Pros: A hard-shell case with substantial protection and a unique integrated stand to allow hands-free viewing of video content; included screen and Click Wheel film; low cost.
Cons: Questionable material quality and low resistance to wear on stand hinge; Hold switch access difficult to use; headphone port doesn’t fit many third-party plugs; one-size fits all size penalizes users of thin iPods with unnecessary thickness.
This new hard plastic shell for fifth-generation iPods is available from DLO in clear, blue, and pink versions, each enabling users to substantially protect their 30GB, 60GB or 80GB models while closed, and prop up their screens while in an open position. While we have a few quality and design concerns, discussed below, the case is appropriately priced for what you can expect.
The VideoShell initially appears to be a fairly standard translucent plastic hard case. Upon further inspection, one finds that the iPod is inserted by opening a the hinged upper-rear quarter of the case, and sliding the iPod in from the top. This hinged door also has the capability to wrap around and lock (sort of – more on this in a moment) into a position rotated 90 degrees backward, allowing the iPod to rest on it at a pleasant angle for viewing videos. The iPod fits well inside, with all of the case’s holes lining up properly with the iPod’s parts.
However, we have concerns about the quality of the material, and the reliability of the case’s hinge. The plastic used for the VideoShell seems brittle and easy to crack or shatter. It’s difficult to describe the difference, but holding a VideoShell in one hand and – for example – an SBS Innovations iShok 5G Video (iLounge rating: B+) in another, it’s easy to tell that there’s a materials quality difference in the clear plastics, and the VideoShell feels less robust than the iShok and several other hard cases we’ve reviewed.
The mechanism in the case that keeps the video stand open and locked is little more than two small protrusions of this plastic into tiny rails in the door itself. Even in our limited testing period, these nubs have worn down a little though repeated openings & closings of the stand. We worry that eventually, they’ll lose their ability to hold the iPod up on the stand securely.
All of the iPod’s major areas – screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector, Hold switch, and headphone port – are accessible while the iPod is inside the VideoShell.
The border around the Click Wheel is beveled and smooth, providing a nice surface for your finger to brush up against as you control the iPod.
There are two minor but notable concerns we have with the VideoShell’s usability. First, the access port for the iPod’s Hold switch is too small to be conveniently useful – the thick plastic combined with the small opening make it difficult to reach the switch. Second, the headphone port access hole is too small to be accept many of our third-party headphone plugs.
As with Griffin’s Centerstage video stand case, we award 2 points here for the unique stand feature itself. If you view video content on your iPod at a table or in an airline seat with a tray table, this feature can be quite useful.
The DLO Video Shell supplies above-average coverage of the iPod’s main surfaces. When the stand support is closed and included film protection applied, only the hold switch, headphone port, and dock connector port are left exposed through small openings.
We would have preferred to see DLO simply include a hard plastic screen protector molded into the cases’ design, but it’s obvious they chose not to since the blue and pink colored models would have had tinted the very video output that the case clearly focuses on. While this wouldn’t have been an issue for the clear model, we understand the need to consolidate molds to keep costs low, and acknowledge that DLO’s included film protector is an acceptable compromise for many – especially those who won’t be carrying the VideoShell in a crowded purse or bag, where screen-object contact is a big concern.
Although it’s mostly apparent from the cases’ design, we feel it’s also important to mention one notable design difference between the VideoShell and Griffin’s Centerstage (iLounge rating: B): when you’re watching a video using the Centerstage’s stand, the case’s level of protection isn’t altered in any way. In the VideoShell, the iPod is more vulnerable in this mode; its upper back side is significantly exposed, and the iPod is no longer affirmatively secured in the case. As long as you don’t plan on knocking the iPod off the table you’re watching it on, however, this should be a non-issue.
For $20, a price significantly below what we’d consider the ‘average’ full-sized iPod case, we find it harder to complain about the potential quality issues than we would if DLO priced the VideoShell higher. At this price, the VideoShell serves as a valid – though not the best – low cost alternative to some of our recommended hard iPod cases. If you’re looking for a hard case at a low price and think you might use the video stand feature, the DLO VideoShell may suffice, but if you don’t need the stand, or are willing to pay a bit more for better quality, you can do better looking elsewhere.
Company and Price
Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Compatible: iPod 5G