One month after the release of Apple’s new iPod touch, we’ve had the chance to test thirteen different cases that are in or on their way to stores in the United States. Many of the designs will be familiar to owners of other iPods, but for those who aren’t familiar — and for those who need additional information before making a purchasing decision — we’ve created three comparative reviews to give you a big picture look at all of these options. One review focuses on four $20-30 armbands, the next on six $30-35 leather or neoprene cases, and the last on three $15-25 plastic cases.
From Left: Marware SportGrip, Griffin iClear, Griffin Reflect
Though this review focuses on the three cases that are made entirely from plastic, it’s worth noting up front that the plastics are different in each case design. Griffin’s iClear ($20) is, as the name suggests, a clear plastic two-piece hard shell for the iPod touch, while the identically shaped, two-piece Reflect ($25) instead has a mirrored front and an almost opaque smoke black back. Marware is offering SportGrip ($15), a smooth silicone rubber case with side grips designed to make the device sturdier in your hand, available in frosted clear or opaque black versions. SportGrip is available now, while iClear and Reflect are headed to stores in early November.
What we really liked about all three of these cases was their approach to iPod touch protection. Unlike the leather cases we previously reviewed, iClear, Reflect, and SportGrip all make an attempt to cover virtually every part of the iPod’s body: Marware covers literally everything except for touch’s Dock Connector and headphone port, while both of Griffin’s cases cover everything but the Sleep/Wake button, Home button, and bottom surface. None of the cases includes a belt clip or lanyard attachment—no loss, in our view—but both companies include screen protective film and cleaning cloths with their cases; the film in each case works well, and leaves a hole only for the Home button.
Most of the time, we prefer to see as much of an iPod covered as possible, and there’s no doubt that Marware has a small initial edge on Griffin here: we really liked its rubberized top and front button protectors, which keep those parts of the iPod from getting dusty or scratched. However, iClear and Reflect have three advantages in their approach to coverage: first, unlike the rubber SportGrip, which loosely covers the edges of iPod touch’s screen, allowing dust to get in at those points, Griffin’s cases are nearly flush with the film-covered iPod touch screen, and better sealed there. That said, the holes at top and bottom remain possible access points.
Hardness also differentiates the Marware and Griffin designs. Reflect and iClear are impact-resistant hard shells, while SportGrip is softer and thinner on all sides except for its back. Marware has thickened SportGrip’s back, and added thin ribs to its sides, in an effort to make it easier to hold, both nice touches.
The other iClear and Reflect advantage over SportGrip is that Griffin enables the iPod touch to be connected to any Universal iPod Dock without being removed from the enclosure. This is a major convenience factor in Griffin’s favor, and a reason that you’ll be more likely keep one of these cases on the iPod literally at all times, though all three products otherwise play nice with headphone plugs and other bottom-mounting accessories.
Aesthetics and pricing are the only remaining factors here. Of the three cases, we think iClear is generally the best-looking of the bunch, a neutral combination of a clear front shell and frosted rear back shell that lets you see the iPod touch inside, and a great value at $20. Though silicone rubber isn’t our material of choice, we think SportGrip is similarly impressive for its lower, $15 asking price, especially the clear version that shows less dust than the black one. Both of these cases deserve our A- rating and high recommendation.
Reflect is a slightly different story. We have previously passed on covering Reflect cases because they were clones of existing Power Support mirrored case designs, but the iPod touch version isn’t matched by anything in Power Support’s lineup; Griffin’s design is basically new. That said, this version’s implementation of the reflective concept, with only a little mirroring on front and a rubber-finished black back, isn’t as smart as prior mirrored case designs, as it simultaneously offers very little actual reflective surface and completely covers the existing mirrored part of iPod touch’s body. Consequently, you’ll actually make iPod touch “reflect” less by putting Reflect on, and though the case does look very nice, it doesn’t accomplish its purpose too well—certainly not well enough to merit a price premium over its competitors. Consider it if you want a sharp-looking but slightly overpriced color alternative to iClear.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod touch