At some point, the desire of a competent designer to do something different almost inevitably results in the production of something that’s not quite right. Such is the case with Capdase’s latest series of iPod nano, iPod classic, and iPhone cases, which vary somewhat in features but all tend to look and feel funky rather than fresh. The family begins with the silicone rubber Soft Jacket cases, continues to the hard plastic Crystal Cases, and finishes with the Alumor Metal Cases, which add a thin layer of metal onto either the Soft Jacket or the Crystal Case designs.
Like the Soft Jackets, Capdase’s Crystal and Alumor Cases are technically fine, but are undone by cheap look and feel issues. We received samples of the Crystal Case for the iPod nano ($10), iPod classic ($12), and iPhone ($15), and the Alumor Case for the nano ($18) and iPhone ($20); we review the cases together here because of their similarities.
The iPod nano versions of Crystal and Alumor are virtually identical. Both consist of two clear hard plastic shells that snap together to cover all of the nano except for its Click Wheel and bottom. Each comes with a detachable video stand, a belt-ready neoprene carrying case, and a rubber Click Wheel protector. Crystal’s shell is offered in a color-tinted version, and Alumor’s adds a thin layer of aluminum to the front and back, omitting the sides, screen, and Click Wheel. Both cases let you see the nano’s screen through clear hard plastic that appears to have been cheaply welded to the rest of the shell.
Though they’re not exactly the same case, the iPhone versions also have a lot in common. The Crystal Case is a two-piece shell with a pop-out integrated video stand and a nano-like neoprene belt holder; by contrast, the Alumor case is also a two-piece shell with a pop-out stand, but uses the same silicone rubber base case as Capdase’s Soft Jacket, once again coated in a thin layer of hard aluminum. Both cases use a hard plastic front shell with an integrated screen protector and a Home button-surrounding latch that must be released to gain access to iPhone’s touch-sensitive controls; in Alumor, this shell is covered by aluminum, and in Crystal, it’s not.
Of the two cases, Alumor feels more substantial. Crystal uses extremely thin, cheap-feeling plastic that is interesting only in that it can be colored differently from the all-clear screen protector, as the smoke black version in our photos shows. Both cases use side clips that work, but don’t look or feel great when holding the front and back shells together. Because of the rubber interior, Alumor also offers substantially more protection, covering the iPhone’s volume and Sleep/Wake buttons, and rubber-venting the aluminum rear in order to limit the case’s wireless interference. With Alumor on, we saw the iPhone’s cellular and Wi-Fi signals drop a bit, though; this wasn’t an issue with the all-plastic Crystal.
We only received the Crystal Case for iPod classic. It’s almost exactly like the iPod nano version, only larger, with the same cheaply welded screen issue, cheap neoprene belt mount, and a rubber Click Wheel protector. The Wheel cover works fine, but doesn’t feel great; the nano version feels smoother and more responsive. Capdase has welded the video stand into the iPod classic case’s rear shell, a decision that thickens the case slightly and achieves the same effect as the nano’s detachable version.
Just as we noted about the Soft Jackets, these cases get check marks for the basics, but aren’t thrilling to hold or use. Due to their roughly welded-in screen protectors and thin side clips, all of the Crystal Cases make little creaking noises when you’re holding or using them, and though they’re more than competently protective, their oddities tend to stand out more than their positives. The nano Crystal Case, for instance, works fine with accessories and large headphones, but has a sharp back edge that doesn’t feel good to the touch; the classic case feels like it’s always on the edge of coming apart, with port holes that are on the small side but work with most accessories, just including large headphones. The iPhone case feels flimsy and poorly made, and has that oddball screen cover that lets you see but not touch the display. Capdase’s Alumor cases offer basically the same experience, only thicker-feeling.
As with the Soft Jackets, we’d rate each of these cases as a “pass,” for slightly different reasons. Capdase really needs to go back to the drawing board and refocus its efforts on making a handful of quality cases, rather than a large quantity of forgettable ones.
Company and Price
Model: Crystal Case
Compatible: iPod nano, iPod classic, iPhone