Staggering is the only word we’d use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we’re reviewing today — over 20 different models that we’ve been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review looks at Griffin’s iClear cases for iPod nano 4G ($20) and iPod touch 2G ($20), as well as the highly similar Reflect case for iPod touch 2G ($25).
Sold in separate versions for the iPod nano and iPod touch, each iClear consists of a transparent front half and a frosted clear back half that snap together to form a hard shell case. The iPod touch version includes a screen protector and cleaning cloth, while the iPod nano version has integrated screen protection and includes nothing but its own shell. Thankfully, both cases properly fit the dimensions of their respective iPods. We really like Griffin’s clear and frosted texture combination, though it has become more common this year in competing products.
iClear’s historic advantage over competitors—pricing—remains intact here, but there’s a compromise: the cases look very nice, but they’re not the most protective we’ve seen, both leaving ports and controls completely exposed save for the iPod touch’s covered screen. The holes in their shells are, however, tailored nicely to expose only small swatches of each iPod feature. Both work in Universal Dock accessories; the touch version works with all sizes of headphone and Dock Connector plugs, while the nano one is compatible only with smaller plugs due to a recessed bottom.
Reflect for iPod touch 2G is literally nothing more than iClear made from different materials. Here, the front bezel is made from mirror-finished plastic, while the back uses a soft touch black rubber on a hard black plastic shell. Griffin includes the same screen protector and cleaning cloth as are found in iClear. But the change in body materials makes a major cosmetic difference here: thanks to the new iPod touch’s chrome front bezel, Reflect now accentuates the touch’s existing front look rather than changing it, while protecting the back of the device with a nicer-looking dark cover.
It’s noteworthy that Reflect for iPod touch 2G is based upon earlier Griffin cases that used substantially mirrored front surfaces, yet this version now has less reflective surface than any of Griffin’s prior models. Griffin’s redesigned front bezel now leaves most of the touch’s black screen framing exposed, a change from last year’s touch version, and an even bigger change from the stunningly reflective iPod classic and nano versions previously released. If you like this case’s design, as we do, you’ll need to accept the fact that it actually reduces your touch’s reflection—blanking its polished rear—rather than enhancing it.
Overall, the iClear and Reflect cases are strong case options for iPod users, particularly cash-conscious ones. Due to its modest use of novel reflective material, Reflect in our view is not as worthy of the $5 premium over iClear as it was in Griffin’s best past classic and nano versions, while the iPod nano version of iClear is a little under the same-priced touch case in accessory compatibility and overall protection. iClear for iPod touch is the best value in this collection, but the others are good-looking and attractively priced, too.
For iPod touch 2G
For iPod nano 4G
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Compatible: iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G