Review: Incase Neoprene Sleeve and Sports Cases for iPod nano
Pros: An iPod nano evolution of two of the most attractive neoprene iPod mini cases we’ve seen, with very good protectivity, sturdy belt clips, and other add-ons. Virtually all of the nano is protected in each design. Good values for the dollar.
Cons: Each Case exposes a bit of nano’s top and bottom when fully closed, which may bother moisture- and scratch-conscious users. Non-detachable belt clip makes both cases, but more notably the standard sleeve, thicker than some nano users may prefer.
When we reviewed Belkin’s latest series of NE Leather Cases for the iPod nano, we were largely surprised that the company hadn’t exploited the best of its prior iPod case designs to develop superior nano-sized versions. We had no idea then that Incase was preparing to prove almost exactly how this should be done.
The Incase Neoprene Sleeve ($19.95) and Sports Case with Armband ($29.95) are both neoprene cases derived from iPod mini cases previously released, and favorably reviewed by us (iLounge ratings: A-). We were equally impressed by the newer versions, and think that they should be near the top of any person’s list for everyday and athletic use of an iPod nano.
[Note: These cases will be available from Apple retail and online stores beginning in early- to mid-October.]
Incase’s core neoprene case design borrows considerably from the company’s earlier iPod mini Neoprene Sleeve: black, elastic neoprene is used on the inside of this case, and visibly on its sides and top, while matching black matte plastic is used prominently on the outer front and back to provide a cooler look than neoprene typically permits. Neat gray stitching is used to hold the plastic on the front and back of the case, nicely lining the nano’s screen and Click Wheel controls. A small green Incase leaf is the only branding on the front.
An oversized plastic tab on the case’s bottom covers everything but the nano’s headphone port when closed, and opens with Velcro to let you insert or remove the nano. A non-detachable metal belt clip on Neoprene Sleeve’s back is covered with matching plastic and branded with a gray Incase logo. Unlike Belkin’s cases, you can’t rotate the clip; when worn, the case hangs the nano upside down with its headphone port facing upwards, so you can view nano’s screen from belt level. The inability to detach this clip is one of our only issues with this design.
Here’s the reason the sleeve earns its high recommendation: other than three small holes, Incase covers all of the iPod nano’s body without compromising its usability. Improving upon its older designs, the company covers both the nano’s screen and its Click Wheel with clear vinyl, affording you complete control and use of the nano while it’s protected. We were thrilled to see this, and think that this case is close to ideal as a consequence; it remains to be seen whether this vinyl will stand up to many months of scratching and abuse, but in any case it’s better suited to that than the iPod’s own plastic.
The only holes on Neoprene Sleeve are a small one for the Hold switch, which frankly we think was unnecessary, the one for the headphone port, and a really tiny one off to the left of the bottom tab. Incase did a better job than Belkin of covering nano’s bottom with its tab, but still leaves a little more exposed down there than needed to be the case.
Overall, we think Neoprene Sleeve is an excellent design: it has all of the things we liked about its full-sized and mini iPod predecessors, with a bit of added protection. The only things the new design didn’t take into account are some users’ preference for guaranteed thinness, which would have been helped by a detachable belt clip, and closure of the nano’s top and bottom left corners. If these small things don’t bother you, we’d strongly recommend that you try this case - it offers equally great protection and design.
If you liked Neoprene Sleeve, you’ll like Sports Case, which for $10 more adds two more parts to the original’s package: an armband and a hand strap, each of which can be attached or detached from the core case at will. The core case is identical to the Neoprene Sleeve except for three things, all on the rear: the belt clip is a little smaller, and two hard plastic rings have been added, one above the clip and one below it, to accommodate the optional hand strap.
You attach the hand strap to one of the O rings with a simple black snap. You then use Velcro to attach the strap to the other O ring, adjusting the strap’s length to the size of your hand. This is a smart new touch that lets you make the strap as taut or loose as you prefer, not that nano’s tiny body gives you a lot of room for adjustment. Incase’s logo appears in white and green on the adjustable Velcro strap.
To use the Armband, you attach nano upside down with its belt clip to a specially designed plastic holder on the band’s outer face. The belt clip’s grip on the holder is strong enough that you could turn nano rightside up and wear it that way if you prefered, but its headphone port and screen are facing upwards when positioned as Incase designed it. A textured neoprene band feels soft, comfortable, and firm on your skin, if not as breathable as the perforated band on Apple’s iPod nano Armband (iLounge rating: B). Velcro is used to resize to most men’s and women’s arm sizes.
In our view, and particularly in light of Apple’s too-simple nano Armband design, Sports Case is very close to a no-brainer: for nearly the same price, you get an almost completely protective nano case, an armband that doesn’t look like a huge bandage, and a hand strap as an alternative. As with the Sleeve, the only way we’d really want to improve this case is to fully seal off its only holes - it’s a great design, and one that will thrill most iPod nano owners on and off the track.