Review: Speck 4G SkinTight ArmBand
Pros: A great exercise armband for 4G iPods, complete with a stylish black neoprene band, encased iPod clip, and Velcro pads to fit most arm sizes.
Cons: Though Arm Band works with 20/40GB iPods (and iPod photos, undocumented), the included case doesn’t fit 40GB iPods well. Some users may not find as easy to wear on the arm as the smaller mini version because of iPod weight.
We’ve already reviewed and liked Speck’s Mini SkinTight ArmBand (iLounge rating: A-), and now we’ve had a chance to test the company’s almost identical 4G SkinTight ArmBand ($34.95) as well. Not surprisingly, the new product’s roughly as good as the last one, though a little more expensive and more user-dependent, as offsets.
The 4G SkinTight ArmBand is a very simple concept, adapter from the Apple iPod Mini Arm Band released last year. In each case, a plastic clip attaches to your iPod while a neoprene armband wraps around your arm. Velcro secures the armband on your arm, with metal screws and a metal plate securing the iPod clip to the armband. Virtually any person’s arm – large man, small woman, and vice-versa – fits properly in the armband thanks to the simple design, and if the Velcro’s used right, the armband stays firmly on the bicep.
In the iPod mini version of this product, Speck fixed our main issue with Apple’s Band, namely that your iPod wasn’t in any way protected from the elements (or sweat) while strapped to your arm. Speck included one of its SkinTight cases with every SkinTight ArmBand, and resculpted its clip to accommodate the added thickness, adding value that Apple’s product didn’t have. The 4G SkinTight ArmBand follows the same general formula, including a clear frosted 4G SkinTight case and sizing its clip for compatibility with different full-sized iPods. A rounded rectangular foam rubber pad is included to make the clip safer to use with thinner 20GB iPods, but we found that it did a good enough job without it. With a case on, your iPod is highly unlikely to fall out of the ArmBand, and not likely to get especially sweaty or messed up, either.
Since we last looked at these ArmBands in July 2004, Speck has made two wise and mostly aesthetic choices to improve its designs: first, it switched from green neoprene bands to a black ones, a change that virtually everyone will appreciate. Second, it replaced its puffy and shaggy old Velcro dots with more professional looking rounded Velcro strips. Consequently, the SkinTight ArmBands now look as good as Apple’s own product.
We had only two issues with the 4G SkinTight ArmBand. The first is an iPod weight and practicality issue: obviously, full-sized iPods are larger and heavier than the iPod mini, and unlike that small iPod, your exercise experience with the 4G ArmBand may vary based on whether you’re comfortable with the weight of the iPod inside its clip. Most people won’t mind, but some will; the iPod mini (and iPod shuffle) are just better suited to anyone’s workout needs as size and weight are concerned. Additionally, iPod photos do fit in the clip with third-party cases, but are even heavier and not recommended by Speck for use with the ArmBand.
Our other issue was specific to the ArmBand’s packed-in case. We’re still not huge fans of the 4G SkinTight case (iLounge rating: B/B-), which is a one-size-fits-all design that doesn’t fit the 40GB iPod as well as the 20GB version. It offers no screen or control protection, and tends to expose a patch on the 40GB iPod’s back unless you really aggressively tug at the plastic. As a consequence, we wanted to (and did) use different silicone rubber cases in the ArmBand’s clip, and would not use the original case with 40GB iPods if we had a better option. A version of the ArmBand minus the case would be much appreciated, but since it doesn’t yet exist, we’d recommend that 40GB iPod owners consider using another case.
Overall, the 4G SkinTight ArmBand is a very good product that will be better overall for 20GB iPod owners than 40GB owners. We’d still recommend it to both groups of people, though we do wish that the included case didn’t have to drag down its overall rating. At a slightly higher price than the iPod mini version of the same product, we would prefer that all 4G owners rather than just 20GB ones could get a fully satisfactory case in the box.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.