Review: Incase Neoprene Sleeve and Multifunction Sport Case for iPod mini
Pros: Among the most attractive neoprene iPod mini cases we’ve seen, with pretty good protectivity, sturdy belt clips, and other add-ons. Very good values for the dollar.
Cons: Sleeve doesn’t cover iPod mini’s Click Wheel, portions of top and bottom; Multifunction Case exposes a bit of mini’s top when fully closed, which may bother moisture-conscious users.
Tweaking can turn a good case design into a great one - just ask Incase. The company’s Neoprene Sleeve for iPod mini ($19.95) and Multifunction Sport Case for iPod mini ($34.95) are both neoprene and matte plastic riffs on the company’s earlier Handcrafted Leather Sleeve (iLounge rating: B), featuring enhanced protectivity and a darker, cooler style.
The Neoprene Sleeve is the simpler of the cases in pack-ins but the superior in terms of one-piece design. Black in color, it lines the iPod mini’s screen, Click Wheel, and part of its back with a matching matte-finished plastic that looks leather-like, but more resilient. A clear plastic screen protector does its job, and only three parts of the mini are exposed: the Wheel, the Dock Connector port, and small portions of the iPod mini’s top - enough for the headphones, but inexplicably, a small amount of its top left side as well.
Incase covers most of the top with a Velcro-tabbed matte plastic lip that covers the Hold switch and most of the mini’s top center; the lip could easily have extended to finish covering the mini’s top, but doesn’t. A sturdy and large but single-piece belt clip is on the back, and Incase points out that it can be used for bag straps as well. It’s definitely secure enough.
We were surprised at how much we liked the way the Neoprene Sleeve looked. As with most of Incase’s products these days, its tailoring is sharp, and the general “fit and finish” issues we look for aren’t there. But this one has a little extra sparkle - an overall slickness that elevates it above the typical neoprene case and makes it look cool. The Dock Connector port hole is large enough to accommodate Apple and Belkin connectors without an issue.
The Multifunction Sport Case differs from the Neoprene Sleeve in these ways: All of the matte plastic has been replaced by a suede-like black fabric, there’s no protective lip on the top, and the case’s back is substantially different. There are two snaps, two plastic O rings for straps, and a smaller but still very sturdy belt clip. The only added visual touch is a small white Incase leaf in the case’s bottom left corner.
Lest you think that this case isn’t as protective as the Neoprene Sleeve, Incase includes a collection of goodies that are designed to please athletes. There’s an adjustable neoprene arm strap that attaches to the Case’s belt clip, then uses Velcro and a hard plastic O ring to adjust to your arm’s thickness. The armband is comfortable, soft, and doesn’t dig into your arm.
Borrowing a concept from Marware’s SportSuit Convertible (iLounge rating: A-) line, Incase also includes a detachable lid called the Protective Shell that connects to the Case’s top and bottom back with two snaps. Unlike the Shell on the full-sized iPod version of this case, the iPod mini version has no neoprene face, and no interior pocket; it’s all matte plastic and features an Incase logo on its bottom. Keep the lid on and you have complete face and bottom protection for your mini; take it off and you’ve got full-time access to the mini’s screen and controls. All that’s exposed with the Shell on is the mini’s headphone port, and a portion of the Hold switch. The SportSuit Convertible does a better job of insulating the iPod mini’s top against moisture.
And then there’s the hand strap. You wrap it around the O rings on the case’s back, and snap its top and bottom into matching snaps on the strap. If this sounds vaguely confusing, here’s the explanation - you snap the lid onto the case with two sets of snaps, wind the strap around the O rings, and then snap the strap’s sides together with separate snaps.
This design lets you assemble as much or as little of the Multifunction Sport Case as you desire. Belt clip it, hand strap it, arm band it, or pocket it. Incase’s design is right for all occasions. And it’s priced the same as Marware’s equally great SportSuit. Other than the difference in their tops, the one and only major distinction between these cases’ bodies is that Marware’s design uses a detachable Multidapt belt clip, which we like, but Incase’s clip is sturdy and yet thin enough in profile that we’d almost call that factor a wash. Almost.
What Incase has accomplished here is pretty noteworthy: reasonably priced cases that look really good and have lots to offer. The Multifunction Sport Case is an especially dynamite package by comparison with other workout options we’ve seen, though its little bit of top exposure may not endear it to some users - the full-sized iPod version of the case does a better job of protection. Similarly, the Neoprene Sleeve is separately one of the best-looking neoprene iPod mini cases we’ve seen, and given its price, could improve only in protectiveness.