Review: Marware Sport Grip Extreme
Pros: Solidly protective silicone rubber case with five different color options, including very good integrated Click Wheel protector, solid lanyard and carabiner clip, plus protective screen and (optional) Click Wheel film.
Cons: Headphone port hole works almost exclusively with Apple’s iPod pack-ins, additional included items (lanyard and carabiner clip) may not merit the price difference from standard version of Sport Grip, Hold switch is unnecessarily exposed.
A week ago, we reviewed Sport Grip (iLounge rating: B+), Marware’s first silicone rubber case for the iPod nano. Now the company has released Sport Grip Extreme ($20), which is actually a substantially different case design, sharing only a name and vague visual similarities with its less expensive predecessor. Unlike the ten-colored Sport Grip, five colors are available for Extreme: black, blue, pink, green, and white, of which we received all but the blue one for review. Each Extreme has nicely ribbed sides, which make this design stand out a bit from the more traditional original version.
Sport Grip and Extreme take the same general approach to protectiveness, covering most of nano’s front, top, and bottom, plus its entire back and sides with rubber. They both leave holes for nano’s Hold switch - unnecessarily - as well as necessary ones for the screen and headphone port, and include clear protective film for nano’s screen and Click Wheel. Interestingly, the Click Wheel film isn’t necessary for Extreme - this case actually integrates a thin rubber cover for the iPod’s controls, which we liked and found easy to use - so all you’ll need to attach is the screen protector, which attaches and comes off without any problems.
Extreme’s other most obvious difference is a rounded bottom surface that extends half an inch beyond nano’s headphone port and Dock Connector, a design choice that serves three positive purposes and has one negative consequence. First, it provides a tube-like channel for Marware’s included silicone rubber and metal lanyard, which we’re happy to see has dramatically improved in durability since last we tested one. Each color of Extreme comes with a white lanyard, which matches Apple’s iPod earbuds nicely. Second, it includes a hole for an included small metal key ring, which attaches to a detachable black and silver metal carabiner clip. You can have both the carabiner and lanyard attached at the same time, or either, or neither, depending on your preference. Third, this bottom nicely covers the nano’s Dock Connector port, though it doesn’t provide the easy “whenever you need it” access offered by iSkin’s Duo (iLounge rating: A).
The only other problem with this rounded design is that it’s almost exclusively compatible with Apple’s packed-in earbuds, and few others. Marware’s left a straight hole in the bottom rounded surface that’s just right for the freebies, but won’t work with standard L-shaped or oversized third-party headphone plugs at all. For this reason, if you’re in need of a more headphone-compatible case, look to iSkin’s Duo or even the original Sport Grip - you’ll have better luck.
Is Sport Grip Extreme worth a $10 premium over the standard Sport Grip? That’ll depend on your needs. Since both cases offer similar protection - Extreme adding only Dock Connector protection to the mix, and making the headphone port less compatible in the process - what you’re really paying for are the lanyard, carabiner, and slightly more distinctive style. In our view, the higher price and headphone issue ultimately make this case less recommendable than the standard, reasonably priced Sport Grip, but both cases offer solid protection and acceptable design for their lower-than-iSkin Duo prices.