Review: i2 Electronics iLOCKr neo Anti-Theft Security Device for iPod
Pros: A metal security device made for one specific iPod model - here, the 30GB fifth-generation iPod - combining a back plate with a detachable combination lock. Provides complete access to all iPod ports and controls while in use; available in five colors.
Cons: Asking price is high considering low degree of iPod protection and better-equipped competitor; rear bracket exposes majority of iPod to possible scratch and drop damage, only allowing the use of adhesive film protectors, which were not included with our review unit. Best used when in presence of iPod’s owner; three-digit combo lock can be popped by determined thief in around 15 minutes. Can’t be used with more than one iPod model.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to test three new iPod security systems, each based on the same general concept: if you want to hang your iPod on your bag but are afraid that someone might snatch it while you’re walking, you buy one of these and enhance your security. Below is our review of i2 Electronics’ iLOCKr neo ($40); reviews of Secure-It’s The PodSafe and Targus’ Mobile Security Lock are posted separately.
Though each of these products sells for the same $40 price, they vary dramatically in design and execution. i2 Electronics is selling iLOCKr neo, which combines an aluminum iPod-sized plate with a metal 3-digit combination lock. You can get iLOCKr in one of five nylon-painted finishes - black, white, green, pink, or camouflage - each of which is glossy, and though unpadded, is unlikely to scratch your iPod while inside. At the moment, the iLOCKr neo we received fits only one iPod model - the 30GB fifth-generation iPod - and physically can’t be used with others. Separate models designed for nanos, older 20GB models, and iPod minis were announced by i2 Electronics, but are not at press time visible on the company’s web site.
There are a few benefits of the iLOCKr neo design: if you’re a fan of clear iPod protective films such as InvisibleShield’s Full Body Protector, you’ll like that you can place your coated iPod inside and preserve the majority of its look and feel, with complete access to all of its ports and controls. Metal covers parts of the iPod’s sides, top, and back, but not all of any surface: i2 Electronics has made the bracket minimally intrusive, even leaving a hole in the metal frame to let you see everything from the Apple icon to the unit’s hard drive capacity. Unlike iLOCKr neo’s competitors, you really don’t give up anything by placing the iPod inside.
iLOCKr neo holds the iPod in by using the included lock to obstruct its bottom right corner, freeing the iPod when the lock is detached. We couldn’t bend the frame to remove the iPod with the lock in, nor did we find the lock even slightly malleable; overall, we consider the frame and lock to be as secure as whatever they’re attached to.
There are a few rather obvious problems. Unlike both of iLOCKr neo’s competitors, iPod protection here is almost necessarily poor - you literally will need to use a protective film from InvisibleShield or a competitor if you want to keep your iPod safe, because the device’s frame precludes the use of any case. In other words, you trade off iPod scratch and drop protection for anti-theft protection, a trade we’d prefer not to make given that an iPod attached to a bag is at least as likely to get scraped against something as it is to be stolen.
Additionally, though the unit’s lock feels sturdy, it looks cheap, and can rub paint off at the intersection point of the lock and frame. Similarly, the three-digit combination lock isn’t going to keep out any safecrackers - if you leave iLOCKr neo unattended for long enough, it can be opened, and fairly easily. As security researchers point out, a thief would need only a bit more than 15 minutes, maximum, to crack a three-digit code if he systematically tried each of the 1,000 possible codes, one per second. Simply adding a fourth digit ups the security from 16.6 minutes by a factor of ten: almost 3 hours.
Overall, iLOCKr neo is a decent iPod security solution for the price, offering a reasonable but not great degree of anti-theft protection to one specific iPod model. For the asking price, we’d much sooner go with Secure-It’s more versatile and protective The PodSafe, which costs the same, uses a four-digit lock, and includes a largely protective iPod case, besides, but iLOCKr neo is roughly on par with Targus’s Mobile Security Lock in overall appeal, save for its lack of multi-iPod compatibility, which takes it down a hair in our view.