Pros: Solidly-constructed two-piece hard case with integrated stand for viewing an iPod’s video content easily without holding it; includes shells sized for both thin and thick iPod models; four colors available.
Cons: Stand plate initially difficult to open with iPod inside; iPod’s entire bottom surface and Click Wheel left entirely unprotected.
This new evolution of Griffin’s past iClear plastic cases adds one major new feature – one of four colored pieces of metal that will flip out and enable the Centerstage to hold the iPod at an optimal viewing angle for watching video on a flat surface such as an aircraft seat-back tray table. Available with silver, black, blue, or pink metallic plates, each case comes with two rear shells that ensure compatibility with both the thin 30GB and thicker 60GB and 80GB fifth-generation iPod sizes.
Griffin Technology’s Centerstage is a relatively simple two-piece hard case. The front face’s main structure is comprised of hard, scratch-resistant clear plastic, and the rear face is made of a softer, more opaque plastic material. The two snap together strongly, and won’t come apart unless you want them to.
The bottom of the front shell is a strong hinge mating with a machined aluminum plate. This plate serves as either a simple color accent surrounding the Click Wheel, or an iPod stand for watching video, depending on its position.
As with any other clear plastic hard case, expect the Centerstage to accumulate some scratches over time.
The Centerstage allows direct access to each of the iPod’s key areas; the Click Wheel, Dock Connector, screen, Hold switch, and headphone jack are all made accessible full-time. The Hold switch hole is generously sized for those with larger fingers, and the case accepts most oversized headphone plugs as well.
While many will view the case’s completely open bottom surface as an unfortunate lack of protection, others may value it as a handy way to connect certain accessories without removing the case.
One rather major detriment to the case’s ease of use, however, is that its metal plate is notably difficult to open when the iPod is inside.
Since the plate closes flush with the case’s clear plastic face, the only real way to open it is with a strong fingernail. We’re sure that the door will become easier to open with time, but it was somewhat of an annoyance during our initial testing.
Without any lanyards, belt clips, or other included accessories, the Centerstage’s major unique quality is its integrated stand, which – although not a new idea by any means – is actually quite useful with the iPod’s increased focus on video content.
The Centerstage provides fairly average protection for the iPod’s surfaces. Save for the reasonable openings for the iPod’s switches and ports, the only overtly unprotected area is the iPod’s bottom surface, but this is at least partially protected from impact by the protruding hinge.
Contrary to Speck’s similar FlipStand produced for much older second and third generation models, (iLounge rating: B), the Centerstage’s stand feature does not double as Click Wheel protection. Clearly, this is a simple tradeoff between usability and protection, in that a case can either include hard protection or allow full-time access to the iPod’s controls.