Companies: ezGear, Proporta
Price: $19.95, $19.99, respectively.
Compatible: iPod mini
ezGear Clear iPod mini Cases
Pros: Clear hard acrylic iPod mini cases with Click Wheel holes, compatible with virtually all top-connecting accessories if latch is open. Detachable belt clip and lanyard included. ezGear version has good-sized Dock Connector hole.
Cons: Plastic quality is only decent, shows marks easily. No Click Wheel protection. Top hinge feels loose. Proporta version is too tight, especially problematic for new iPod minis, has too small Dock Connector hole. Better options available.
Though we won’t dwell on the point, an increasing number of relatively generic iPod cases from overseas have recently been making their way into Western markets, luring in small vendors and iPod newbies alike with their low prices. Consequently, at least two companies are now selling virtually identical sets of hard plastic cases under different brand names, and we’ve seen and tested both of their offerings. They resemble stripped-down versions of Speck’s FlipStands, in each case minus the Click Wheel protection and plus detachable belt clips and lanyard necklaces.
ezGear calls its cases clearCases, and Proporta uses the Crystal Case name. On first inspection, the cases look just the same - inexpensive, easily scratched hard transparent plastic that provides a clear view of the iPod or iPod mini inside, Each uses a top hinge to lock the iPod in - the iPod mini hinges looser and cheaper-feeling - and has holes for the Click Wheel, Dock Connector port, Hold switch and headphone port, as well as a left-hand hole that accommodates a necklace strap.
The cases only differ from one another in three ways - those holes, their backs, and in the mini cases, their thicknesses, by a millimeter or less. And these differences actually matter.
Made for 20GB fourth-generation iPods only, both companies’ full-sized iPod cases are very good overall. The top and bottom holes are sized large enough for all third-party accessories - large Dock Connector and headphone plugs alike. Their Click Wheel holes are properly sized, and their top hinges make it easy to insert and remove iPods. Similarly, both cases ship with white fabric lanyard necklaces, clear frosted plastic belt clips, and hybrid metal and plastic adhesive belt clip mounts. A metal screw fits into the mount, adding thickness only if you want to attach it. For a further size reduction, Proporta ships its case without the mount attached, which we preferred, but also brands the back of its case with its logo, which we didn’t like as much. Otherwise, the cases are literally the same.
Proporta’s and ezGear’s mini cases initially seem to be made identically, but there are more differences: their bottom holes in particular vary, such that Proporta’s hole is smaller and less compatible with oversized third-party accessories. But it also has a less obvious and more important problem: the case is thinner, such that when we tried it with new and old iPod minis, they got stuck inside. Old iPod minis were easier to pull out, but new ones really stuck in there, and needed to be pushed out using an Apple cable - not a good idea. We felt uncomfortable using Proporta’s, but ezGear’s worked without an incident.
As with their full-sized iPod equivalents, the Proporta case shipped without its rear mount attached, but the ezGear one did. Unlike the full-sized cases, both mini versions use small top holes that are less third-party headphone friendly, but if you really have a problem, you can always open the lid and use either case that way. Thankfully, their Click Wheel holes are both properly sized.
Overall, the full-sized cases are equivalent offerings, each with a little (but different) issue on its back. Only ezGear’s mini case is acceptable, however, as the too-thin profile of the Proporta case created removal problems we wouldn’t want to deal with, especially with newer second-generation iPod mini hardware. These are otherwise fine cases, not especially thrilling or material or build quality, but generally good on design and smart in their approaches to accessory compatibilty. They’re not our top picks, but (save for the Proporta mini case) aren’t bad, either.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.