[Read review for individual product ratings and Pros and Cons.]
After our recent reviews of iSkin’s eVo case for third-generation iPods and Lajo’s exomini cases for iPod minis, our opinions of Lajo’s new eXo3 and eXoflp cases should come as no surprise to iLounge devotees. As we’ve hinted, while our feelings for these third-generation-iPod-only cases are not as strongly positive as they were for Lajo’s mini versions of the same designs, we think that many readers will be drawn to at least one of these options, perhaps even both.
Speck Products did it first, but Lajo’s done it best – mostly. The eXoflp shamelessly takes Speck’s flip-open case bottom concept and improves upon it with superior-feeling silicone rubber (instead of harder Kraton plastic), full rubberized protection for the third-generation iPod’s controls, and the option of screen protection via Lajo’s continually impressive iShades (not included).
Our review of Lajo’s earlier eXo 2 case describes most of the eXoflp’s specifics and excellent protectiveness – in quick summary, it’s a scratch and drop-resilient housing that simultaneously feels good in your hand and makes your iPod look good. You can mount it on a belt via inexpensive optional accessories, including clips and even a springing bungee cord, though we generally don’t get as excited about the add-ons as the cases.
The eXoflp’s only difference from the eXo 2 is the new flip-open case bottom. Designed by Speck as a means to enable the iPod to dock without being removed from its case, Lajo’s implementation allows identical bottom-access functionality and almost ideally complements Dock Connector peripherals with larger profiles (such as Monster’s cables). The only difference between Lajo and Speck’s flip cases is a consequence of Lajo’s rubber Scroll Wheel protection: open the bottom and the Wheel guard flexes, making simultaneous port access and menu control more difficult – but not impossible. We think it’s a tiny price to pay for the added protection.
As only the headphone port and hold switch are left exposed, the eXoflp offers an unparalleled level of silicone protectiveness for the iPod – a level of security that makes it possible to guiltlessly toss an iPod into a backpack, pocket, or suitcase, and almost earns an “excited” recommendation on that basis alone. Lajo’s variety of transparent, pearlescent, glow in the dark or solid color options (14 total at current count) already includes something for almost everyone, only adding to the product’s appeal.
Our only gripes with the eXoflp are minor: like Speck’s skin, it’s a bit of a struggle to slip on or off, and like the earlier eXo 2, the touch-sensitive controls sometimes demand an extra button press because of their silicone covering. These aren’t major issues, and consequently, the eXoflp is currently our top rubber case for the iPod, possessing the fewest negatives and the most versatility of any case yet released. We’re holding out for an eXoflp with a thinner top covering to allow the use of top-mounting accessories, but after that, it’ll be hard to imagine what else could be done better.
The Good: Quality rubber, great iPod control protection, great colors, our favorite Dock access design.
The Bad: No access for top-mounting peripherals, a bit hard to slip the iPod in and out.
The eXo3 is a somewhat different story. We’ve been waiting for a long time to review the eXo3 because it only recently became available in sizes to fit all third-generation iPods, and some of our initial excitement over the design has worn off in the interim.
It initially sounded promising: touted as the thinnest silicone rubber case for the iPod at under a millimeter (approximately .7mm) in thickness, the eXo3 covers the entire iPod save its screen, two ports and hold switch with a scratch-resistant coating. Lacking Lajo’s standard belt clip mount, this thin case includes only a small loop of rubber to attach a wriststrap or bungee clip, and the overall concept is therefore almost as simple as it comes.
The positive parts of the eXo3 are its extremely low profile and significantly reduced price ($9.50 per case). Buyers can pick up two eXo3s for the cost of virtually any other rubber case, making them almost disposable – it’s tempting to consider picking a few of the nine available colors and inexpensively changing back and forth from them depending on your mood. And as a significant side benefit, the eXo3 is currently the only Lajo case compatible with top-mounting iPod accessories, which attach and work properly with no additional user effort. We generally prefer iSkin’s eVo for this purpose, but acknowledge that Lajo was the first to pull off the engineering feat necessary to make it happen.
Unfortunately, the eXo3 cases are limited in performance and appeal. Unlike the exo3mini, which managed to look pretty sharp despite its similarly thin profile, the eXo3 we tested gave off the impression of a slightly used plastic baggy, not fitting quite as tight as we’d hoped around the iPod’s bottom near the Dock Connector port. The protected iPod controls work about as well as they do in the eXo 2 and eXoflp cases, though this case feels a bit looser around the scroll wheel. And while the rubber provides a satisfactory enough buffer against scratches, it doesn’t inspire confidence in its ability to resist tears or abuse.
A more significant concern is that Lajo has not yet released a eXo3-friendly screen protector, and the company’s otherwise excellent iShades simply do not work with the case. And as a final knock, there’s no question that the iPod’s protection against drop-related damage is very minimal in the eXo3, though buyers of the case will no doubt realize that up front.
Even if the amazingly thin profile of the eXo3 seems attractive, we think that this particular Lajo innovation needed a little bit of extra time in the mold-making shop. It narrowly works well and uniquely enough to earn an above-average rating, but because of some fit and finish issues, we’re not as excited about this case as we thought we’d be when we first heard about it. Since the only function of the eXo3 is to protect against scratches, we underscore the point that screen protection is seriously needed before we’d recommend the case more strongly to our readers.
The Good: Thinnest rubber case currently available, great price, permits use of top-mounting accessories, provides full access to iPod’s controls.
The Bad: Limited protective ability, no screen protector currently available – but our rating assumes one will be soon.
Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.
Company and Price
Price: $21.50, $9.50, respectively
Compatible: iPod 3G