Pros: Highly attractive neoprene iPod 5G cases, each featuring substantial protection, a sharp combination of plastic and neoprene, and a sturdy integrated belt clip. Reasonably priced.
Cons: Click Wheel cover is on small side and detracts a bit from iPod’s control sensitivity, iPod’s Dock Connector and Hold switch are exposed at all times, with the Dock Connector hole too small for oversized attachments.
These colored neoprene sleeves for the fifth-generation iPod feature integrated screen and Click Wheel protectors, the latter accented with a color-matched Action button dot. Black, blue, and pink versions are available, each scaling automatically in size to fit 30GB or 60GB iPods. A hole on the bottom provides easy access to the iPod’s charging port; a non-removable but low-profile belt clip is found on the back.
Incase Designs makes some of the best neoprene cases we’ve seen for iPods, each time adding a little something new to a familiar old formula. The Neoprene Sleeve for iPod 5G ($25) is a direct evolution of the company’s Neoprene Sleeve for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-), which differs from this design only in a few particulars. Both cases are now available in three colors (black with gray, two-tone pink and two-tone blue), they are identical other than color, and the 5G version fits 30GB and 60GB iPods equally well.
Not surprisingly, the Neoprene Sleeve scores pretty well on build quality: as with all Incase products, the stitching and detailing of the various components – here, a neoprene body with prominent plastic front and rear portions – is basically flawless, and the case’s surfaces are only modestly susceptible to tarnishment. On first sight, the case is very, very nice looking. However, an integrated soft plastic clear screen protector can show scratches, and there were a couple of small blemishes in our black case’s integrated soft frosted plastic Click Wheel protector that we found hard to remove. We’d call both of these issues small, collectively deducting one point.
The good news about the Neoprene Sleeves is that they combine pretty aggressive protectiveness with above-average ease of use: you do have access to all of the iPod’s five key features (screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector, Hold switch, headphone port), and though the headphone port is on the very small side (right only for Apple’s headphones, really), a flap at the top lets you fully expose that port if you want to use another pair of headphones, which is fine by us. The only bad news is that the Dock Connector port hole and Click Wheel cover, like the headphone port, are on the very small side and can’t be adjusted. You can use Apple’s and similarly small Dock Connector plugs, but not oversized ones, and the Click Wheel’s frosted plastic protector makes it a little harder than normal to use the iPod’s controls.
Like most of Incase’s lower-end cases, the Neoprene Sleeve doesn’t come with any frills: there’s a sturdy, non-detachable belt clip on the back, but nothing else – armbands and handstraps are generally sold in a separate Incase “Multifunction” version of its cases. Though we award a point for Incase’s still solid and unique mix of neoprene and plastic – one which others are now starting to copy more aggressively – the only truly new design twist here is an elevated plastic button in the middle of the Click Wheel protector. The button color-matches the rest of the case’s plastic, and does a nice job of unifying the front of the 5G case in a way that wasn’t as necessary on the nano version of Neoprene Sleeve, for a second design point.
As with most of Incase’s offerings, Neoprene Sleeve is above-average on protectiveness: since you slip the 30GB or 60GB iPod into a hole at the top, then seal it closed with a strip of Velcro, it covers literally the entire front, back, and sides of the 5G with either plastic or neoprene, which is great. Yet it also leaves full-time holes for the top headphone port and Hold switch, as well as the Dock Connector, for a base score of 6. Its soft neoprene and plastic body adds an extra point worth of thickness protection for a total of 7.
One thing we’ve generally liked about Incase’s offerings is their reasonable pricing, and Neoprene Sleeve is no exception – at $25, the case is a bit more aggressive than the average for 5G case prices, and we liked it enough to add a little reviewer’s tilt bonus as well. Overall, we think that this is a very good case on virtually all of the factors we consider important, and the vast majority of people who purchase it will be impressed by its looks and quality. The Click Wheel’s small issues are basically the only reason it missed our high recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: Neoprene Sleeve
Compatible: iPod 5G