Company: Contour Design
Model: iSee Video
Compatible: iPod 5G
Contour Design iSee Video for 5G iPods
Pros: A two-piece perfectly clear hard case intended to provide maximum visibility for the iPod’s natural look. Belt clip itself is satisfactorily strong, and can be removed completely revealing an uninterrupted, clear, flat back surface. Four small rubber nubs are included to raise this flat back off of the surface it rest on, to prevent scratching.
Cons: Like prior iSee cases, the iSee Video itself scratches easily, and if not perfectly assembled, may come apart entirely.
Since 2002, Contour Design has maintained the iSee line of ultra-clear hard cases for nearly every iPod model, and has continued to do so at reasonably low prices, consistently earning iLounge recommendations at ratings between B and A-. The latest iSee for the fifth-generation iPod shares most of its predecessors’ strengths - low prices and good looks - but also inherits most of their weaknesses; it’s easily scratched, and we’re concerned with certain important aspects of the cases’ construction.
The iSee earns full points for both the fit and finish categories of our Build Quality assessment, with all holes lining up accurately and no perceivable external or internal blemishes. Additionally, the case is available in two custom sizes, one each for the 30GB and 60GB iPods - a feature that users of the thinner iPod model will appreciate, as universal cases often force them to carry unnecessary bulk.
Where the iSee loses three Build Quality points is in resilience tests: our iSee and those of our readers have accumulated quite a few scratches of their own in normal everyday use, and proper fail-proof assembly can be tricky. iSee users should be careful to ensure that the iSee’s halves are properly and completely mated, and, if using the belt clip, that it is fully attached. We recently learned the hard way that with careless or even casual assembly, the iSee may come apart on one’s belt. Still, we’re certain that this was our error, and that with careful, proper assembly, users will have no problems.
With easy, full-time access to all five key areas of the iPod (screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector, headphone port, and Hold switch), the iSee almost scores a perfect 10 for Ease of Use. One point was deducted since iSee’s headphone port isn’t large enough for many third-party headphone plugs. The Dock Connector hole, however, is plenty large enough to accommodate any of the 30-pin plugs we’ve seen. One nice touch that is consistent across Contour’s recent cases is that the plastic around the iSee’s Click Wheel hole is very nicely - ahem - contoured, making scrolling quite comfortable.
Contour’s guiding principles for iSee cases have always been simplicity and elegance more than innovation and creativity. As such, there’s not much to say about the iSee’s “special features,” but the included cleanly-detachable, slim belt clip earns it a point nonetheless. The clip is quite similar in design to the one we loved on Contour’s iSee 4G (iLounge rating: B+), with a strong spring-loaded attachment point locking the clip in place on the case’s sides. Each package also includes four rubber pads that can be attached to the case’s rear corners, protecting that surface from scuffs when laid on a flat surface.
The iSee provides full-time protection for the iPod’s screen, back, and corners, but leaves the Click Wheel, Dock Connector, Hold switch, and headphone port exposed at all times. Thus, it loses three of the eight possible points for iPod coverage area, but gains both of the possible “strength” points as a hard case.
Priced at $26 and available in Apple Retail Stores sans shipping costs, the iSee Video holds what is roughly a $10 advantage over what has lately become considered “standard” for full-size iPod cases, earning 2 points for “aggressive pricing” above our 5-point baseline.
For those users who want a hard case that doesn’t drastically change the iPod’s look, the iSee is certainly a visually and financially attractive option. However, because of the case’s tricky, potentially precarious mating between its front and back halves - compounded by its tendency to scratch - this is not a case that’s going to allay all fears of iPod damage and inspire care-free operation. We’d recommend it more for off-belt carrying than on, but because of its holes and scratchability, don’t pocket of bag-hold it with keys or other sharp objects, and consider separate film for the iPod’s Click Wheel.
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.