Review: Pacific Rim Technologies nano Gel Shield 3-pack for iPod nano
Pros: A 3-pack of silicone cases with included lanyard, thin armband, and lanyard headphones, offering many mounting options for a low price.
Cons: Case lacks protection for hold switch and dock connector port; Click Wheel film doesn’t stay applied well, giving a “wet look”; included armband is comfortable and thin, yet feels cheap; Lanyard headphones hold iPod from one corner only.
Recently, the silicone case market has been splitting itself into two increasingly distinct categories: full featured, fully protective cases for relatively high prices per case, and dirt simple, bare bones cases for very low prices per case, with cases such as iSkin’s Duo for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A) exemplifying the first category, and cases like Apple’s nano tubes (iLounge rating: B+) typical of the second. Pacific Rim’s new Gel Shield 3-Pack aims to provide some middle-ground balance of quantity, protection, and features for a low price, and generally hits its mark.
Pacific Rim Technologies’ nano Gel Shield 3-Pack could be described as a 2-Pack of 3-Packs, in that you get three cases as well as three ways to carry them. The frosted white, frosted baby blue, and opaque black silicone cases are accompanied in the package by a lanyard, and armband, and a pair of lanyard headphones.
Each of the included silicone cases are of the fairly basic design, with open areas for the screen, Click Wheel, hold switch, and the entire bottom surface of the iPod. Although the hold switch and dock connector remain unprotected full-time, screen and Click Wheel protection is provided by two included film-style protectors.
Each of the two film protectors are shipped with both sides protected by cover pieces, making them easy to install without getting fingerprints on them in the process. The films are a bit thicker than many we’ve seen - a good thing for the screen, but a bit troublesome for the fit on the Click Wheel which is required to move. As a result, we weren’t able to get a perfect fit free of “wet marks” on the Click Wheel film, but it stayed in place.
There is molded-in gripping texture on each of the sides of the silicone case, making it generally feel nice to hold.
Pacific Rim’s website for the product lauds the Gel Shield’s “Anti-Dust coating,” and for the most part, it works: the silicone cases do not pick up lint or dust as much as other silicone cases we’ve reviewed, save those from Capdase, whose coating feels and performs quite similarly to Pacific Rim’s.
On the back side of each silicone sleeve are four slits - two vertical and two horizontal - through which one can slide either the included armband or a belt. The slits which would mount the iPod nano horizontally are narrower than their vertical counterparts, and too narrow, in fact, to fit the included armband without folding it over onto itself a bit.
The first mounting option included with the nano Gel Shield package is a simple lanyard, consisting of a plastic-covered cord terminating in a small cylindrical metal fixture, with two small black cords which loop into the silicone cases’ two eyelets on each of the iPod’s bottom corners. It is a simple, minimalist design, and works well. The lanyard was a bit long for our tastes, dropping the nano almost to our belt lines, but this is easily remedied by tying up some slack into a knot.
The second of three mounting options available in the box is a very thin neoprene armband, meant to slide through the Gel Shield’s horizontal or vertical slits on the nano’s back side. The armband seemed to work as required, with its standard velcro holding well enough, but we wouldn’t call it “high quality” by any means. The armband is quite literally just a strip of very thin neoprene with velcro attached: there’s no deliberate finishing of edges, padding, or other the like.
Note that the armband is only long enough for, perhaps, women or men with small to average arm thicknesses. Those with larger forearms will need a longer, more substantial armband.
The final included accessory is a pair of lanyard headphones, a surprising bonus given that other companies are selling their sets for substantial prices.
The lanyard headphones have sound quality close to Apple’s packed-in earbuds, but are constructed from what feels to be a lower quality plastic, much like that used to make cell phone headsets. The set is not as adjustable as Apple’s, although there is a simple sliding cable crimper on the portion of the cord which sits behind the neck.
There are a couple interesting issues with the lanyard headphones that lead us to believe they are a generic piece included as an afterthought, rather than having been designed with the nano Gel Shield as a true companion product. First, the lanyard headphones include only one cord to mount to one of the Gel Shield’s two eyelets, a minor issue that will require the iPod nano to hang oddly off-balance. Second, the headphone cord that connects the lanyard to the iPod is entirely too long for the mere 2 inches it needs to travel - enough to wrap around to the iPod’s other end, with length to spare. Thus, there will be considerable unnecessary slack when connected. There’s also more slack than we found to be necessary on each of the earbud cords.
Value and Conclusions:
The nano Gel Shield silicone cases and the included film protectors are generally solid, inexpensive, recommendable cases, if you can live with their lack of protection for the hold switch, dock connector, and the portions of the iPod’s back left exposed through its slits.
In at least some capacity, however, we’d be tempted to call all three of included mounting options “cheap” in construction and design, but it’s no secret that their inexpensive nature is part of their appeal: the nano Gel Shield 3-Pack includes three cases and three mounting options for a single price lower than many single-case offerings from other companies. The set of three cases alone would likely sell for the $19.99 asking price without their mounting options, and thus, the armband, lanyard, and lanyard headphones could be viewed as a bonus.
If you’re looking for a bargain way to get multiple types of carrying options, the nano Gel Shield 3-Pack is certainly a valid option, though if you only need one of the styles, we’d probably recommend you keep looking for something higher in quality and/or protection.
Largely on the merit of its bargain price and quantity of included items, we’re awarding the nano Gel Shield 3-Pack a “B” grade. Were it not priced as it is, we’d have rated it considerably lower for quality concerns, but at this price level, Pacific Rim is being fair.