Price: $30 (5G), $25 (nano)
Compatible: 5G, nano iPods
XtremeMac Iconz Sport for 5G and nano iPods
Pros: A series of pliable plastic slide-in cases for 5G and nano iPods, offering a variety of officially-licensed images of MLB and NBA sports teams’ logos, professionally printed on their faces. The cases provide adequate screen and Click Wheel protection, maintaining the usability of each. The 5G Iconz version is compatible with Apple’s Universal Dock, and the nano version is compatible with Apple’s Lanyard Headphones.
Cons: No protection of the iPods’ bottom surfaces is provided, and no belt clip, lanyard, or other accessories are included in the purchase.
When we first learned that XtremeMac had acquired official licenses to produce a line of cases featuring Bart Simpson, SpongeBob SquarePants, Darth Vader, Batman, Scooby Doo, Tweety Bird, and Speed Racer, we were genuinely excited at the opportunity to see a unique, smart idea incorporating elements of existing pop culture into the iPod phenomenon. When the first of these cases arrived, we were pleased, and said so in our review of Iconz for iPod nano (iLounge rating: B+). Recently, XtremeMac has announced new versions of the Iconz series, bringing much of the existing lineup to the 5G iPod, and adding several Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association teams to their list of licensed products in a new “Iconz Sport” series. The graphics on the new Iconz cases are different from the nano versions, giving collectors a reason to buy more than one case.
The focus of interest on Iconz’ Build Quality should certainly be on the aesthetic quality of its central feature: the images themselves. Indeed, as we noted in our prior review of the Iconz for iPod nano (iLounge rating: B+), the images look superb, with bold color, sharp lines, and an overall professional-grade feel. The material that the case is based upon, a pliable yet tough plastic, is mostly well-formed with smooth edges. For a slight tendency to scratch, largely unfinished bottom edges, and occasional mold lines inside the plastic visible from the exterior, the case loses a couple of points.
Each Iconz allows easy operational access to all of the iPod’s five key access areas: the screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector, Hold switch, and headphone port. Although the case’s back surface is partially opaque - cloudy like a milk gallon - the screen protection is perfectly clear, creating negligible distortion when viewing the iPod’s display. The Click Wheel covering is thin enough to allow adequate - though sometimes not perfectly smooth - scrolling operation. We typically prefer the feel of matte, rough surfaces for Click Wheel coverings, but the Iconz’s glossy, smooth finish still works well enough. On either iPod, the Dock Connector ports are highly exposed and accessible full-time to accomodate plugs of any size, but it should be noted that the headphone port holes on 5G versions of the Iconz cases do not work well with the largest of headphone plugs, such as Shure’s E2c.
One neat - though likely accidental - feature of the 5G Iconz cases is that they fit Apple’s Universal Dock when its adaptors are removed. Similarly, the nano version can be used with Apple’s Lanyard Headphones without a problem.
Without any extras like a belt clip or lanyard in the box, there’s no mistaking that the Iconz’ only ‘special’ feature is the licensing XtremeMac has acquired - clearly a central selling point of the case, and one we don’t downplay. It’s a neat selling point, with a respectable variety of available choices. Iconz Sport NBA for 5G iPod offers three teams, and the iPod nano version offers six. The MLB 5G cases come in four teams, and the nano version comes in five. We’d clearly like to see even more in each size, but many popular choices are already available.
Both the nano and 5G versions of the Iconz Sport cases are identical in their protection: the iPod’s screen, Click Wheel, front, and sides are protected completely, as are most of the iPod’s top and back surfaces. Two unfortunate compromises imposed by XtremeMac’s simple slide-in design is that the Dock Connector and entire bottom surface of the iPod is left unprotected, as is a small portion of the iPod’s back - near the hold switch - intended to allow the user to push the iPod out of the case.
At $25 and $30 for the nano and 5G iPod versions, the Iconz Sport cases are right in the value zone for ‘standard’-level cases, a step above rubber but below full hard plastic protectors. Not only are they priced fairly as a simple case design, the Iconz’ unique “officially licensed” images are clearly a standout selling point in the midst of a “me-too” market, giving them an additional kick of legitimacy.
Based upon a unique, simple, generally well-executed design, XtremeMac’s Iconz Sport cases are solidly recommendable to those wanting professional-quality images of their favorite MLB and NBA teams, provided they’re comfortable with only better-than-average iPod protection. However, those users who have no definite zeal for any of the teams XtremeMac offers, who prefer to mount their iPods on their belt, or who demand more complete protection of the iPod should probably look elsewhere.
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.