Review: iSkin eVo3 for iPod 5G (with video) | iLounge

Review

Review: iSkin eVo3 for iPod 5G (with video)

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Company:iSkin, Inc.

Website: http://www.iskin.com

Model: eVo3

Price: $35

Compatible: iPod 5G (with video)

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Jerrod H.

Pros: A silicone rubber iPod case with great fit, excellent full-body iPod protection, and a fantastic screen protector; removable belt clip assembly leaves no trace behind; oversized Dock Connector cover.

Cons: Questionable belt clip durability; higher price than many (admittedly lower quality) competing silicone cases.

Before iSkin created the double-layer Duo silicone rubber cases, it had eVo and eVo2, a series of colorful single-layer silicone cases for iPods and iPod minis. The company’s latest iteration of eVo - eVo3 ($35) - brings compatibility with the fifth-generation iPod (with video), as well as several excellent design improvements. eVo3 is currently available in six different single-color models: Atomic (green), Sonic (blue), Blaze (red), Arctic (white), Eclipse (black), and Blush (pink).

iSkin has chosen to embrace Apple’s design of the fifth-generation iPod by creating the eVo3’s front face with right-angle edges, and placing smooth-radius curves only on its rear face. The entire silicone body, save for the bevels on its front surface, is slightly textured, leading to a nice, subtle “grippy” feel without detracting from the generally smooth look of the case. We found the general fit of the case to be tight and accurate, with all holes and controls lining up well.

Virtually complete full-body protection is afforded by the eVo3’s design. In fact, the only portion of the iPod exposed is a small 1/8” diameter hole for the headphone jack on the iPod’s top, which you’ll likely fill with your headphones. Otherwise, the iPod is completely covered with either silicone or the new resin VISOR protector.

On top, the iPod’s Hold switch is protected, yet remains usable, by a piece of thick silicone “floating” inside a moat of an extremely thin, flexible layer of silicone. Simply move the inner piece, and the underlying hold switch comes along for the ride. This clever protection scheme is similar to that used by several companies to protect the iPod shuffle’s on/off switch without sacrificing its utility. We found it to work acceptably well, though not perfectly, with enough downward pressure applied.

At the iPod’s bottom, the Dock Connector is covered with a flap of silicone, as in several of iSkin’s previous designs. Thankfully, this cover alleviates one of our major concerns with its predecessors: it’s now much larger, allowing easy use with slightly-oversized plugs such as those found on several of Belkin’s accessories.

Finally, the entirety of the iPod’s front face below the screen (including the Click Wheel) is protected by a thin layer of silicone. The Wheel’s use is not inhibited, both scrolling smoothly and clicking accurately through the protective layer.

Another New Age in Screen Protection

When iSkin released their original eVo case (iLounge rating: B+), designed for the third-generation iPod, we called its raised, hard plastic screen protector “A new age in screen protection.” With the eVo3, we believe iSkin has made an equally impressive screen protector design.

By far, the most striking new feature of the entire case is this protector, which extends down the entire front face of the iPod and surrounds its Wheel, making the eVo3 a loose hybrid of the typical silicone “skin” style case and a hard case like Contour’s Showcase (iLounge rating: A-). The VISOR, as iSkin calls it, is thick by today’s standards for rigid screen protectors, offering a satisfying feel of protection. Despite its thickness, we found it to be extraordinarily clear, not hindering visibility of the iPod’s screen at all.

Around the VISOR’s perimeter is a ridge of thinner resin which slides into a groove in the silicone on the eVo3’s front surface. It is anchored to a small “nub” of silicone beneath the Click Wheel. What does this ridge-groove mounting method mean for iPod protection? No part of the hard plastic screen protector ever makes contact with the iPod’s body, in what we consider to be an excellent design improvement over previous hard plastic screen protection designs, where a sliding screen protector had the potential to scuff the iPod’s face.

