Review: Marware SportSuit Runabout for iPod mini
Price: $24.95, $34.95, $29.95, $19.95, respectively
Compatible: iPod mini
Pros: Holds the iPod on most users’ wrists, offers adequate protection, doesn’t look as goofy (to men, at least) as it could have looked.
Cons: Looks a bit odd, impractically bulky for thinner-wristed people, end of arm might not be the best place for a runner to mount an iPod given headphone cord and other issues.
Marware SportSuit Basic, Convertible, Runabout and Safari
Marware is now shipping the black-colored SportSuit Basic, a $24.95 case that is almost identical to the Action Jacket, save a few particulars, the more interesting $34.95 workout version called the SportSuit Convertible, a middle-of-road $29.95 wristband variant called the SportSuit Runabout, and an entirely different fur-covered $19.95 pouch design called the SportSuit Safari. Each case has advantages and disadvantages; only one scored an iLounge Excited rating. Note that this review is excerpted from a longer combination review of all of these products, see the separate Marware mini case reviews for additional details.
Marware is also shipping one other version of the SportSuit, the SportSuit Runabout, a unique wrist-mounting iPod mini case “that lets you wear your mini like a watch.” While its name brands Runabout as part of the SportSuit line, it’s actually a much different case from the Basic and Convertible, made entirely from black vulcanized neoprene save a clear vinyl front panel that protects the iPod mini’s screen and metal casing above the Click Wheel. But like the other cases, it’s apparently intended for sport use - the packaging suggests that it would be good “for an active user on the go, in the gym, and on the street.”
Hold switch and headphone ports remain accessible, but the Dock Connector port is entirely sealed off in the Runabout. Small elastic loops hold your headphones in place when wrapped around the case, or when exercising with it. An iPod mini is inserted through a slit in the back of the case, while a small permanently attached neoprene and Velcro wristband loops around itself and holds in place using a hard plastic loop.
The clear vinyl front panel leaves the Click Wheel exposed and extends to partially cover the iPod mini’s top. Unlike the Basic and Convertible SportSuits, we found the alignment of the Runabout’s clear front panel was cut somewhat imperfectly relative to the mini’s Click Wheel, but not enough to impair normal use of the device - maybe just enough to let a few drops of sweat trickle in at any angle.
Despite its success at getting the iPod mini to fit around a medium-sized wrist - a feat impossible with the previous generations of iPods - the Runabout didn’t score any points on our sex appeal scale. While we admire the innovation involved in turning the wrist into an iPod mini-laden digital
panel, we wouldn’t wear the Runabout “on the street” unless we were heading to a Star Trek convention. Women we asked for independent evaluations of the case were not impressed and “wouldn’t wear it;” one was a marathon runner who opined that the arm-mounted Convertible case was more attractive and practical for her needs. We felt the same way. Even as a general-purpose
workout case “in the gym,” we preferred the Convertible both on mounting location and design, especially because it was less likely to get in our way no matter what we were doing.
That said, the Runabout’s packaging suggests that female users aren’t its target market. Rather, it seems to be geared towards male users, and the wristband seemed to be made less for petite, smaller boned or child users than for teenagers, women and men with average to larger-sized wrists.
Assuming that it will fit your arm - and it fit fine on the wrists of two men who tested it, but not as comfortably on one small-boned woman who tried it on - we still think that the Runabout leans on the impractical side, and wouldn’t use it ourselves during workouts. Mounting the iPod mini at the end of the arm rather than at the bicep only increases the necessary distance, flex, and tangling/interference potential of headphone cords, and we’d prefer something other than a wrist mount in the event of a stumble or other impact.
While the Runabout’s neither a strictly bad idea nor an offensive implementation, we can’t imagine that many people would prefer it over the comparatively excellent SportSuit Convertible - even though it is available at a lower price. Only you can be the judge of whether it better meets your personal needs and fashion sensibility.