Review: SKB Drypod Waterproof/Interactive Hardshells | iLounge

Review

F

Company: SKB Cases

Website: www.Drypodcase.com

Model: Drypod

Price: $45

Compatible: iPod 5G

SKB Drypod Waterproof/Interactive Hardshells

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Friday, July 7, 2006
Category: Cases - iPods + Accessories, iPod 5G (with Video)

Pros: A two-piece iPod hard shell case with lanyard, armband, and belt clip attachments, designed to waterproof your iPod.

Cons: Despite waterproof marketing, shell allowed non-trivial amount of water to enter and touch iPod inside; gasket isn’t necessarily capable of achieving a full seal. Unlike other waterproof cases, company disclaims submersion safety in warranty.

Very few of the products we’ve reviewed at iLounge qualify for our “F” rating - the one reserved for accessories that contain “a defect that could seriously damage itself, the attached iPod, or the purchaser.” The reason for this is pretty obvious: something would really have to be unusually bad to cause this sort of serious harm, and there aren’t many examples of accessories with such potential. To date, we’ve seen a charger that can blow out an iPod’s battery, a boom box that could pop its own batteries, and now this - a waterproof case that can drown your iPod.

SKB’s $45 Drypod Waterproof/Interactive Hardshells are a great idea - an inexpensive bundle of a supposedly water-tight iPod case with an impressively large number of packed-in accessories. In addition to the blue and clear case, you get a neoprene and plastic lanyard, matching armband, metal belt clip, foam sizer for different iPod thicknesses, two rubber headphone port sealers, a headphone port extender for oversized headphone plugs, and a replacement rubber gasket. No waterproof headphones or metal protector for your non-waterproof headphones’ plug is included, or sold separately by the company. There are presently three versions of Drypod available: we tested and rated the case for 30GB and 60GB 5G iPods, but the company also sells an iPod nano version, and one for now-discontinued 20 and 30GB 4G iPods.

The biggest question with any waterproof case is, not surprisingly, how it performs in water. SKB’s web site claims that Drypod is “superior to our competitors in performance, engineering, durability, and price,” but is unusually ambiguous on quantifying the case’s waterproof performance. While there are bold indicators on the site and box that Drypod is “waterproof,” you have to dig through a few web site pages to find specifics on its depth rating, which the company only holds out as having been established by someone else. A link to an “independent laboratory test” shows a scanned-in piece of paper stating that a sample Drypod case - model not listed - was submerged at a depth of 1 meter (approximately 3 feet) for 30 minutes, showing no leak in the process. But small print elsewhere raises a red flag. “The Drypod is not designed to be continuously submerged,” explains smaller print in SKB’s Lifetime Warranty. “No warranty is expressed or implied regarding accidental payload damage.” In other words, though this is a “waterproof” case, you shouldn’t expect it to keep water away from your iPod for long, and if it does, the company’s not responsible.

Other than a single major issue, Drypod’s build quality is fine. It’s a two-piece shell with a rubber gasket between its halves, and technically fits the sizes of iPods it’s intended to fit without an issue. We tested the 5G case underwater with the more popular 30GB iPod, using the foam interior pad to resize the case to fit the thinner-profiled iPod, and there was no problem with the alignment of screen, controls, or the headphone port. Drypod isn’t quite the rival of Otter’s OtterBox for the 5G iPod or H2O Audio’s Waterproof Cases in interior protective design, but there are thin strips of softer, anti-scratch plastic inside, and they work.

The real issue here appears to be the rubber gasket, which unlike its competitors has no pressurizing latch, and didn’t fully seal the two halves of the case together during our underwater submersion testing. Even at a depth of less than 3 feet, we saw bubbles coming out of the 5G case’s central seam after only a few minutes of submersion, then found a significant amount of water inside the case - not quite the resilience one would expect, even given the company’s qualified claims. The bubbles hadn’t stopped as of when we removed the iPod from the water, and since additional water entered the case with each one, the iPod came closer to waterlogging with continued exposure.

When inside Drypod, the iPod’s screen is visible behind a clear plastic shell, its headphone port is fully accessible either with the case alone or with the included cord adapter, and the Click Wheel is largely accessible through a softer clear blue membrane. We deducted a point here because the controls aren’t quite as responsive with this membrane as we’ve seen in other top waterproof cases - H2O Audio’s cases are the best in this regard - but if you push, you can make them work. The iPod’s Hold switch and Dock Connector port are both completely covered inside Drypod, and inaccessible.

Because Drypod includes a lanyard, armband, and belt clip - the latter made from stainless steel, and also used to attach the armband - it scores 3 points for special features. We’re not big fans of lanyards for heavier, full-sized iPods, particularly ones wrapped in weight-adding cases, but the neoprene one included here is especially soft, and might prove useful for some users, under certain conditions. Normally, the case’s waterproof functionality would merit additional points here, but because it doesn’t work safely, we can’t award it anything.

Depending on how you read the word “protectiveness,” there are two scores applicable to Drypod: a 10 for its hard plastic protection of all of the iPod’s body, or a 0 for failing to protect the iPod in the most important way it is designed to perform. As its name, packaging, and promotion all suggest that the case is designed to keep your iPod dry, we couldn’t in good conscience provide any points here; the best thing we can say is that if you want it for anything but truly waterproof protection, it would rate much higher.

Assessing the value of Drypod is a challenge for a number of reasons: at $45, it’s more expensive than the typical full-sized iPod case by $10, but both comes with an unusual number of pack-ins and belongs to a category of waterproof products that typically sell for more than the iPod’s average. On the other hand, it failed to do the only thing it’s supposed to do - a major reason we wouldn’t buy it at any price. Despite our overall rating here, our feeling was ultimately that Drypod may still appeal to people who can totally ignore its waterproof claims, and just use it as an interesting-looking case or a light “water-resistant” option for running in the rain. For true waterproof protection, we’d recommend H2O Audio and Otter designs instead - even though they’re more expensive, when it comes to protecting a $300-400 iPod, the extra dollars will be well-spent.

A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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