The edge of the VISOR that surrounds the Wheel is smoothly beveled, allowing for comfortable scrolling with the thumb. In fact, the presence of the thick border actually negates the tendency our thumbs often have to slide off of an uncased iPod’s Wheel.

Some potential eVo3 buyers may question the utility of purchasing a case with a large, exposed, vulnerable clear plastic face. This is certainly a valid concern, though we found the eVo3’s VISOR to be a much harder plastic than the iPod’s face, and nowhere near as easily scratched.

Belt Clip

The eVo3’s belt clip (RevoClip) assembly has two main parts. First is a circular disk which is placed inside of the eVo3 before the iPod is inserted. The disk has two small posts which then protrude from the rear of the silicone, to which the second part - the clip - is mounted. This disk improves upon a similar part found in iSkin’s previous cases, with the addition of a thin layer of silicone on its iPod-contacting side, effectively eliminating the risk of scratches on the iPod’s metal backing.

With the disk installed, the clip-bearing portion of the belt clip assembly then slides and latches onto the disk’s two posts. Once installed properly, the latch is difficult to accidentally unlock, as doing so requires a tiny dial be rotated 180 degrees about one of the posts.

When fully attached, the belt clip can be ratcheted through 12 hard-stop angles from 90 degrees (a horizontal mount), through a vertical mount (0 degrees), to roughly 75 degrees in the opposite horizontal direction. To mount the iPod in the opposite horizontal direction, simply re-attach the clip to the disk upside down.

We were generally satisfied with the RevoClip attached to the iPod, yet we remain somewhat concerned about the durability of the assembly as a whole. Although iSkin claims the clip’s polycarbonate material to be durable, a moderate tug in the wrong direction could cause some part of the assembly (whether the clip itself or the tiny mounting posts) to fail. We’ve expressed similar concerns in our reviews of previous eXo and eVo cases.

Thankfully, when both the clip and disk are removed, the eVo3’s back face is completely flat, and the iPod remains well-protected, with only two small holes in the silicone where the posts belong. If you don’t plan to use the belt clip, there aren’t any cumbersome remnants of the belt clip assembly that you’re forced to live with.

Dock Compatibility

One thing that users have long desired in iPod cases is compatibility with Apple’s iPod docking accessories. While iSkin’s website proudly claims the eVo3 to be compatible with Apple’s new Universal Dock, we have to argue that, although this is certainly true, it’s Apple’s design which has made it possible, not iSkin’s. To use the iSkin eVo3 with a Universal Dock, simply remove the dock adaptor from the dock, and allow the added thickness of the case to support the iPod.

Value

At $35, the iSkin eVo3 marks a $5 increase in price over previous eXo and eVo models, to the dismay of many iLounge readers. Given the significant improvements in the design, quality workmanship, and an unadvertised voucher for a 1-month Audible.com subscription included in the box, we don’t consider this eVo model to be a significantly lower value than its predecessors, and its full-body protection arguably makes it a better value than at least one of its primary competitors, the Speck ToughSkin (iLounge rating: A-), which is also priced at $35.

In recent discussions with iSkin, iLounge’s editors have learned that the company soon plans to bundle a new software package with the case, further increasing its value edge. Although iLounge did not receive any such software for testing or review, it will reportedly be compatible with both Mac and PC. Some currently shipping eVo3 units include a music sampler disc instead, and as we haven’t heard it, we’re also not factoring it in any way into our review.

Conclusions

The prices of silicone cases for full-size iPods have climbed of late, and though we’re always hesitant to approve of such increases, we continue to reward quality products. iSkin’s latest eVo case is simply a well thought-out, well-executed stylish design that protects the iPod in every way that matters. While the marginal price increase is unfortunate, it’s not entirely unwarranted.

Despite our minor concerns with the eVo3’s belt clip, we’d highly recommend it to most users - especially those who don’t frequently use a clip, and more emphatically should iSkin begin to include its software. Though the company’s Duo case designs for shuffle and nano represent a gold standard in our view, eVo3 is an excellent option for owners of the 5G iPods.

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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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