Pros: The latest iteration of the unique and popular Showcase series, combining the best parts of clear hard plastic and rubber cases into a single design. Front and rear panels show off the iPod inside, while rubber edges protect it against accidental drops. Port holes are compatible with oversized headphones and Dock Connector cables. Includes detachable belt clip, separate versions for 30GB and 60GB iPods.
Cons: No Click Wheel protection, generous hole sizes expose a bit more of the iPod’s top and bottom than other top cases. Only one color combination (black and clear) available.
Contour Design is now best known for two types of cases: the simple plastic iSees, available for every type and size of iPod, and deluxe Showcases ($33), premium hard cases that have repeatedly won acclaim from iLounge’s editors and readers for their build quality and good looks. Showcases cover full-sized iPods with a unique combination of clear and colored plastic, allowing the majority of the iPod’s face and back to show through, but lining its sides with just enough rubber to absorb shocks from accidental drops.
A low-profile left-side hinge is invisible when the case is closed, and now two separate locking latches on the case’s right side keep it from accidentally popping open.
Worth a brief note is the fact that we waited to review the iPod 5G version of Showcase – called Showcase video 30 or Showcase video 60, depending on size – until Contour Design made some changes that we thought would significantly benefit users, namely fixes to the cases’ holes. As a result of this fine tuning, which is found in cases presently being shipped by the company, this is one of the best Showcases yet, even though it’s not perfect.
Because Contour decided to make separate 30GB and 60GB versions of the Showcase video, rather than using a spacer pad to adjust one large case for both iPods, Showcase’s fit is spot-on: all of its holes are centered as they should be, and the company’s classic tapering is still used to good effect on its front Click Wheel opening. Additionally, our case arrived in perfect condition, and doesn’t cause any damage to the iPod inside. It only loses a single point in this category because of resilience; while it stands up well to most abuse, its clear plastic surfaces will show scratches – even a fingernail can slightly mar the gloss.
All of the iPod’s key access points are fully accessible in the new Showcase: last-minute tweaking has made the iPod’s headphone port totally accessible for even oversized headphones, the Hold switch and Dock Connector port both have generously-sized holes that won’t limit their use in any way, and the Click Wheel is precisely exposed with a gently beveled front center hole. The iPod’s screen is easy to see behind clear transparent plastic, as well.
Only by comparison with older Showcases can the newest iteration be said to lack for innovations. Way back in the third-generation iPod days, Contour released many different colored Showcases – only the rubber parts were different – but by the fourth-generation iPod, the colors dropped to two (black or white), and now they’ve dropped to one (black).
The black one looks great, but we wish there were more options. That said, this Showcase earns three points for its original design, which more deftly blends rubber and hard plastic together than any other case we’ve seen, plus its excellent locking and hinge systems, which provide thinner-profile protection than hinged metal cases while offering equivalent protection. Showcase hasn’t been copied yet, yet the company continues to improve the iPod’s visibility and fit inside each iteration.
Showcase gets one additional Special Features point for its detachable, two-position belt clip, which is black and sturdy, and uses a spring to attach and detach from the case. As we’re not big belt clip users, we very much appreciate the ease with which the clip comes off the case and leaves nearly the iPod’s entire back visible, but some of those who want to use the clip may prefer to see the video screen aligned vertically, which isn’t possible. You can only choose two horizontal orientations – screen pointing left, or right.
Showcase video is a bit better than average on protection. On the bright side, it not only covers the vast majority of the 5G iPod, but does it well, with the shock-absorbant rubber sides and hard plastic everywhere else – it’s about as strong as iPod cases come.