Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Compatible: iPod 5G (with video)
DLO Action Jacket for iPod (5G)
Pros: A vulcanized neoprene case for the iPod with a detachable belt clip and an included elastic and Velcro armband. Full access to the 5G’s protected controls and screen while inside, as well as iPod’s Dock Connector port.
Cons: Case design is only a bit above average; portions of iPod’s top and bottom are exposed at all times, which sweaty users may want to avoid. One-size-fits-all design better suits the 30GB iPod than 60GB on appearance.
More than a year and a half ago, we reviewed DLO’s Action Jacket for iPod mini, an okay neoprene case with a detachable armband and belt clip, designed to be used either separately or together. But since then, a lot has changed. We’ve reviewed and preferred DLO’s Action Jacket designs for iPod shuffle and nano, both of which made some improvements to the original concept, and numerous competitors - most notably Incase - have improved their own armband designs.
So DLO’s release of a new Action Jacket for iPod 5G ($30) that’s mostly the same as its older, ho-hum iPod mini version - and the 1G-4G versions that preceded it - isn’t all that impressive to us. Most of the case is made from black vulcanized neoprene, which worked well for the iPod shuffle and nano, and the 5G’s screen and Click Wheel holes are accessible at all times. Older full-sized Action Jackets used to expose the iPod’s controls, but like the nano case, the 5G Action Jacket wisely protects the Click Wheel with a clear plastic protector identical to the one used for the screen. Because the case is a one-size-fits-all design, you’ll need to tug it a bit to get the case to look alright on a 60GB iPod - it appears to have been better tailored to the 30GB iPod, and doesn’t look that great when stretched.
Other lessons DLO seemed to have learned from the highly protective nano and shuffle versions of this case were discarded for the 5G one. There are big holes in this case’s top left and right corners, needlessly exposing the iPod’s Hold switch right beside a central Velcro flap that holds the case closed. An equally large hole on the right exposes the 5G’s headphone port, while a rectangular, rubber boxed hole at the bottom exposes the Dock Connector port. Some people won’t mind all of these exposed parts, but we’ve seen companies such as Incase and Marware come up with better solutions for iPod armband protectiveness, and Action Jacket doesn’t use any of them. Additionally, rubber grip bumpers, which we’ve never much liked, are on the case’s left and right sides.
As with its other Action Jackets, DLO includes a single armband with the 5G version - one that’s the same length as before (right-sized for most arms), but this one’s a bit better than the nano band we’ve recently tested. It’s a bit wider, but more importantly, a slightly softer fabric backing is not as harsh against the skin as the nano’s band. You double it over itself and then seal its Velcro sides together, which works fine to secure the 5G iPod on your arm.
The only other thing to mention here is the 5G Action Jacket’s belt clip. Like most of its predecessors - not the nano and shuffle versions - the clip is thankfully detachable, and though its belt clip nub isn’t, this does slim the case down for iPod pocketing if you desire. DLO’s clip is a generic but sturdy matching black plastic piece that works fine and rotates around, mostly staying in one place if the iPod’s hanging vertically downwards thanks to pressure created by the top Velcro tab. We’ve seen better belt clips on 4G workout cases, and expect that they - and other frills - will soon appear in competing products.
Overall, the new Action Jacket rates a little bit better than its 4G predecessor because of its added front protectiveness, but it’s not a case we’d run out to buy. For now, lacking major competition in the iPod 5G armband niche, it’s a fine option, but it doesn’t do enough to evolve or adopt most of the best ideas that have been pioneered in these armbands over the last couple of years. Greater body protection, more in-box frills, a better standalone case design, or a lower price would have made this a better option.