Pros: A two-case iPod travel set with padded inserts to fit any iPod or iPod mini, nice mesh pockets and quality zippers. Modular and reasonably priced.
Cons: Not the best visual fit with iPods (save the U2 iPod); the iPod-specific case is a bit larger (but not necessarily so) than our current favorite design.
Travel cases for the iPod are plentiful in the abstract, but designs custom-tailored to the iPod’s unique shape and requirements are few and far between. Now Handstands, a vendor of everything from air fresheners to automotive “gel pad” armrests, has entered the iPod market with an interesting alternative called the iPak Set ($39.99).
We’ve previously liked a somewhat similar case from STM called the Cocoon (iLounge rating: A), and have concurrently tested a product called the Travel Bag for iPod from Japanese designer Be-Ez (iLounge rating: B) – the iPak Set is a compromise between these options. It’s also worth noting that Monster sells the iCase Travel Pack (iLounge rating: B), which has even more room at a considerably higher price tag.
For Handstands’ asking price, you get two cases that respectively hold the iPod and its accessories, rather than the “iPod-and-headphones only” Cocoon case or the larger “toss everything in” Be-Ez and Monster options. Similar to the Cocoon, each case in the iPak Set uses a polymer exterior shell that feels and looks like a mixture of leather and rubber, plus a dual-zipper, flip-open design. Their insides include removable medium-strength foam rubber inserts on one half, mesh pockets on the other half.
Though one case is marked iPak and the other iPak Accessories, they’re virtually the same size and only different from each other in four ways – the positions of their zippers, the number of interior pockets, their inserts, and backs. Each case is larger by a bit than the Cocoon, but uses the extra space for foam cushioning.
The case marked iPak comes with an insert that holds any full-sized iPod, as well as a second insert shaped to accommodate the smaller body of the iPod mini. Any iPod placed in these inserts holds firmly inside, and tunnels are left for headphone cords to snake out from the inserts’ tops. Both zippers slide down to the iPak’s bottom, allowing you to leave a tiny headphone cable-sized hole at the case’s top when closed, and one large mesh pocket is large enough to store a remote control and virtually any pair of in-canal earphones you might own. The iPak’s back features a plastic eyelet and Velcro-enhanced belt loop so that you can attach the case to a lanyard or belt with relative ease.
Instead of opening into top and bottom halves like the iPak, Handstands’ iPak Accessories case opens from left to right, reducing the case’s usefulness with headphones. Two interior, overlapping mesh pockets are on the left side, while a removable insert on the right includes cutouts suitable for the iPod’s power cube and a top-mounting accessory such as Griffin’s iTrip or iTalk. The intent is that the pockets be used for cable storage, and the case be carried only when you need it – a smart idea. There’s no belt clip or eyelet on the Accessories case’s back.
Not surprisingly, everything fits as it’s supposed to. iPods from 1G to photo and iPod minis alike squeeze perfectly well into the form-fitting inserts, and both Griffin accessories and the iPod’s power cube fit into their designated iPak Accessories case slots. If you prefer to pull out the Accessories’ insert and either use the case without it, or toss in the iPod mini insert, you can do so without serious problems, though the case isn’t as well suited to either purpose.
There’s no denying that Handstands has a winner of an option as far as value is concerned. Its $39.99 option offers more storage space than the similarly priced Cocoon, but in a modular fashion that gives users the choice of how much to protect and carry. And while its black exterior and interior design isn’t particularly iPod-specific, it’s only modestly less so than the silverish Cocoon, and equal to the black nylon Be-Ez and Monster cases.
Some of the Cocoon’s finer touches lead us to personally prefer that case overall for our purposes – its slightly smaller size is one factor, and its inclusion of a soft plastic iPod case, a free lanyard necklace, and a legitimate belt clip are all other bonuses. There’s also a hole for the Dock Connector port in the bottom of the Cocoon, but not in the iPak. Not everyone will prefer the Cocoon, however, as the iPak’s extra foam padding, use of a belt loop and lack of both the Dock Connector hole and STM’s soft plastic iPod case will arguably make the iPak easier to use for some people, and potentially more protective against extreme crushing and drop damage conditions. Overall, regardless of whether you prefer it or the Cocoon, we think the iPak’s a highly recommendable travel case and an excellent value for the dollar.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.
Company and Price
Model: iPak Set
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo