Review: Core Cases Aluminum Case for iPod shuffle
Pros: A generally smart, two-piece metal iPod shuffle case with a detachable, repositionable, and sturdy rear belt clip. Does a good job of protecting shuffle, including its standard USB cap. Reasonable price given its features and design. Version 2 includes generously-sized headphone port hole.
Cons: Version 1’s headphone port hole is too small for many headphones other than Apple’s, and potentially some cassette adapters as well. In both versions, front and rear controls are exposed to the elements at all times, albeit a millimeter or two below metal’s surface.
Updated Sept. 10, 2005: Following our review, Core Cases went back and retooled the Aluminum Case to address one of our biggest concerns, a too-small headphone port. Currently shipping version 2 of the case includes a much better headphone port hole compatible with virtually any headphones you might want to connect, six different color options, and a white fabric lanyard.
These were great improvements, and if nothing else had changed, were worthy of a high recommendation. However, Core Cases has also raised the price of the Aluminum Case to $19.95, so we’ve left our rating and the remainder of our original review below untouched.
The Original Review: Version 1
As yet, there hasn’t been a metal case for the iPod shuffle that perfectly matches the protectiveness of Matias’ classic, virtually impervious iPod Armor for full-sized iPods, but there have been a few metal cases that have compromised protectiveness for ease-of-access to the shuffle’s controls. Core Cases, a new iPod- and game device-specific division of established casemaker InnoPocket, has developed one of the smarter metal cases we’ve seen, the Aluminum Case for iPod shuffle ($14.90). It will be available for sale in mid-August.
We especially liked three things about the Aluminum Case. First, it uses a two-piece sliding design, with front and back halves that lock together to entirely enclose an iPod shuffle with its standard USB cap on. Both halves are foam padded wherever they touch the shuffle to avoid internal scratches. Unlike Griffin’s iVault, it’s easy to open this case, pull your shuffle out, and connect it to a computer or charger no matter where you go.
Second, Core Cases came up with a really smart compromise for a detachable metal back clip: the Aluminum Case’s rear includes a slit that lets you insert the included alligator clip in one of two positions, permitting your shuffle to be mounted right side up or upside down. The sturdy, spring-loaded clip grips the case well in both positions, and does the same with whatever it’s attached to. You can also remove the clip altogether to thin the case for use in your pockets; a thin second layer of hard material inside the slit’s holes continues to protect the shuffle. There’s also a small hole at the case’s top right, presumably for an optional detachable wriststrap.
Third, the case has some nice aesthetic touches. Core Cases bothered to emboss icons on the case’s back so that people can easily reference the features of the shuffle’s rear switch and button; similarly, the case’s outer and inner curves are gentle, with bevels to prevent your fingers from hitting any harsh surfaces. The case looks professional, and feels smooth to the touch.
We have only a few criticisms of the design - mostly focused on its holes. Its headphone port hole proved incompatibly small with many oversized headphone plugs we tested, so a user’s only safe assumption is to use these with the shuffle’s included earbuds or ones similarly sized. Its front and rear control holes are the right size for easy use, though the front hole is a little off in left-right alignment, and predictably both holes expose your shuffle to potential scratching.
It’s also worth a brief note that the top status light hole is just large enough to expose the shuffle’s top yellow light, and only barely lets you see the amber one. We actually prefer this particular design decision to having a larger front hole; it lets us see enough without exposing too much of the shuffle’s face.
Finally, while the case is attractive and strong enough, it’s not quite the match of Griffin’s iVaults in style or thickness, which used the ruggedness of machined aluminum to their strong advantage. The Core Case feels a little more flexible and thin, but still does a very good job of what it’s supposed to do, covering more of the iPod’s body than the iVault.
Overall, Core Cases has developed a smooth, sleek, and very functional case - one that, like the iVault, we were on the fine edge of highly recommending - especially for the impressive price of only $14.90. Some people will view it as a no-brainer purchase at that price, and we wouldn’t blame them.
But what held us back from an A- in this case was the Aluminum Case’s headphone port hole, which was overprotective in the same way that the iVault was underprotective of the shuffle’s USB port. We don’t think headphone port issues are as serious in shuffle cases as they are for more expensive iPods, but the inability to use this case with common third-party phones - and potentially some cassette adapters - is an issue that will cramp this case’s appeal to many people. If you’re using your shuffle only with Apple’s earbuds, as many shuffle owners are, you’ll love this case. If not, you might find that it’s not quite as accommodating as you’d hoped.