Review: Monster iCase Travel Pack
Pros: Capable of holding many iPod components, nice ballistic nylon exterior.
Cons: Very expensive, limited utility for many users, pack-ins somewhat of a question mark depending on the user.
Ah, Monster - recent licensee of interesting iPod accessories and long-time devotee of premium pricing. At $70 for a fabric case, Monster had a lot to prove to us this time, and just barely scored our “Happy” icon this time out.
Like several other confusingly named Monster accessories, the iCase is branded “incase” on its exterior and interior tags, so you’d never guess it was a Monster product but for the box and some interesting accessories. As it turns out, the iCase was developed for Monster by a company named Incase, and the subtitle on the box explains its different marketing approach: it’s a “Travel Pack for iPod.” Larger than its competitors by many times, the case is depicted on its packaging simultaneously holding an iPod, five different accessories (including a full iPod dock), an iPod CD, a collection of different Flash media cards, a PCMCIA card, a map, and a pen. Because you never know when you might need all that stuff. Ahem.
There are three great things about the iCase. First, it includes Monster’s iSplitter, which lets two people listen to an iPod with separate headphones at the same time. We really like the iSplitter and have found it to be entirely worth the $9.95 suggested retail price for testing and fun purposes. Given that this is a travel case, it’s a smart accessory to toss in the box.
Second, it includes Monster’s iCarCharger, which connects to a 3G iPod and provides on-the-road battery charging capabilities. We really liked the iCarCharger’s multi-colored LED, which turns red, amber and green depending on how it’s powering or charging the iPod, though we note that this isn’t the Monster charger capable of outputting audio through the iPod’s dock connector port. (That’s the Ultra-Low Profile Charger for iPod, which we’ve reviewed separately.) At $29.95 MSRP, the iCarCharger’s too expensive, but it’s again free in the box with the iCase.
Third and finally, the iCase is pretty resilient. Ballistic nylon is one of our preferred case materials for other devices, such as digital cameras, and courtesy of a bit of padding on the front and back pouches, it does a good job of shielding the iPod and other components from external damage. There are a couple of leather pieces to hold the iCarCharger and iPod in place - less protection than we would have preferred for the iPod’s screen and buttons, quite honestly, and we’re a bit concerned about the prospect that items inside the case could scratch the iPod’s screen. But then this particular case is intended for a different use than many of the alternatives we’ve reviewed elsewhere, and it’s up to the user to pack in such a way as to minimize damage.
That’s also the major failing of the iCase. At 10” x 6” x 1”, it’s a huge case, and yes, if it’s not intended for travel, we don’t know what else it could be used for. There’s a nice zipper pocket on the front, and the case also closes with a zipper - just the sort of thing you might slip into a car, or a backpack, when you need to take a whole bunch of stuff around with you. (We even liked the Dr. Martens-style yellow stitching against the black case interior.) But the whole point of the iPod is to avoid needing to take CDs and extra media on the road, which is one of the things that makes the iCase’s packaging and design so quixotic. A case that can hold a car charger is all fine and dandy, but under most circumstances, we can’t imagine needing to keep the car charger anywhere but plugged into a car. Again, as we’ve said in other reviews, your mileage may vary.
Our knocks on the iCase are its size, its price, and its utility. If you’re in need of what it offers, the iCase is every bit a well-constructed product with a couple of nice accessories inside. But like Monster’s iSportCase before it, we think it’s a bit of a marketing and design error in need of a second-generation rethinking.
Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.