Review: Power Support Crystal Film Cover Set for iPod 5G (with video)
Pros: Clear and durable adhesive protection for your 5G iPod’s front and rear surfaces, importantly including complete Click Wheel protection. Three pieces can be used individually or together. When properly applied to a clean iPod, looks invisible on iPod’s screen.
Cons: No protection for iPod’s top, bottom, or sides, doesn’t completely cover iPod’s back edges. Not cheap, though mitigated by superior quality and durability.
Only weeks after Apple released the iPod nano in September, Japanese case and sticker specialist Power Support released an updated version of its Crystal Film Cover Set (iLounge rating: B+), durable clear stickers that protect the iPod’s entire face, and part of its back. Now the company is doing the same for the fifth-generation iPod ($15), with only one small difference: the size of the stickers.
Each Crystal Film Set includes a total of three stickers: a “3-D” Click Wheel protector that is contoured to properly cover the iPod’s controls, a face protector that covers the rest of the iPod’s flat front surface, and a back protector that covers the majority - but not the entirety - of the 5G’s metallic rear. The added front and rear protection is an evolution of the cheaper Film Sets Power Support has sold for earlier iPods, which contain control and screen protection, but nothing for an iPod’s body. Now you can apply all three stickers, or only the one or two you prefer, depending on what portion of your iPod you want to scratch-proof, or what is otherwise exposed inside of your favorite case.
To the extent that these parts of the iPod are covered, they’re covered wonderfully: as with past Crystal products from Power Support, you will hardly know that they’re on most of the iPod when properly installed, and the stickers are durable and scratch-proof. Video on the 5G iPod’s covered screen is as close to perfect as we’ve seen, and the residual portions of the iPod’s front and rear surfaces are similarly clean - far closer to the ‘invisibility’ promised but not delivered by InvisibleShields.
The only portions that look different from a factory-fresh iPod are the Click Wheel’s surface, which takes on a glossy appearance when covered, and improperly sealed parts of the iPod, which will show small air bubbles. Both of these differences are, from our perspective, trivial: having scratched our Click Wheels’ glossy center buttons, and seen so many past iPod cases without control protection, Power Support’s 3-D Wheel Film has traditionally been the first sticker we’ve wanted to apply, and it’s still better than the protectors we’ve seen to date from other companies. Similarly, the air bubbles are easy to avoid or remove: we strongly recommend that you make sure your iPod’s face is truly (and we mean truly) clean and dust-free before application, then gently work out the few air bubbles that appear. On our first application, the only bubbles that remained were from dust particles (seen in our photos below); repositioning of the sticker was fairly easy, as no gooey adhesive is used to attach the Film to your iPod. As with other stickers we’ve tried, keeping dust out during application was the biggest challenge.
Given that the Film offers clean face and rear protection, why doesn’t it earn our highest recommendation? As with the nano version, there are two obvious reasons. First, its coverage is not as comprehensive as recently released competitors such as InvisibleShield; the iPod’s back is not fully covered around the edges, and there’s no protection for its top, bottom, or sides. Second, there’s the price. We were more enthusiastic about recommending past, cheaper versions of Crystal Film, because they were simple and highly useful add-ons for cases that lacked screen and/or Click Wheel protection. But a lot has changed over the last year. Power Support’s prices for Crystal Film have gone up, and the case market has become more competitive and sophisticated. With the releases of the iPod nano and 5G, many companies now integrate Click Wheel and screen guards into their cases, and still sell them for reasonable prices. Marware’s Sport Grip for iPod nano, as just one example, includes screen and Click Wheel protective film with a rubber case for under $10. Even Power Support sells an iPod nano Crystal Jacket for $20, including the complete FIlm set. In that context, is $15 really a reasonable price for nano or 5G stickers alone?
You’ll need to decide what best suits your usage model: if you’re ‘not a case person,’ yet still want to protect the most visible portions of your iPod without interfering with its screen visibility, Crystal Film is a solid alternative. Assuming you don’t need side, top or bottom protection, and don’t mind the price, you’ll find it to be both durable and amongst the least noticeable protective stickers out there. But if you’re going to buy a case anyway, you may well find that adequate screen and control protection is now included in the package for a more reasonable overall price.