Company: Sumo Cases
Compatible: iPod 5G (with video)
Sumo Cases Horizontal PlayThru Stripe 5G
Pros: Substantially leather cases that mount horizontally on your belt with included, non-detachable belt clips, providing protection for the majority of a 30 or 60GB fifth-generation iPod, plus unique looks. Soft leather designs are unique feeling and looking, while similarly soft velvet interiors won’t scratch your iPod.
Cons: Neither pricing nor tailoring are as impressive as in past, somewhat more practical Sumo designs; horizontal mounting orientation isn’t well-suited to frequent menu use or video playback.
It’s been months since the first time we looked at samples of these stylish leather 5G iPod flip-closed cases, which open up like books to reveal your iPod inside, yet mount on a belt with non-detachable rear belt clips. They have gone through modest design revisions since we first saw them, with superior interior stability when used with either 30GB or 60GB iPod models. Two Stripe versions are currently available, one with a single white stripe on a black exterior case, and the other with black and gray stripes on a white exterior case.
We’ve generally been impressed by the fit, finish and resilience of Sumo’s products, but these PlayThrus are a bit of an exception to the norm. On the bright side, they hold both 30GB and 60GB iPods well, providing generally well-reinforced leather interior panels with holes for their screens and Click Wheels, and proving less scratchable than you’d ever expect from their soft, nice-feeling leather. We also liked the soft, non-scratch black velvet interiors and solid stitching. Unfortunately, we had to detract a bit for cosmetic issues. Alignment is a little off on the top of each case’s screen hole, and we weren’t blown away by the unstitched holes around the iPod’s top and bottom ports. One of our cases also had a slight tailoring fragment on the edge of its Click Wheel hole which detracted more from looks than usability.
Sumo went generous - in our view, a bit too generous - on its top and bottom port holes, making it very easy for users to access the iPod’s Hold switch, headphone port, and Dock Connector. You’ll need to open the Velcro-tabbed front flap to access the iPod’s screen and Click Wheel, making PlayThru a less attractive option for frequent video watchers than everyone else.
Though Sumo doesn’t include any pack-ins with these particular cases, and even the belt clip is non-detachable, the company’s sense of style continues to impress us. Even using when similar materials (leather and fabric) to competitors, these cases use padding, stitching, texture and colors to push the design envelope visually, which we continue to appreciate. Our only point of confusion with the case’s design is its side-mounting of your iPod on your belt, an orientation which the belt clip doesn’t twist to adjust, and makes less sense given the angles of both iPod menus and video playback.
Horizontal PlayThru does a pretty good job on protection, though we’ve seen Sumo designs that have done better. Because of the front flap, virtually the entire iPod body is well-covered in reinforced and padded leather until you want access to the screen or controls, at which point you’ll open and close the case again. The only exceptions are the iPod’s top and bottom, which are only partially covered. We really preferred Sumo’s old top slit design, which achieved a superior compromise of protectiveness and ease of use.
Past Sumo cases have received a ratings bump for combining novel designs with aggressive pricing; Horizontal PlayThru Stripe strikes us as comparatively average in this regard. Because of the leather and interesting aesthetic twists, some people won’t object to paying a small premium for this design, but we would have been more enthusiastic about the price had its top, bottom, and interior holes been a bit better cut, say nothing of the question mark a front flap represents for users of iPod video playback features. It’s also worth a brief note that a slightly cheaper ($35), non-Stripe version of this case is also available (not reviewed or shown above), using a mix of ballistic nylon and leather.
Overall, Horizontal PlayThru isn’t as big of a draw for us as its numerous superior Sumo predecessor designs, which we’ve praised as much on looks (now unrated) as protectiveness and pricing. From where we stand, a vertical (or at least rotating clip) design would work much better for both the 5G iPod’s menus and video playback, and the higher price tags and less impressive tailoring of these cases make them less compelling than before. Eye-catching fashion accessories, yes, but ideal iPod cases, no.
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.