Compatible: iPod nano, 5G
Marware Sidewinder for iPod video and nano
Pros: Solid hard plastic cases for your iPod nano or 5G, complete with integrated screen protectors and pop-out cord managers, great detachable spring-loaded belt clips, and smart part-time Dock Connector protection. Full-sized iPod version includes pop-out stand for video viewing. Highly innovative design. Available in two colors.
Cons: No Click Wheel protection on either version; top of nano is fully exposed on its case, and nano is a bit tough to remove. One-size-fits-all 5G version adds some bulk to both 30GB and 60GB iPods - most noticeable on the 30GB model.
We love iPod case innovations, and though the market’s been flooded recently with me-too designs, Marware has continued to push the envelope at an enviable pace. Though it has a few small issues, the company’s single most innovative case design is Sidewinder, now available in iPod nano ($25) and 5G ($30) versions. As first, each looks simple enough - a hard black or white plastic shell with an integrated clear screen protector, detachable and spring-loaded Krusell Multidapt belt clip, and holes for your Click Wheel and headphones - but both hide cool secrets on their backs and bottoms. Each has a pop-out cord manager that lets you wrap your earbuds for easy storage on the go, plus a pop-open Dock Connector protector on the bottom. The 5G version also includes a pop-out rear stand for video viewing, a detachable top lid for added protection, and a plastic inner sizer that lets the 60GB-sized case body snugly hold a 30GB iPod as well.
Both versions of Sidewinder score almost perfectly on our fit, finish, and resilience scales: they’re built well, their holes properly line up with their intended iPod models - even on the 30GB/60GB resized Sidewinder - and they stand up pretty well to typical abuse. The only consequence of this is that the one-size-fits-all 5G case turns either the 30GB or 60GB 5G iPod into a somewhat bigger-than-4G-iPod-like brick; it’s not as thin as it could have been, and though we don’t detract points for this, it’s worth noting for your reference. Also, like most of the other hard cases we’ve seen, both versions will show slight scratches after typical daily use, almost entirely on their clear screen protectors.
Though both versions of the Sidewinder are pretty easy to use, the 5G case is easier. Each Sidewinder provides full-time access to the iPod’s screen, Click Wheel, headphone port and Hold switch, with part-time access to the iPod’s Dock Connector port via a flip-open panel. The nano case’s headphone and Dock Connector port holes are small - just right for Apple’s accessories, not for ones that are much larger - and the screen is ever so slightly cropped by the case, though not to an unacceptable extent. It’s also tougher than average to remove the nano from its case, but again, we weren’t especially bothered by this.
By comparison, the 5G case’s screen and holes are all generously sized - enough for most large accessories - and there’s a slide-off plastic guard on the top, not found on the nano version of Sidewinder. With the guard on, you can use the Hold switch and virtually any oversized headphone without an issue; with it off, you have complete access to the iPod’s top.
To get the most obvious Sidewinder feature out of the way first, we’ll briefly reiterate that we very much like Krusell’s spring-loaded Multidapt belt clip, which has a low profile and fits nicely with both the nano and 5G versions of this case. It’s worth one point, but it bears repeating that this is a better belt clip than average, and that you can use other Krusell clips - sold separately - with both Sidewinders as well.
Most of the Sidewinders’ bonus points (3 for nano, 4 for 5G) come from their really smart pop-out ideas - their “invisible unless you want them” cord managers, which slide out of their right sides to wrap your iPods’ headphone cords for storage; their hinged, part-time bottom Dock Connector covers, which achieve the right compromise between access and protection, and the 5G case’s pop-out rear video stand. Though the case is large enough to stand up on its bottom edge, the stand lets you easily recline the iPod on an angle for easier video viewing. Because of its low profile and simplicity, specifically the fact that you don’t have to fold the case in half or play with a flap or snaps like on so many other reclining video cases we’ve seen, this is really a nice addition to the case. That said, more colors (and more svelte curves on the 5G model) could have further strengthened Sidewinder’s appeal.
Given all of the slide-out pieces, and what they could have left exposed on the iPod, Marware’s done a relatively excellent job of protecting both iPods; the nano only a little less than the 5G. Both cases cover everything on their respective iPods save their Click Wheels and portions of their tops - the nano case exposes the nano’s entire top, while the 5G case’s optional top lid generously exposes the Hold switch. Thanks to each case’s strong plastic bodies, they also score both of our strength of coverage points.
Overall, there was no question in our minds that the Sidewinders were worthy of our high recommendation: they’re innovative, functional, protective, and reasonably priced, a credit to both their designers and the manufacturing processes that made all of the parts work together properly. Though there are a few small things that could stand to be improved in future iterations - headphone compatibility on the nano, Click Wheel protectiveness, boxiness and color options - we are genuinely enthusiastic about the advances these cases include and the protection they provide. Marware was a little aggressive ($5 under) in pricing both versions relative to mass-manufactured iPod ($35) and nano ($30) case norms, for a base Value rating of 6, which when added to our two bonus points of reviewers’ tilt comes out to 8. If you’re looking for a hard iPod case, and unless you’re a heavy non-Apple accessory user or really need something “pretty,” we think that Sidewinders should be on your short list of options.
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.