Review: iSkin DuoBand Armband + iPod nano 3G Protector
Comfort? Good looks? Interesting design? Check, check, check. iSkin's DuoBand ($40) combines an intriguing two-strap adjustable armband with a two-piece case for the third-generation iPod nano, creating what's probably the single nicest-looking exercise armband we've yet seen for the device. Though expensive relative to other options we've tested, and limited somewhat by its open-faced approach, DuoBand has the virtue of offering two pieces that look and work well separately or together.
The core of DuoBand is a variant on iSkin’s earlier Duo for iPod nano, oddly stripped of a couple of protective elements that would have worked somewhat well here—Click Wheel and Hold Switch protection—as well as parts such as a belt clip and lanyard necklace, which might have been nice to transform DuoBand into something akin to Marware’s SportSuit Convertible.
Instead, what you get is a combination hard and soft case, the front shell either red or black hard plastic, and the rear black soft rubber, capable of covering every part of the nano except for the controls. By iPod nano armband standards, this case is really sharp-looking and generally protective; its integrated headphone and Dock Connector port covers come open to let you plug in the Nike + iPod Sport Kit and most headphone plugs, save for oversized ones.
The lack of control coverage can be a positive and a negative for those with slippery fingers. Moisture on iSkin’s typical rubber Click Wheel covers can inhibit control sensitivity, but without protection, the nano isn’t as safe to take in the rain as it would be inside a standard Duo. You can decide whether your intended use is indoor or outdoors; if you’re expecting either heavy sweat or typical water intrusion, you might be better off with a more fully sealed enclosure.
iSkin’s armband is similarly somewhat of a double-edged sword. The band itself is black, with breathable perforations originally used in Apple’s iPod nano Armbands, as well as a heavy clear plastic mounting frame that holds the nano in place without any sign of instability. Soft and with rubber on the inside, this armband is extremely comfortable so long as it fits your arm. Rather than using a single Velcro seal, iSkin uses two separate adjustable Velcro-styled bands to tighten the loop on your bicep. The band’s length is on the short side—around 16 inches—and thus isn’t as well-suited to bigger arms as some of DuoBand’s competitors, which average 17 inches, and sometimes go upwards from there. That said, if your arms aren’t wrestler-level huge, DuoBand will be fine. For average-sized male and female arms, it’ll be perfectly snug and stable.
Overall, DuoBand is a solid two-piece armband set that works equally well as a pocketable iPod nano case and as a workout-ready companion. For a lower price, Marware’s aforementioned Sportsuit Convertible offers more protection and versatility, but then, the base iPod nano case you get isn’t as attractively designed or impact resilient as the hard plastic-enhanced shell in DuoBand. If style is your key decision-making criteria, DuoBand is definitely amongst the nicest-looking iPod armbands we’ve seen, and perhaps worth the price premium you’ll pay for it.