Review: Core Cases Aluminum Slider Cases for iPod nano, touch + iPhone
From a distance, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between Core Cases' new Aluminum Slider Cases for the third-generation iPod nano ($20), iPod touch ($25), and iPhone ($30) and the $160 stainless steel, Gilty Couture-branded designs debuted by Core's parent company last month. That's a good thing: for years, we've liked Core's approach to iPod case designs, and though its newest metal cases could stand to offer more front protection, they're otherwise impressive.
One of the biggest issues with typical aluminum cases is their bulkiness: the original metal iPod cases were big, brick-like boxes that felt durable but threatened to make the devices inside unpocketable. Core’s Aluminum Sliders tackle that issue in a couple of ways, first by eliminating hinges in favor of a two-piece slide-together shell that locks into place on the sides, and then by using anodized aluminum that is just thick enough to be protective and difficult to bend. Key points on the case have two overlapping layers of the metal, so it’s hard to crush the shell unless you go out of your way to do so; the Aluminum Sliders add little weight or bulk, but definitely enhance your sense of each device’s resilience. A thin layer of foam inside each shell keeps your iPod or iPhone from being scuffed when inside.
While Core’s color selection isn’t as aggressive for these models as it has been in the past, you still have options. The iPod nano version comes in four colors - pink, red, silver and black - while the iPod touch and iPhone versions are each available in only silver or black. Each of the silver versions is basically the same as Apple’s silver, while the black versions are like the iPod classic’s jet black rather than the iPod nano’s charcoal. Still, the black nano looks very good in the black case, and the red version is a surprisingly close match for Apple’s most recent shade, as well.
Accessory compatibility is nearly unlimited in these cases. All three work just fine with Universal Docks and oversized headphone plugs; the iPod touch and iPod nano versions keep their metal especially close to the Dock Connector ports rather than creating a large, connector-unfriendly lip. Core’s iPhone version has a slight lip at the bottom, which may stop some especially large accessories from connecting, but normal cable-style add-ons will work without an issue. It goes without saying that the cases provide no impediment to normal use of each device’s controls and other features, from screens to iPhone’s speakers and camera.
If there’s any disappointment in the Aluminum Slider design, it’s Core’s approach to control protection. Though the company has included an integrated screen protector with the iPod nano version, as well as a lanyard necklace and Dock Connector port cover, the iPod touch and iPhone cases arrive bare. They are fully open on the front, and also provide openings for the devices’ rear wireless antennas.
The rear openings are obviously necessary to avoid weakened broadcasting and reception, but the lack of any film, particularly for the devices’ touchscreens, is a let down. Ideally, Core could find a way to meld the hard plastic protectors found in cases such as Artwizz’s SeeJacket Crystal and Case-Mate’s Naked Case with its metal shells, but the lack of even film coverage means that these hard shells are a protectivity compromise. You do better than with no case at all, but not as well as with the most aggressively designed cases we’ve seen.
The Aluminum Slider cases ultimately vary in rating based only on their scope of protection. The third-generation iPod nano version preserves its predecessor’s aggressive price, stepping back from Click Wheel coverage while adding a lanyard to the package. Overall, it’s still a great value, and more protective than its larger brothers. By comparison, the iPod touch and iPhone versions expose a little too much of each device, the primary reason that they rate in B+ territory, but look sharp and feel both protective and good in the hand without adding the bulk of traditional metal cases. We hope that Core’s next generation of cases for wireless iPods will more seriously take on the challenge of protecting the entirety of each device, but if not, they’ll still have looks and pricing on their sides.