Review: Incase Neoprene Sleeve and Multifunction Sport Case for iPod (with Click Wheel)
Pros: Among the most attractive neoprene iPod 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’s Click Wheel, portions of top, or a fair bit of area around bottom Dock Connector.
Incase knows when it has a good design. The company’s Neoprene Sleeve for iPod (with Click Wheel) ($24.95) and Multifunction Sport Case for iPod (with Click Wheel) ($34.95) are largely similar to great products we’ve just reviewed for the iPod mini, so we’re preserving most of our prior review, with updates to highlight differences.
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’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 iPod are exposed: the Wheel, the Dock Connector port, and small portions of the iPod’s top - enough for the headphones, and small amounts of its top left and right sides as well.
Incase covers most of the iPod’s top with a Velcro-tabbed matte plastic lip that covers the Hold switch and most of the iPod’s top center. We wish that it completely covered the iPod’s top, and though it doesn’t, it comes pretty close. 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.
As with the iPod mini version, 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.
Other than the slight exposure on its top, its only other issue is the Dock Connector port hole: it’s too big. It’s tempting to blame this on the fact that the case is one-size-fits-all, but the Neoprene Sleeve actually does a good job of fitting various iPods other than this one part, which exposes part of the iPod’s plastic front casing no matter which iPod you insert. We doubt that people will mind much, but Incase has better solutions - one of them immediately below.
Unlike the iPod mini version of the Multifunction Sport Case, there are some fairly substantial differences between the full-sized version of that case and the Neoprene Sleeve. They both start with the same neoprene material, and the same concept of clear screen protection and an exposed Click Wheel. As with the mini case, all of the matte plastic has been replaced by a suede-like black fabric.
But then they differ. Instead of an open top or a protective lip, the Multifunction Sport Case covers the iPod’s entire top with thin neoprene, with tiny holes for the headphone port and Hold switch. They’re just enough - and we mean just enough - to squeeze things in and make them work. It would be an understatement to say that Incase was cutting things close, but the result is a super-protective top design. The bottom’s better, too. Incase has used a zipper-closed bottom instead of exposing the iPod’s Dock Connector port, and protected the iPod against zipper scratches. All in all, if it wasn’t for the exposed Click Wheel, this would be one of the most protective cases we’ve ever seen.
The case’s back is just like the iPod mini version, and substantially different from the Neoprene Sleeve. There are two snaps, two plastic O rings for straps, and a smaller but still very sturdy belt clip.
Then the pack-ins for athletic use begin. First, 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-), Incase also includes a detachable lid called the Protective Shell that connects to the Case’s top and bottom back with two snaps. The shell is interesting: it has a neoprene face and hard matte plastic body that don’t initially make sense, but then you discover that there’s a reinforced pocket on the inside of the Shell for your earbuds. There’s also an Incase logo on the Shell’s front bottom, as the small leaf on the bottom right corner is covered with the Shell on. Keep it on and you have complete face protection for your mini; take it off and you’ve got full-time access to the mini’s screen and controls.
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 cheaper than Marware’s good, but less versatile SportSuit. The one and only major difference between these cases 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. From a ratings standpoint, we prefer the Multifunction Sport Case for a few reasons - it’s a dynamite package by comparison with other workout options we’ve seen, and it does a very good job of protecting every part of the iPod. A bit more stylish but less protective (and a bit less expensive), the Neoprene Sleeve is one of the nicest-looking neoprene iPod cases we’ve seen, too. It would be hard to go wrong choosing from either of these options.