Review: eXopod Naomi Aluminum Machined Case for iPod nano
Pros: Solid, resilient machined aluminum case with four magnetic corners that make case opening and closing easy; fully protected nano screen and Click Wheel thanks to an included protector, large key ring for use as a key chain.
Cons: Design of corners is nichey, Hold switch is exposed; headphone port hole is too small for oversized headphone plugs.
Our working assumption on hard cases for any iPod is this: you buy something big and metal to cover your iPod when you want a combination of solid protection and good looks. So whenever we see a metal case that exposes major parts of the iPod, we’re not sure that we’d use it - it’s better to find some way, any way, to protect the rest of the iPod’s body.
That’s why we appreciate the fact that eXopod took the time to actually cover the iPod nano’s screen and Click Wheel with a clear plastic protector in its new Naomi Aluminum Machined Case for iPod nano ($35), which as the name suggests is otherwise a machined block of aluminum that holds an iPod nano inside. Like A1QP’s Nano iKeychain (iLounge rating: B), Naomi is a two-piece case that’s held together by corner magnets - here, four rather than three - and bolstered by an included key ring. The company says that it includes a spare protector with each case; our review samples didn’t come with them, but we found the one inside to be good: appropriately transparent, and easy to use on top of nano’s controls.
Unlike Nano iKeychain, Naomi’s key ring is on the large side, yet doesn’t run through both halves of the case. Here, it’s only on the case’s top half, and it’s easy to remove if you don’t want to use it. Because of eXopod’s integrated clear screen protector, which runs from top to bottom inside the case’s front half, some people might actually keep the ring attached and use this case with keys - the idea seemed foolish before, given that many objects duller than keys could scratch up the nano’s screen and Click Wheel.
eXopod’s approach to protection is otherwise very good - not perfect. The iPod’s entire front, back and sides are covered, as is most of its top and bottom, including the Dock Connector port. We’d have preferred that the case not have a hole at the top for the nano’s Hold switch, but it does, and there’s a hole at the bottom for headphones, as well. Good news: the hole’s big enough for Apple and some smaller third-party headphones. Bad news: it wouldn’t work with our oversized headphone plugs.
The other bad news may be more a matter of aesthetic taste than anything else. We’ll mostly skip the case’s interior, which is far more functional than attractive, except to note that the case’s internal pads made a good effort to prevent scratching of the nano’s delicate body. Most of our concern is Naomi’s shape. Rather than going with flat edges, Naomi looks like something you’d see on Batman’s utility belt: its sides are curved inwards and its magnetized corners pop outwards into small balls. It’s not as neutral a look visually as we’d have preferred; the shape of iKeychain is better. But its coloration is not. Naomi’s anodized surfaces look great; they don’t show fingerprints like iKeychain’s mirrored ones, and corners aside, the external look is very professional - a nice improvement over eXopod’s earlier iPod shuffle case.
Overall, Naomi is a standout metal case on protection and quality of workmanship - we very much liked its full iPod face protection, magnetic approach to opening and closing, and the quality of both the silver and black anodized bodies we saw. It’s less expensive than iKeychain by $5, and eXopod’s actual key ring concept is a bit better executed, as well. For these reasons, it earns our recommendation, and a slightly higher rating than iKeychain. But its small headphone port, odd corners, and open Hold switch detract a bit from an otherwise solid design, precluding it from earning the high recommendation we’d otherwise have easily considered. We’d love to see a version of this with more traditional styling both inside and out, no keyring hole, and tweaks to both the top and bottom. It would be a more universally appealing design, and one we’d unquestionably use ourselves.