Review: Marware Sportsuit Convertible for iPod 5G (with Video)
Pros: A multi-function neoprene sport case for the fifth-generation iPod with some of the best protection ever developed, using slick Orca-textured neoprene that looks considerably better than the company’s earlier neoprene designs. Includes great detachable Krusell Multidapt belt clip, good armband, wrist strap, and lid with front pocket.
Cons: Front screen protector looks “wet” on iPod’s screen. Lid is no longer as useful or easy to attach/detach as its predecessor for iPods and minis, and its hand strap is a fairly simple implementation of an idea done better in other cases. Asking price isn’t cheap, but counterbalanced by sheer number of packed-in items.
Marware’s line of sporty neoprene cases is well-established: it offers Sportsuits in “Basic” forms with detachable belt clips, and “Convertible” forms with detachable belt clips, armbands, wrist straps, and front lids. Last month, the company released a fifth-generation iPod version of Sportsuit Basic (iLounge rating: A-), as well as iPod nano versions of both Basic and Convertible (iLounge ratings: A-, B+). Now it has released an almost identical version of Convertible for the fifth-generation iPod ($35), which has roughly the same benefits and issues as its nano predecessor.
As we noted in our nano review, Marware’s past Convertible cases have earned our highest ratings for their versatility and value for the dollar, packing a number of different carrying and mounting options into a single package. The company also improves upon the design of its Basic case here by using superior Orca-finished neoprene, a sleeker and more interesting material that looks better with the iPod than the Basic’s standard neoprene, but otherwise leaves the case’s protectivity and port access the same. This is a very good thing in that Basic and Convertible both provide a tremendous amount of protection for the iPod - everything but the iPod’s headphone port hole - but also use a really smart bottom flap that remains closed unless you want it open to expose the iPod’s Dock Connector port. We remain really impressed by this design accomplishment. Our only note of discomfort with the standalone case is its front clear plastic protector, which has a tendency to look “wet” on the iPod’s front surface, a factor that may dissuade some users (particularly ones who use the new iPod’s video functionality) from using it apart from the armband.
Like the nano version, three colors of the case are available - black, silver, and blue - and the case’s color is now repeated in a matching pocket on the front of the included lid. This pocket’s big enough for headphones, and shifts from the inner pockets previously used on Convertible cases - a generally neutral change. Again, the lid isn’t as necessary as it was in earlier Convertibles because of an improvement to the standard Sportsuit’s design - the case is now fully protective without it - but it’s generally not a bad extra to include, especially if you’ll have a use for the pocket.
We use the word “generally” only for one reason: as with the nano case, Marware uses a weird, unwieldy mechanism for attaching Convertible 5G’s lid, which now opens from the case’s left rather than the top. You’ll need to really fidget with the belt clip or armband in order to attach or detach it. It’s not the only accessory that’s a bit tricky to attach - the arm band is, too, and it’s also a little shorter than other options we’ve tested in overall length, though fine for average-sized arms.
It’s also worth noting briefly that Marware has gone simple with its included hand strap - a fabric loop that attaches with plastic to the case’s back - instead of using a nicer neoprene strap like the one competitor Incase has included with its recent Multifunction Sport Cases for 4G iPods (iLounge rating: A). Marware’s strap works, but we prefer Incase’s approach - and the ones used by other companies. That said, we do really like Marware’s included spring-loaded belt clip, which as with Sportsuit Basic is a thin, spring-loaded component from Krusell’s Multidapt system, allowing the case to be attached to many additional, but optional Krusell mounting accessories.
Our nano review noted that Incase has made major inroads with the aforementioned Sport cases, which offer comparable features and design to Marware’s Convertible cases at aggressive price points, and that we’ve recently tended to prefer them. But for the time being, Marware has the iPod 5G sport case market all to itself - Incase hasn’t released a 5G Sport Case yet as of the date of this review. At its $35 asking price, Convertible isn’t cheap by iPod case standards, but it’s not objectionably priced considering how much you get in the box. If you’re looking for a fifth-generation iPod armband case that also serves as a good non-armband case, Sportsuit Convertible should be at or near the top of your short list.