Review: XtremeMac SportWrap for iPod shuffle
Pros: Four different colored versions of a neoprene and Velcro armband for the iPod shuffle; protects the shuffle well while allowing appropriate access to its controls.
Cons: Not as comfortable as some other shuffle armbands we’ve tested; bulkier on the bicep; headphone jack hole isn’t appropriate for use with many third-party headphones. Design may not appeal to users as much as top-rated options.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve assembled a collection of several new and different armbands for the iPod shuffle - competitors to Apple’s already-released official, pricey iPod shuffle Armband (iLounge rating: B+) and DLO’s Action Jacket for iPod shuffle (iLounge rating: A-). The shuffle’s small size has made it easy for armband makers to come up with inexpensive and legitimately different options from the bands we’ve seen for larger iPods and iPod minis, though the specific band that’s right for you will depend as much on personal taste as anything else.
Unlike the other armbands we review today, XtremeMac’s SportWrap for iPod shuffle ($29.95) is a retrofit of a design previously used for larger iPods. Made predominantly from neoprene with small bits of elastic, clear vinyl and Velcro, the SportWrap is the most engineered of the shuffle armbands, but not the best design overall.
Essentially, SportWrap wraps a small neoprene pouch around your bicep, holding closed with an adjustable neoprene and Velcro band. Your shuffle is inserted into a Velcro-backed, clear vinyl-fronted compartment that seals loosely closed with a large piece of neoprene backing. To access the shuffle’s rear controls, you open the neoprene back; to use its front controls, you press through the vinyl. Both of these ideas work fine.
Though it’s a bit more of a struggle to get your headphones connected to the shuffle inside, it’s possible and works quite well - so long as you’re using Apple’s included earbuds. Third party earphones with different shaped headphone plugs will likely have major problems with the design, which uses neoprene to tightly wrap around the headphone plug. This creates a snug, water-resistant fit for Apple’s phones, but precludes you from using others. There’s also a simple elastic loop next to the shuffle to sort of hold your bundled headphone cord; we preferred the rubber cord management system found in iMojo’s shuffle Sweats (iLounge rating: A-).
The other major advantage of SportWrap is also a disadvantage: unlike competitors, it uses plenty of neoprene - enough to permit buyers to choose from four different colors (blue, yellow, red, or black), each with black piping and Velcro. This design twist gives potential buyers a bit more versatility on looks, but bulks up the SportWrap to a level unlike most of its competitors. Consequently, you’re far more conscious of its presence on your arm than you are with any of the competing products, something we didn’t like much.
Using similar materials in a smarter way, DLO’s Action Jacket came closer to nailing the three key points of an iPod sport case: looks, protectiveness and arm comfort - and did so at a lower price. That doesn’t mean that SportWrap is a bad option, but it’s one we’d only recommend if you have a compelling need for its looks and plan to use it with Apple’s buds. It’s also worth noting that neither of these armbands is as inexpensive as iMojo’s shuffle Sweats, so if you’re willing to compromise a bit on shuffle protectiveness to get something cheaper and potentially more comfortable, consider that a good option as well.