Review: Proporta Crystal, Silicone, and Steel Sleeves for 2G iPod shuffle
Whether they're made from clear hard plastic, silicone rubber, or even colored metal, the shell-like semi-cases we've seen for the second-generation iPod shuffle are very inexpensive to make - so cheap, in fact, that U.S.-based JAVOedge can sell imported units for $1-5 a piece and still make a profit. That's what the company's done with JAVOShield (iLounge rating: B), JAVOClearCase (iLounge rating: B+), and JAVOSkin (iLounge rating: B), generic partial covers for the new shuffle that add at least bits of color and protection for low prices. Near-simultaneously but across the Atlantic Ocean, Proporta has started to sell three virtually identical products under different names, at higher prices, with only modest reasons to choose their offerings instead of JAVO's. So if you're looking for a way to colorize your silver shuffle, or partially change the color of your newer green, blue, pink, or orange shuffle, Proporta has options - for $9 each.
This problem’s most evident with Proporta’s Crystal Sleeve ($9/£5), a clear hard plastic shell that’s sold separately for that price in five colors - clear, red, black, blue, and pink - despite the fact that JAVOedge sells a seven-pack of JAVOClearCases for only $8. JAVO’s set includes the same five colors, plus green and orange, the latter color making it the only sub-$79 way we’ve seen to get a mostly orange second-generation shuffle. Putting the issue of protectiveness aside - Crystal Sleeve covers part of the shuffle’s face, most of its sides, and around half each of its top and bottom, interfering with oversized headphone plugs - why would anyone want to pay $9 for a single Proporta color when you can get seven colors for less money?
The value proposition is similar with Proporta’s Silicone Sleeve ($9/£5), a silicone rubber case that comes in four colors - white, black, pink, and blue - each frosted with a conspicuous white Proporta logo off to the bottom left of the iPod shuffle’s Control Pad. On a positive note, Silicone Sleeve provides substantially more protection than the Crystal Sleeve, covering the entire Control Pad, sides, top and bottom save for the shuffle’s headphone port and bottom switches, and leaving only its rear clip conspicuously exposed. But again, JAVO’s equivalent offering JAVOSkin swoops in on price, offering three fully equivalent Skins for the price of one Silicone Sleeve, or five for only $2 more. Again, JAVO adds a neon green version to Proporta’s list of options, and thankfully leaves off the oversized logo, both touches we appreciated.
Finally, rather than the colored steel JAVOShield case - sold in three- or seven-packs for $16-24 - you can get a Proporta Steel Sleeve ($9/£5), which looks and feels exactly the same except that there’s only one shell in the package. To Proporta’s credit, the company offers the same seven colors as JAVOedge, namely metallic black, blue, silver, green, pink, red, and chrome, plus three others - gloss black, purple, and white. Because of those three additions, Steel Sleeve is the only case of the bunch in which Proporta goes beyond JAVO’s offerings, but again, the price is high for what you’re getting. All of the Steel Sleeves provide partial 2G iPod shuffle front protection and full side protection, but no top, bottom, or back clip protection. A soft foam interior helps the Sleeve slide on and off the shuffle without scratching its metal surfaces.
With the exception of the three additional Steel Sleeve colors that Proporta’s offering for $9 a piece, there’s no reason that we’d prefer these more expensive and otherwise virtually identical offerings to those sold by JAVOedge for less. iPod shuffles have always been low-priced iPods for value-conscious buyers, and though Proporta’s per unit asking prices here aren’t crazy, the designs are generic, and the bundles not aggressive enough to appeal to people with other good options. For those reasons, our feeling is that all three of these options are merely “okay” - Silicone Sleeve’s the strongest on protection but weakest on value, Clear is average on both, and Steel offers the least protection but the most unique additional colors.
Regarding the specific point assignments of our ratings below, the Silicone and Clear Sleeves each received ratings of 10 on Build Quality, while Steel received an 8 because of slight alignment issues with the shuffle’s Control Pad. Steel and Silicone each received ratings of 8 on Ease of Use, with Clear losing one point because of interference with the shuffle’s headphone port. Steel received 2 points for Special Features because of the array of 10 colors offered by Proporta, while Clear received 1 for its 5 colors, and Silicone 0 for having only four. Silicone’s 6-point Protectiveness rating included two extra points because it had Control Pad protection - the only one of the three to do so - but lost one of those points for having softer coverage than both Clear and Steel. Finally, Steel rated an extra point on value - totalling 4 - relative to Clear and Silicone, because its unique colors and metallic body made it a better buy for the $9 price than either of its alternatives, though none was a particularly great value for the dollar. Steel and Silicone rated 28 overall, Clear 27, all in our C+ category.