Company: Otter Products
Model: OtterBox for iPod video
Compatible: iPod 5G
Otter Products OtterBox for iPod video
Pros: A resilient hard plastic case with comprehensive waterproof, shock-proof and dust-proof coverage for your fifth-generation iPod, enabling you to enjoy audio, photos, or video in any weather conditions - even under water. Includes a detachable belt clip, and uses a spacer to fit 30GB and 60GB iPods.
Cons: Pricing is entirely fair given the quality and unique design, but not aggressive. Case is only certified as waterproof to a depth of three feet (one meter). Though case is compatible with both waterproof headphones and an armband, both must be purchased separately.
As the fifth-generation iPod grows in popularity, so will the sixth Otter Products case for an iPod - OtterBox for iPod video ($50). Since we saw the first of them back in July of 2004, the Otter family has consistently been one of the best-reviewed on iLounge, not only offering an impressive combination of protectiveness and ease of use, but improving in both design and protectiveness over time. The latest version is among the company’s most impressive, actually permitting users to enjoy audio and video content underwater - provided you have the right headphones - as well as retaining the dust-proof, sand-proof, and drop-proof hard plastic body that has endeared its predecessors to rainy day joggers and extreme sport athletes.
OtterBox for iPod video is an impressively designed and executed case. Its shell consists of two halves joined at the top by a hinge, sealed at the sides by rubber piping, and snapped together at the bottom with a firm plastic lock. Once locked, the case is ready for anything - drops, a mud run, or even swimming. As always, we put the case through the toughest test, checking its water resilience through actual submersion (requiring waterproof headphones, which are not included - we have pairs we use for testing). After placing it at its “safe” depth of three feet, as with its predecessors, it worked as promised. We spent time pressing on its rubber-sealed Click Wheel protector to make sure it didn’t leak - no issues - and were able to see the screen without fogging or other problems during video playback.
The case was otherwise excellent in fit, finish, and resilience. Even though it uses an internal foam resizing pad for thinner 30GB iPods, its holes all line up precisely regardless of the iPod inside, there were no imperfections on its interior or exterior, and in addition to its waterproof qualities, its body is strong, and doesn’t show scratches as easily as many cases we’ve seen. We were very impressed.
We really wish we could have given OtterBox for iPod video a perfect rating in this category, because it properly does virtually everything it’s supposed to do regarding ease of use - it provides complete access to the iPod’s screen, Click Wheel, and headphone port, the only things we’d really need from a case we’d use underwater or outdoors. You can actually use the Click Wheel underwater - we found it easier to scroll up and down, in fact, than in the iPod nano version, and all of the buttons worked perfectly as well. It’s also very easy to pop the case’s bottom lock open to get access to the Dock Connector port, and you don’t need to remove the iPod to do so. The only thing you can’t access inside is the iPod’s top Hold switch, which you probably won’t care much about given what the case is intended for.
The major feature of OtterBox cases - and the one that earns the maximum 5 points for innovation here - is Otter Products’ impressive ability to offer full-time iPod screen and control access while you’re in any sort of climate or conditions - dry, wet, muddy, or sandy - which has been achieved more affordably than any partial competitor (such as H2O Audio’s earlier SV-series underwater iPod cases), and with far superior iPod control access than earlier entrants into the same category (Eroch Studios’ LiliPod). No one else has offered an iPod case that does everything this one does.
Otter also scores one extra point out of a possible five for its pack-in - a good but not ultra-complex detachable belt clip, which is a single piece of reasonably hard plastic. The company also includes a foam insert that resizes the case for 30GB and 60GB fifth-generation iPods, which works reasonably well, but doesn’t earn any extra points. An elastic armband is sold separately for $15, attaching to the case’s rear belt clip mount, and though Otter doesn’t supply waterproof headphones, another company (H2O Audio) will soon be selling a compatible pair of its own.
Otter pretty much sets the bar for protectiveness with this case: in addition to being fully protective of the iPod’s entire body, scoring the top eight points for providing coverage for screen, Click Wheel, ports, and all sides, it’s in the top two or three most resilient iPod case designs we’ve tested. Waterproof feature aside, there aren’t many cases that can weather a hard drop or shock like the Otters - these cases grip the iPod inside well, and coat it with a smart combination of rubber and hard plastic that absorbs pretty much whatever you throw at it. This makes the OtterBox an especially great sports or travel companion, provided you’re not also concerned about covering your headphones. We’ll note an obvious point - not as a con - that the added size of this hard protective shell renders it more useful for these type of situations than for many people’s everyday use, a fact which we don’t consider a fault in any way.
On the waterproof point, it’s worth only a brief note that deep water buffs may find H2O Audio’s upcoming SV-series waterproof case for 5G iPods a fair alternative - though more expensive, it can be submerged to a depth of 10 feet. But it’s also not designed to be as scratch- and drop-resistant as the OtterBox cases.
All things considered, Otter’s $50 asking price for OtterBox 5G is right-in-the-middle fair, when adjusted upwards by two points for our genuinely strong feelings about the quality and design. Though it overshoots the $35 typical mark for full-sized iPod cases by a bit, it is such a well-built, well-designed, and unique case that we think it’s an exception to the general rule; for what it is, it’s definitely worth the price. That said, it could be priced more aggressively, and would be even more popular if it was. We aren’t surprised that Otter leaves users to buy options such as an armband and/or waterproof headphones separately, but discounted bundles would surely make people happy.
Overall, OtterBox for iPod video is an exemplary case on design - Otter Products has struck just the right balance between protection and ease of use, offering a durable shell that can withstand basically anything it encounters, yet lets you see and control your iPod without serious limitation. Previous OtterBox generations have been our top recommendations for all-conditions athletes, and the newest version continues that tradition without a hitch. Could it improve? Barely. While reasonable, the price could be more aggressive, and key optional accessories either bundled or discounted. We don’t think most people will mind; OtterBox for iPod video is such a stand-out on features that those who need the sort of protection it offers can’t - at least for now - find a better option at any price. It’s very much worthy of our high recommendation.
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.