Pros: An affordable, rugged silicone and hard plastic case that not only completely protects, but seals off the iPod nano from the environment; Hard, durable screen protection; Great-feeling silky-smooth silicone material.
Cons: Repeated removal & installation of the bottom cap is sure to eventually tear off the silicone lanyard mounts; Doesn’t support third-party headphone plugs, unless sized the same as Apple’s.
Previous silicone cases we’ve reviewed from Capdase have generally been high in quality, but fairly generic in their design. Their new “Soft Armor for iPod nano” represents one of Capdase’s first truly unique silicone case designs, and we can’t wait to see more of them: this one’s superb.
The Capdase Soft Armor is offered in four packages, each containing one silicone skin and two sets of screen “goggles” and bottom caps, one clear and one tinted. The color combinations available are:
- Frosted Gray Silicone / Clear and Yellow Caps
- Frosted Green Silicone / Clear and Yellow Caps
- Frosted White Silicone / Clear and Orange Caps
- Opaque Black Silicone / Clear and Orange Caps
Design and Protection
The Soft Armor’s silicone component is well-constructed, with all holes and control access areas lining up perfectly on the iPod’s body. It appears to be molded from the same silky-smooth grade of silicone that we loved in Capdase’s Soft Jacket for 5G iPod (iLounge rating: B+). On the bottom half of the iPod, The Soft Armor’s body is relatively thin and has thick ribs of silicone giving it a nice grippy feel. Toward the iPod’s top, the silicone grows in thickness, and has no such ribs.
The top of the silicone case is universally thick, except for a small, thinner area surrounding the iPod’s hold switch intended to make it useable with a fingernail. While using the hold switch wasn’t nearly as easy as it was on Capdase’s Soft Jacket for 5G iPods, we were still able to get it to work when we needed to.
The iPod’s Click Wheel is protected with a very thin layer of silicone molded into the case. As with prior Capdase cases we’ve reviewed, we had no issues with the iPod’s Click Wheel sensitivity being adversely impacted by the protection layer. However, unlike prior Capdase cases we’ve seen, the Soft Armor’s Click Wheel protection did tend to leave a bit of a “wet look” as it temporarily clung to the iPod’s surface, an entirely aesthetic issue that we’ll leave you to evaluate the importance of.
The focus of the case’s protection lies in its “screen goggle” and “bottom cap,” each of which slide onto the appropriate locations on the Soft Armor’s silicone body, and stay in place automatically with very tight fits. Once these caps are installed, they’re not coming off unless you deliberately do it yourself – a far more affirmative design than the largely passive screen protector/silicone interfaces more commonly found in the industry.
Simply remove the bottom cap, and the iPod’s dock connector port is available for use – no need to remove the skin completely to synchronize.
What’s even cooler about these caps is that they’re not attached by dirt-simple traction fits. Instead, Capdase has included raised ridges of silicone around the iPod’s screen and around its bottom tip. Each raised ridge of silicone effectively serves as a gasket, ensuring a complete seal. Use Apple’s packed-in headphones (others won’t fit), and you’ll get a very solid seal there, as well. Complete protection, taken to the extreme.
Despite these gaskets, however, we wouldn’t trust Capdase’s “Weatherproof” tagline to mean waterproof and take our iPod nano swimming with this case, but we’d certainly take it to the beach without a second thought: with Apple’s headphones installed, this case completely seals off the iPod nano from the outside, and is sure to keep out sand and water splashes.
When viewed at steep angles in certain light, the Soft Armor’s screen protectors show a “rainbow effect,” but this is completely absent when viewed from reasonable, normal-use angles.
In normal use, the Soft Armor’s clear screen protectors only very slightly darken the nano’s screen, but are otherwise distortion-free. The tinted screen protectors quite obvioulsy bias the nano’s color toward their respective hue, but are also distortion-free and easy enough to read through. Both the clear and tinted screen protectors are made from thick, tough plastic, and are difficult to scratch.
Each Soft Armor package comes with a reasonably high-quality multicolored lanyard, which attaches to the Soft Armor by means of two small-diameter cords which loop through silicone eyelets on each side of the nano’s bottom end. With two attachment points versus the one that many companies choose to use, the lanyard feels stable when attached. The two small black cords which attach to the eyelets mount to the lanyard itself with a miniature caribiner. The lanyard is equipped with five cylindrical pieces of black foam which, although a bit odd-looking, do actually make the lanyard a bit more comfortable to use.
There’s one fairly major point of concern for those planning to use the lanyard. The two silicone eyelets on the Soft Armor’s body are quite easy to tear when attaching or removing the bottom cap, as the only way to attach the cap is to shear right over them, and it’s a tight fit. Take a significant amount of care when attaching and removing the bottom cap, and you’ll likely be fine, but we accidentally tore one of our lanyard eyelets after only a dozen or so cap removals, rendering it completely useless. We now instead just mount that lanyard cord to the bottom cap itself; since it secures to the Soft Armor so securely anyway, we didn’t have any concerns in doing so.
Value and Conclusions
Available online for only $11.75 from Capdase’s only online distributor, Vinko’s Treasures, the Soft Armor for iPod nano is very inexpensive considering its smart design, complete protection, and great-feeling, dust-resistant silicone. Although the mandatory, sizeable international shipping charges of approximately $9.50 dampen our excitement a little bit, we’d still highly recommend this case to those users looking for a lot of protection and rugged looks without spending a lot of cash.
Our lanyard eyelet concerns having been completely allayed by our work-around, the only remaining real issue with this case is the fact that we can’t recommend it to users of non-Apple headphones, though the seal it affords everyone else was clearly a conscious design feature. This being the only issue keeping the Soft Armor from otherwise universal appeal, we’re awarding it our “A-” grade.
Company and Price
Model: Soft Armor
Distributed by Vinko’s Treasures
Price: $11.75 (+ $9.50 Shipping)
Compatible: iPod nano