Review: iSkin Claro Special Edition for iPod with video | iLounge

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B+Recommended

Company: iSkin, Inc.

Website: http://www.iskin.com

Model: iSkin Claro Special Edition

Price: $45

Compatible: iPod 5G

iSkin Claro Special Edition for iPod with video

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, February 8, 2007
Category: Cases - iPods + Accessories, iPod 5G (with Video)

Pros: Based upon the company’s earlier original, largely protective rubber and hard plastic case design, this Special Edition includes a pop-out video-ready mounting stand and integrated, non-detachable belt clip. Unique two-layer design provides good balance of access to and protection for iPod’s ports; rubber skin and hard plastic case are black colored, like Apple’s U2 iPod, with a built-in red rubber Click Wheel protector.

Cons: Price is even higher than already pricey original version of case. Headphone port is incompatible with oversized headphone plugs; exterior plastic is slightly scratchable.

An enhanced version of the company’s earlier Claro (iLounge rating: B+) - a fifth-generation iPod clear hard plastic case with a removable, replaceable silicone rubber insert inside, the Claro Special Edition for iPod with video ($45) combines a translucent smoke black hard case and a U2 iPod-styled black- and red-rubber insert, creating a physically harder take on iSkin’s eVo3 Special Edition (iLounge rating: B+). Like the original Claro, this Special Edition remains capable of clipping onto your belt or standing up on its own as an iPod stand, but its smokey front shell modestly dims the color of the 5G iPod’s video screen, and there’s a $5 price premium over the standard $40 Claro price, which wasn’t cheap. Versions for 30GB iPods and 60/80GB iPods are differently-sized and sold separately.

Unlike the first Claro, which lost a Build Quality point for having slight tears in its interior rubber lining, the new Special Edition version is a little stronger on the inside: the rubber sleeve had no tears, and was accented by a red painted-on Click Wheel cover, plus a hard black Action button cover glued to its center. iSkin has also mostly preserved the prior hard external hard shell, with holes that line up properly with the iPod’s, though the new case’s front isn’t quite as scratch-resistant as before. After a couple of weeks of normal use, including jostling around in bags, we noticed that the front shell showed some hairline scratches - not enough to make the case look bad, but they’re there.

The Special Edition version of Claro has two small but conspicuous Ease of Use issues. On a positive note, the 5G iPod’s headphone port, Hold switch, Dock Connector port, Click Wheel, and screen are all accessible while inside, and despite the use of both paint and rubber on the Click Wheel, you’re still able to control the iPod without any issue - more than we can say for some other rubber Click Wheel protectors. Unfortunately, in addition to a carryover issue from the prior Claro - the headphone port hole is still too small for oversized connectors - there’s also a screen issue brought over from the prior eVo3 Special Edition. iSkin’s use of a black tinted front face protector modestly decreases the brightness of the iPod’s screen, which isn’t much of an issue during music playback, but does slightly cut down on video visibility. As with eVo3, if video playback or screen brightness generally are important to you, you’ll do better with the standard edition Claro than with this version.

The original version of Claro was unquestionably a novel iPod case design: the combination of clear hard plastic, a silicone rubber inner shell, and iSkin’s rear belt clip-slash-stand remain standouts even today. As you can see from the photos, a large belt clip is permanently attached to the back of this case, and a video-ready stand is cut out from its center, parts that make Claro thicker than the similar-looking eVo3 with its belt clip removed. If pushed together, Claro’s belt clip and stand both serve as a belt clip, but the stand can be pulled out to place the iPod on a nearly perfect recline, with “nearly” only applicable because it’s not user-adjustable into sturdy, ratcheted positions. Other than that limitation, and the aforementioned screen tinting issue, this is a highly convenient case for frequent video watchers. Though it’s only a small color tweak, iSkin’s addition of a second-colored Click Wheel modestly increases the case’s novelty.

Just as with the original Claro, the Special Edition is a highly protective iPod case - it covers the 5G’s entire face, back, and sides, with holes only as previously noted at its top and bottom, resulting in two deducted points. Click Wheel coverage is provided by the thin inner shell, which also supplements coverage of the 5G’s bottom around its Dock Connector, and top around its Hold switch. Additionally, the case is so thick - and internally padded, thanks to the inner silicone case - that your iPod is unusually well-shielded for a case of this type.

When we reviewed the prior version of Claro at $40, we felt that it was a so-so value, more expensive than the majority of 5G iPod cases - even really good ones - that we’ve tested. Now that the Special Edition sells for $45, with a modestly improved aesthetic and modestly diminished screen visibility, we have the same issue that we previously raised with the eVo3 Special Edition: you pay more and get a case that isn’t as practical for video viewing as before. It’s also unfortunate that iSkin hasn’t fixed some of the issues identified in the prior Claro, leaving headphone port and the video stand’s use less than ideal for all users. Overall, we really like the way the Special Edition looks and works, but we’d find it hard to recommend over cases such as Contour Design’s $33 Showcase video (iLounge rating: A-), and though it rates a B+ after tallying the raw numbers, it’s on the fine edge of a B, whereas the standard Claro was on the fine edge of an A-. Both cases are good, and worthy of our general recommendation, but with small tweaks, they could have been fantastic.

A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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