Review: Marware Sport Grip for iPod nano

Pros: Solidly protective silicone rubber case with ten different color options, included protective screen and Click Wheel film. Very smart, low pricing for a major manufacturer’s product.

Cons: Design isn’t a visual standout on anything except color, Click Wheel cover isn’t perfectly contoured to nano, and shows air bubbles, bottom and top holes are less than perfect for some users’ tastes.

Review: Marware Sport Grip for iPod nano

Updated: Originally published November 17, 2005, this review has been updated on October 4, 2006 with photographs and details on Marware’s updated Sport Grip for the second-generation iPod nano. The new details are found at the bottom of the original review.

Sport Grip for iPod nano (First-Generation) – November 17, 2005

In the last week, Marware has released a huge collection of new iPod nano cases that range in material from silicone rubber to neoprene and leather. Part three of our look at these new cases focuses on a new silicone rubber case design – the company’s surprisingly good entry into an increasingly crowded and boring category.

There are now several categories of silicone rubber iPod cases: low-grade commodity cases with generic looks and features, superior-quality cases with generic looks but better workmanship, and deluxe cases with distinctive looks and quality. Marware’s Sport Grip ($10) is on the edge of the first and second categories. The company has done almost all of the right things, textbook-wise, designing a rubber iPod cover with tapered and extruded-edge front holes, then offering ten colors (black, white, gray, blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, green) to choose from.

It has then taken the very smart secondary step of including clear film covers for the nano’s screen and Click Wheel, which together with the case protect nano’s entire face, back, and sides. For users of Apple’s packed-in earbuds, this will be pretty close to an ideal inexpensive silicone case.

But not for everyone. There are separate holes for nano’s Hold switch, Dock Connector port, and headphone port, with a rubber separator between the Dock Connector and headphone ports. You’ll need to snip this separator in the middle to use the case with Apple’s Lanyard Headphones. And the headphone port hole is actually small enough – with thick enough rubber – that larger headphone plugs won’t make a solid physical connection with the port. You may also find that Dock Connecting accessories larger than Apple’s own cable have a similar issue.

Review: Marware Sport Grip for iPod nano

However, other than the top Hold switch hole, this case is more protective than Apple’s nano Tubes, cheaper to buy individually, and more likely to be available in the colors of your choice – unless you want something translucent or clear.

Marware’s options are all solids, none transparent or two-toned, so when you choose, you’ll get something strong, not passively reflective of what’s inside, which will appeal more to some users than others. The only parts of the nano you’ll see are the screen and Click Wheel, the former looking great through the film, and the latter less so – the Click Wheel cover isn’t contoured to fit the center button, and shows air bubbles. At least there’s protection.

Our only other issue with Sport Grip is its lack of soul. As we’ve pointed out many times, most of these silicone cases have become so similar to one another that the only things distinguishing them from one another are pricing and protectiveness. This design is visually very me-too, and is hard to distinguish on looks or colors from the Griffin SiliSkins for iPod nano we received at the same time. In our view, it’s not quite up to the high-water mark set by iSkin’s Duo (iLounge rating: A) on looks or protectiveness, and Marware appears to have saved its more distinctive visual touches for a version of this case we have not received – SportGrip Extreme.

Review: Marware Sport Grip for iPod nano

That said, it would be hard to ignore Marware’s appropriate pricing and generally impressive level of protectiveness here.