Review: H2O Audio iV6 Waterproof Case for the iPod classic
For years, every new iPod has seen the release of a new H2O Audio waterproof case, and with one exception, the basics stay the same from model to model: with the exception of the iPod shuffle, which gets coated in a simple rubber and plastic shell that permits both listening and button pressing at underwater depths of up to 10 feet, H2O's cases are hinged clear hard plastic shells with silver mechanical Click Wheel covers that stand up nicely to submersion. The screen's totally visible, you can still fully use the iPod's controls even when it's underwater -- unfortunately unlike recent Otter Products cases -- and the headphone port's secured with a waterproof seal; a lock at the bottom seals the case shut against water intrusion. You need to self-supply the waterproof headphones, which H2O sells for $40-50.
In late 2007, H2O Audio released the iV6 ($100), a waterproof case for the iPod classic that follows this design to a T—it’s actually almost entirely identical to the company’s prior Waterproof Housing for iPod (with video), and preceding fourth-generation version of the case, which was called SV-iP4G.
As before, iV6 comes packaged with a screwdriver, screws, and rails to accommodate both the thick and thin versions of the full-sized iPod. The only major difference is that iV6 replaces the prior versions’ white plastic buttons and waterproof latch with black parts, and does the same with the rubber headphone port and O-ring seals; the headphone port and plug have moved a little, too. Otherwise, iV6 might as well be the same case as SV-iP4G.
That’s generally a good thing. Like both of its predecessors, iV6 has no problem operating properly when it’s submerged underwater. We tested it with two different iPod classic models, thick and thin—one using up-to-date firmware, one using earlier firmware that was less responsive to Click Wheel presses—and had no issues, save for old firmware-specific lags in responsiveness, when navigating music, videos, and all other menus on the device. H2O’s wheel continues to be the best for underwater iPod access; even on the rare occasions when it’s not perfectly responsive, it’s very close, and closer for sure than other alternatives. Not surprisingly, we also found the case to be completely watertight when used with the company’s headphones. Both the newer H3 and older H1 headphones fit iV6 without an issue; their special rubber-coated plugs are designed to fit the case’s port perfectly, and do.
Our only issue with iV6 is its price. The iPod classic, video, and 4G versions of this case have undergone only modest feature and design changes from year to year, but the prices keep changing, and not always for the better. A few years ago, H2O sold the fourth-generation iPod version of the case with headphones for $150, receiving a B+ in our ratings. Then, facing competition from Otter and other companies taking a stab at the waterproof case market, it pulled the headphones from the fifth-generation iPod version, added the neoprene armband, and sold the set for $90—still a high price for an iPod case, but a better value assuming that you wanted the armband, which is still included with iV6. Now it has raised the price up to $100 again, and added nothing new to the package. You still need to buy the headphones separately, bringing the total cost back up to $140 or $150, depending on which version of the headphones you choose.
We can live with price increases when a design becomes appreciably better or pack-ins change, but there’s no explanation for this one, save perhaps for iV6’s lack of competition—no other case presently guarantees 10 foot submersibility—and the new black buttons obviously aren’t enough to justify a $100 price tag. Otter Products’ $50 Armor Series Case for iPod classic is also waterproof, but only guarantees the safety of its seal to depths of three feet. Our general-level recommendation recognizes iV6’s undeniable value to swimmers, surfers, and others looking for the ability to safely submerge their iPods underwater, but its failure to rate higher is directly attributable to the fact that it costs twice as much as competitors such as Otter’s Armor, which has its own issues but offers very similar functionality, compromising only in underwater Click Wheel sensitivity and guaranteed deep water submersion. Pick the iV6 if you’re planning to use your iPod classic mostly underwater and are willing to spend an extra $50 to render its Click Wheel fully useful; otherwise, consider the less expensive Armor to be a smarter buy.