Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Compatible: iPod touch
DLO HybridShell for iPod touch
With the holidays rapidly approaching, a number of companies have rushed to release new cases for the iPod touch, and not surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities between the latest options. Today, we're looking at eight new iPod touch cases, four made from transparent hard plastic, two from softer silicone rubber, and two from metal.
All eight cases start from the same place: they all cover the majority of the iPod touch’s sides and back, almost all of its face aside from its screen and Home button, and part of its top. Each one leaves part of touch’s bottom open, and provides some direct access for light to reach its brightness sensor. And they all try aggressively to complement the iPod touch’s thinness rather than radically thickening it with additional material. Consequently, none of these cases would accurately be described as “bulky.”
Of the collection, the two that impressed us the most were DLO’s VideoShell for iPod touch ($20) and HybridShell for iPod touch ($25), two cases that combine good looks with great protection and a novel feature. Both designs protect the iPod touch with two snap-together hard plastic front and rear pieces, plus a full face protector made from clear film. The film goes on first, then the front shell, then the rear shell, locking the iPod inside a case that feels sturdy but light and only as thick as is necessary.
Much of our praise concerns two protectiveness innovations DLO has come up with: a Sleep/Wake button cover and a Home button cover, both integrated into these cases’ shells, both made from depressable hard plastic, and both nearly as responsive as rubber covers we’ve seen on some of our favorite iPod touch cases. These button covers make both VideoShell and HybridShell more protective than 90% of the touch cases we’ve tested, and though the Sleep/Wake button cover is a little less sensitive than we’d prefer, we’d call the issue minor given the benefits of the protection.
Where VideoShell and HybridShell differ substantially is in their rear casings. HybridShell sports a unique grip-ready silicone dot pattern on the back, which DLO offers in black or gray, each dot piercing the case’s hard plastic rear. We liked the way this looked and felt from moment one, as it adds a little extra grip to the touch’s otherwise slippery metallic back, and the dots are a cool new way of accomplishing this. Given the case’s other features, we initially thought DLO had come close to the ideal iPod touch case design with HybridShell.
Then we saw VideoShell, which does two things better: it’s $5 less expensive, and includes a slide-out rear kickstand that is designed to let you turn iPod touch on its side for easy widescreen video viewing. The kickstand is ingeniously designed to slide in and out of VideoShell’s back without adding any thickness to the rear shell; it does the trick perfectly. If there’s any concern about the stand, it’s whether it will be as stiff three months from now as it has been over a week of testing, but our feeling is that it’ll be fine.
Though it’s obvious that the kickstand was originally designed to prop an iPod upright, touch’s bottom-mounted headphone and Dock Connector ports, horizontal widescreen video playback, and lack of integrated speakers make upright use all but pointless except for web browsing; thankfully, this doesn’t matter, given that the stand works perfectly for reclining widescreen viewing and listening, too. The case is designed to work properly in Universal iPod Docks—and does—as well as with most headphone plugs. Our largest plugs were a tight fit, but worked; thinner ones went in without an issue.
Given their incredible degrees of protection—all that’s open is the touch’s bottom, as even the brightness sensor is covered with film—plus their convenience and good looks, we don’t hesitate to award both HybridShell and VideoShell our high recommendations. Though VideoShell is our pick of the two, and of the collection we’re reviewing today, based on its superior functionality and lower price, we also really like HybridShell’s rear dots, and would give it a slight edge on looks because of the distinctive design. VideoShell’s the smarter buy if you’re an avid video viewer, HybridShell if you’re an active user and would benefit from the added tack.