Review: Timbuk2 iPod Case
Pros: A simple but protective iPod enclosure that uses a mix of resilient ballistic nylon, plush polyester, and elastic to fit all sizes of iPod, available in many colors.
Cons: No access to iPod’s screen, controls, or Dock Connector port when inside; exposure of iPod’s corners is a scratch damage risk.
Though released some time ago, we wanted to cover a quality one-size-fits-all iPod case developed by Timbuk2, an established bag maker that has built a considerable following for its smart, high-quality messenger bags, laptop cases and backpacks, each featuring resilient ballistic nylon fabric and contemporary styling. Its iPod-specific offering, the iPod Case ($20), is a sleeve that both matches the company’s other products and does a solid job of protecting any current model iPod.
Timbuk2’s iPod Case is a simple design: a single piece of padded ballistic nylon wraps around the iPod vertically, stitched to form the case’s top flap, back, and front cover. Velcro on the inside top flap and outside front cover holds the iPod Case closed, while a plush polyester interior lining is the only material to touch the iPod’s top, bottom, front and back. Both sides of the case use heavy but soft elastic that stretches to fit whatever iPod you stick inside. Timbuk2’s logo appears in yellow on the bottom left corner of the case’s front.
Three small details expand the iPod Case’s design past pure simplicity. The outside front cover includes a second piece of ballistic nylon at the top of a thin plush polyester pocket, suitable for packing your earphones but not much else. Then the outside back of the case includes two large ballistic nylon flaps which connect together with nylon, serving as a horizontal-oriented belt holder or vertical-oriented means to attach the iPod Case to a bag’s shoulder strap. A strong piece of stitched fabric is also attached as an alternative belt or bag loop.
Like most sleeve-style cases, Timbuk2’s iPod Case doesn’t let you access the iPod’s controls or screen unless you physically pull the iPod out, and it’s more limiting than some others in that it fully covers the iPod’s Dock Connector port rather than leaving an access hole at its bottom. The top of the iPod Case leaves only a thin slit for the iPod’s headphones to pop out if they’re attached; otherwise the slit is barely visible to the eye and the top of the case keeps the iPod entirely covered.
When used with a full-sized iPod, the case fits comfortably – not too snug, but not too loose, either. An iPod mini fits easily inside and won’t fall out unless you turn the case upside down, open the Velcro top flap, and then jostle the case around a bit. The only portion of either type of iPod that’s fully exposed to the elements: its top and bottom corners. Timbuk2 left holes in the tops and bottoms of the case, but thankfully recessed them a few millimeters behind the case’s padded edges, so your only prospect of damage is scratch-related.
In truth, we’ve been wrestling recently with whether and when this sort of case design works – and by this sort, we mean “no iPod access unless you remove the iPod.�? Though we prefer custom-molded iPod cases – those with screen and control access – we do think sleeve-like case designs can work, especially when they’re implemented this way. Timbuk2’s case is almost entirely conceptually consistent: unlike the Pacific Design iPod mini cases we recently reviewed, for example, Timbuk2 doesn’t leave a too-small hole for the iPod’s Dock Connector – it’s just covered. And it doesn’t leave a too-small or too-big hole for the iPod’s headphone jack – it’s covered by that slit, which opens as much or as little as your accessories require. The only openings are on the sides, and they’re fairly well padded. As a consequence, any iPod feels substantially protected when inside.
Thanks in equal parts to its use of ballistic nylon – which is available in eleven colors (navy blue, black, gray, red, purple, brown, silver, orange, dark green, pink, and burgundy) – and its almost fully iPod-enclosing design, the Timbuk2 iPod Case is a very good iPod case on protection, and its various belt and bag attachments make it a good sidekick to carry along. That said, we’re on the fine edge of our “recommended�? and “highly recommended�? ratings, as we are highly inclined to recommend it to those who don’t mind the lack of iPod screen, control, and Dock Connector access, but not to others. That’s pretty much the definition of our B+ rating – a strong recommendation to a limited group of people – but we really emphasize those who are willing to accept the iPod Case’s limitations will love its construction and utility on an A level. It’s priced right at $20, and if you pick the right color, you’ll look good carrying it. Only if you want full-time iPod control and screen access would we suggest you look elsewhere.
We also note that Timbuk2 offers a Digital DJ Hip Pack ($50.00) that is considerably larger, fits around your waist like a fanny pack, and has the ability to hold full-sized cup headphones, an iPod, and other accessories. Name aside, the Pack isn’t as hip as a shoulder-mounted version would have been, as the belt is a ton goofier than any of Timbuk2’s other designs. The company also sells a Padded Accessory Pouch ($20.00) that can hold whatever iPod or other accessories you may want to tote around. Since neither of these products is iPod-specific, we mention them without assigning them grades, but note that they may fit your needs if you like to carry more than just iPod and earbuds.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.