Review: Contour Design Showcase 4G
Pros: A clean, attractive plastic hard case that lives up to its “Showcase” name by really displaying the iPod inside, includes detachable belt clip and works with any sized iPod.
Cons: Doesn’t protect the 4G iPod’s Click Wheel; isn’t currently available in the variety of colors of its 3G predecessor.
For experienced iPod accessory manufacturers, the retooling of earlier third-generation iPod cases and accessories for fourth-generation (“new�?) iPods is a relatively easy feat. By integrating the earlier iPod’s four separate buttons into the surface of the Click Wheel, Apple turned quality case design into an almost effortless task: leave a rectangular cut out for the screen and a circle for the controls, plus ovals for the top and bottom ports.
It therefore took several case manufacturers only a month to develop and ship iLounge the first new cases for fourth-generation iPods. While similar to their prior products, these new cases do feature slight changes that may interest first-time and experienced iPod accessory buyers.
Contour’s Showcase series of hard plastic iPod cases remain amongst our favorites for the third-generation iPod (see our review here), thanks both to Contour’s great design and recent enhancement of the product with a variety of different colored plastics. Now the company’s first 4G Showcases are shipping – albeit only in white and black versions – and as before, we feel comfortable recommending these cases to virtually any iPod user.
The concept is still simple: Contour locks your iPod inside a hard rubber colored frame that includes two pieces of transparent plastic and a smart articulating latch. This frame – black or white in current models – surrounds the iPod with soft parallel curves, exposing the unit’s headphone port, Hold switch, and Dock Connector port to the elements. Each has enough space to permit users to easily attach their choice of accessories without incident.
Transparent plastic reveals the iPod’s front face and a significant portion of its chrome back panel – enough to see the Apple iPod logos and the capacity of the unit inside. Like the 3G Showcase, the 4G Showcase includes a hole for Wheel access, though the newer case includes a superior, smooth beveled circle instead of the modestly awkward, flat cut five holes that appeared on its predecessor. It’s a cleaner, nicer look, thanks to Apple’s superior new iPod design.
Insertion and removal are easy and problem free. The front and back halves of the case are joined by rubber on the left side, and snapped together firmly with Contour’s nice articulating right side latch. Once inside, the iPod looks great and feels entirely secure; the rubberized sides of the case and hard transparent plastic surfaces are more than enough to prevent your iPod from sustaining serious drop or scratch damage. All that’s missing is Click Wheel protection, perhaps in a flip-down mechanism like the one implemented by Speck in its Flipstand cases, though most users will be plenty satisfied without it.
There are only two other differences between the older and newer Contour cases. Like the 3G version, the back of the 4G Showcase frame includes two holes to permit users to attach a solid, matching plastic belt clip (included), and a form insert is included to permit one case to be used with both current thicknesses of the 4G iPod. Wisely, Contour has made small changes to both of these parts: the foam insert no longer covers the rear transparent panel, and the belt clip remains the same size while using a little more plastic for reinforcement. Both changes are welcome: the new case shows off the iPod inside even better than before, and feels firmer when belt clipped.
Overall, the Showcase is an almost no-brainer evolution of an already great 3G iPod case - a good example of the right way to convert a 3G accessory into a winning 4G one. Especially given its lower-than-3G-version price of $32.95, we think that the Showcase has a strong likelihood of remaining at or near the top of the 4G iPod hard plastic case pile, and would recommend it without reservation - unless you’re strongly in need of Click Wheel protection or a different colored shell, in which case you’ll have to wait for another option.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.