Review: Pacific Rim Technologies 4G iShield
Pros: Solid metal protection for the 4G iPod with hard plastic screen protection and a detachable belt clip option. Unlikely to scratch the iPod inside, and likely to withstand most damage outside.
Cons: Wheel hole is ever-so-slightly too small; relatively large hole in back to permit iPod removal. Minor issue - no wheel protection may put off some metal case users looking for Matias-style full frontal metal protection.
For experienced iPod accessory manufacturers, the retooling of earlier third-generation iPod cases and accessories for fourth-generation (“new”) iPods is a relatively easy feat. By integrating the earlier iPod’s four separate buttons into the surface of the Click Wheel, Apple turned quality case design into an almost effortless task: leave a rectangular cut out for the screen and a circle for the controls, plus ovals for the top and bottom ports.
It therefore took several case manufacturers only a month to develop and ship iLounge the first new cases for fourth-generation iPods. While similar to their prior products, these new cases do feature slight changes that may interest first-time and experienced iPod accessory buyers.
Metal hard cases for the iPod are trickier design propositions than they initially look: not only does such a case need to protect the enclosed iPod from the outside world, but it also needs to avoid scratching the iPod itself. iLounge has reviewed a number of metal cases, and over time they’ve generally (if intentionally) gotten worse at the former task but better at the latter one.
The reason for declining external protectiveness is that an all-metal, fully protective iPod case can actually be too protective for routine daily use. While some users prefer full metal iPod protection with the ability to access the screen and controls only when the case is opened, others prefer partial iPod protection with exposed controls and plastic-covered screens. The internal protectiveness half of the equation is easier. Careful manufacturers polish their metal and insert just the right amount of thin foam on all interior surfaces of their cases, guaranteeing that the iPods inside won’t be tarnished by anything rough.
Because it was designed to permit a fair amount of access to the iPod even when closed, Pacific Rim’s new iShield metal carrying case for the fourth-generation iPod is highly protective inside and moderately protective outside. It consists of only two pieces which are permanently joined by a right-side hinge: a rear shell that covers most of the iPod’s sides, back, top and bottom, and a front shell that snaps closed on the left to protect everything but the iPod’s Click Wheel. The front shell features an integrated hard transparent plastic screen protector, which is framed by black foam. Holes in the case are left for the Click Wheel, headphone port, Hold Switch, and Dock Connector port, as well as a fifth hole on the case’s back that lets you push the iPod out with a finger or thumb.
Overall, the 4G iShield looks very close to great, marred modestly by a slightly undersized Click Wheel hole. Perhaps due to mismeasurement or perhaps for other reasons, the Click Wheel hole is a tiny bit off on exposing the full face of the Click Wheel. (On an early version of the case we received, the hole was too small and its edge was just rough enough to make finger movement and button pressing a bit uncomfortable. A subsequent version (now shipping) improved this by adding a softer beveled edge around the wheel, and increasing the hole’s size. The cut’s still not perfect, but it’s close enough.) Similarly, the transparent plastic screen has a black edge that looks fine on its top and sides, but is a little jagged looking at the bottom. These are modest flaws, but they do detract a bit from what is otherwise a handsome case.
We were especially impressed by the holes Pacific Rim left for the Dock Connector port, headphone jack and hold switch. They’re just the right size for all sorts of connectors, and didn’t take a shortcut by leaving unnecessarily gaping spaces. And while it’s mildly disappointing that there’s such a sizeable hole in the back of the case - approximately quarter-sized, right where the iPod’s hard drive capacity is shown - the touch was partially necessary to permit easy removal of the iPod from the foam-lined interior of the case. But it could have been smaller.
Thankfully, the interior of the case is solid. Its foam fits perfectly and didn’t leave any scratches on our iPod. Once inserted, the iPod fits snugly inside, and feels quite well protected against pretty much everything - except, of course, for the possibility of scratching from outside forces near the case’s holes.
Pacific Rim includes a decent black plastic detachable belt clip and two foam inserts for use with smaller-sized iPods. While the belt clip mechanism isn’t the best we’ve seen, and the rear of the metal case includes a non-detachable stub, most users will be fine with the functionality. As we’re not belt clippers, we tend to prefer Matias’ recent detachable stub option instead, but that’s just us.
Overall, the iShield 4G is a pretty good first metal case for the newest iPod, though it looks like it was rushed a bit to make its ship date, and some people may prefer to wait for an option that won’t permit such a large area of the iPod’s back casing to be scratched. For the entirely reasonable $34.99 asking price, we think that most people looking for a metal case will find this new iShield to be a more than acceptable alternative; we hope only that Pacific Rim will continue to tweak the case’s holes to make the iShield even more appealing to 4G iPod users.
Updated Editors’ Note (October 5, 2004): After publication of our review, Pacific Rim delivered a subsequent production unit of the iShield 4G (above) that largely remedies the prior version’s undersized Click Wheel hole and rough edges, as noted in the updated review text above. We commend Pacific Rim for making this fix.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and 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.