Review: Power Support Crystal Film Cover Set for iPod nano
Pros: Clear adhesive protection for your iPod nano’s front and rear surfaces, importantly including complete Click Wheel protection, made by a company with a superb reputation for long-term durability. Can be used in individual pieces, or together.
Cons: No protection for nano’s sides, doesn’t completely cover nano’s back edges. Not cheap, though mitigated by company’s superior quality workmanship and durability.
Update Oct. 6, 2005: Power Support USA representatives have contacted iLounge to note that the date for general US availability of Crystal Film has not been determined, but that the company will be posting the product for order on its site as soon as it is available.
Though it’s not what we’d expected, the first third-party iPod nano-specific accessory has arrived - and it’s something everybody needs. Japan’s Power Support - long a favorite of iLounge because of its superb iPod mini case Square Type (iLounge rating: A) and iPod control protector 3D Wheel Film (iLounge rating: A-) - has released the Crystal Film Cover Set for iPod nano ($15.00), a three-piece evolution of 3D Wheel Film.
Having previously tested a number of clear adhesive protectors by other companies, we’ve been consistently impressed by the quality and precision of Power Support’s products - factors that often make them worth paying a little extra to have. Properly attached, these protectors are barely visible on the glossy surfaces of an iPod, unlike some of the frosted or textured alternatives we’ve seen. We’ve also been impressed by the no-residue adhesive and the fact that the plastic used is more rigid and easier to install than other options.
It’s also durable and fully protective. The 3D Wheel Film we installed on an iPod one year ago has neither tarnished nor begun to peel off over the course of fairly heavy use, and unlike all of its competitors, it covers all of the iPod’s controls at all times, whether or not it’s in a case. It’s called “3D” because it has a specially sculpted center that protects an iPod’s center button, which most other products lack. The only consequence of using it is that your matte-finished Click Wheel becomes glossy, matching the rest of the iPod’s face.
The nano version of Crystal Film includes an iPod nano rear protector, a partial front protector, and a separate nano-sized circle of 3D Wheel Film. Installing the rear protector (Rear Cover Film) is simple; after thoroughly cleaning your iPod nano, you peel the protector off the sheet and apply it. If you’ve cleaned properly, you’ll see no specks of dust under the sheet, and can work small air bubbles out easily. (Our photos have been enhanced a little so that you can see how dust and air bubbles can happen if you haven’t cleaned.)
Next you’ll place the nano 3D Wheel Film on the iPod’s controls, and finally, you install the Front Cover Film to protect nano’s screen and front surface. Each piece of Film adds only the slightest thickness to the iPod nano’s slender body, guaranteeing its compatibility with other accessories, such as the iPod nano Armband (iLounge rating: B).
Especially in the absence of other case options - a temporary but real problem today - it’s obvious that Crystal Film is highly useful in its entirety. Our first black iPod nano began to show scratches on both of its faces within hours of its removal from the package, and Crystal Film almost completely precludes this when fully installed. Even assuming you eventually buy a separate case capable of protecting all of nano besides its controls, you also have the option to only attach 3D Wheel Film, or only the rest of the face protector. Though trickier to initially install, this is a smarter design than a one- or two-piece cover that needs to be used in an all-or-nothing fashion; on an upcoming case like Apple’s nano Tubes, you can have screen but no Wheel protection, while on other cases, you can have Wheel but no screen protection.
There are only two issues that some people may have with Crystal Film. First, it’s not completely protective; it covers virtually all of the nano’s back, but not every millimeter, nor does it cover nano’s sides. We consider these factors more than trivial but not critical given the surface area covered; moreover, the nano’s incredibly thin body doesn’t leave as much to see on the sides as old iPods.
Secondly, like Power Support’s other products, Crystal Film isn’t cheap. For the $10 asking price, you’re halfway towards the purchase of a complete case, or a third of the way towards buying five Apple iPod nano Tubes - whenever they come out. But as price-sensitive as we are, we will say this much: unlike so many of the products we review, we have used and seriously appreciated 3D Wheel Film every day for a year - one of the reasons we mention it in the reviews of so many otherwise good case designs. Even if $10 seems like a lot for a few clear stickers, consider this the equivalent of buying an insurance policy against scratches for your iPod nano - the sort of investment that’s even more worthwhile because of nano’s scratchability.
Though there will be many other protective options in the near future, the Crystal Film Cover Set is almost exactly what iPod nano owners need right now: simple, affordable scratch protection that’s well made, if not completely comprehensive around the edges. For a first-to-market solution, it’s a very solid entry.