clear cases, yet maintains the same above-par price.
The good news here is that iSee Classic is perhaps the clearest and most straightforward iPod classic plastic case we’ve yet seen—arguably, to a fault. Contour’s lines make no attempt to jazz up or accent the iPod classic a la the company’s more expensive Showcase, and the because of the case’s complete clarity, it’s apparent that the shells, which are also fifth-generation iPod-friendly, actually have corner radiuses that match these older video iPods rather than the newer classics. As its name suggests, iSee’s front side lets you see the iPod’s front, and its back side the back, with only four corner interruptions and a tiny Contour logo on the bottom. What’s left is your iPod, only a little thicker on all sides.
Regardless of whether it’s on the 80GB or 160GB classic, iSee protects all of the iPod’s face save for its Click Wheel, which is fully exposed, and has oversized holes on the top and bottom for headphone port, Dock Connector, and Hold switch access. These holes are compatible with any cables and headphone plugs you might be using, but the Dock Connector port doesn’t work with many non-cabled bottom-connecting accessories, and the case is too thick for Universal Docks, regardless of whether you’re using the 80GB or 160GB iPod.
Contour’s priorities with iSee Classic seemed to be a little different from its predecessors and competitors. Rather than include port and Click Wheel covers like the ones found in other iSee models, iSee Classic’s only rubber pack-ins are adhesive dots that let you elevate each rear shell above a flat surface; there’s also a detachable clear belt clip in the package, designed to mount the iPod classic horizontally on your belt, rather than vertically. Both of these parts are fine for what they are, but we’ve become accustomed to belt clips that turn, ratchet, and in some cases serve as video stands, and we always prefer additional protection to having large exposed areas of the iPod.
For the $30 price, we were expecting a bit more from this design. Though Griffin’s iClear suffers from similar protectiveness issues, it has a fully accessory- and Universal Dock-compatible bottom, and sells for $20 less; DLO’s clear, comparable VideoShell includes a pop-out video stand for $20, and PDair’s Aluminum Metal Cases offer additional metal-bodied protection for less than iSee Classic’s price, as well.
Having tested superb iSees such as the $20 iSee nano V2, which offered nearly ideal protection at a more reasonable price, it’s our feeling that iSee Classic is trading on two things: the clarity of its shells as ways to show off the iPod inside with minimal visual interruption, and the value of a relatively simple belt clip. If you’re willing to part with $10 more than the other clear plastic options above for either of those features, consider this; otherwise, you’ll find iClear and VideoShell to be better deals for the price. As-is, iSee Classic was on the edge of our B and B- ratings, and scored the flat B only with reviewer’s tilt for its clarity.