Pros: Streamlined iPod nano and shuffle armband that provides virtually comprehensive iPod body protection and nearly custom-fit arm comfort. Breathable Dri-Fit fabric combines the best properties of neoprene and elastic into a single design that looks and feels very good – comfort is amongst the best we’ve tested.
Cons: Very pricey by iPod nano armband standards. iPod’s screen is hard to see through milky integrated protector unless backlight is on. Can’t be used as a standard case, and lacks the sizing flexibility and frills – such as wrist bands, straps, and belt clips – of established competitors.
Until today, iPod armbands divided neatly into two categories: neoprene and elastic. Neoprene armbands tend to be softer to the touch than the elastic ones, but with rare exceptions, the neoprene ones are thick and bulky in an unappealing way, and include equally puffy iPod cases. Elastic ones are thinner, and frequently paired with non-neoprene iPod cases, but they’re generally not as comfortable.
Now the athletic gear specialists at Nike have released Sport Armband ($40), a workout armband that’s neither neoprene nor elastic. Designed for the iPod nano but also capable of working with the iPod shuffle, Sport Armband uses Nike Pro Compression fabric, a material which offers elastic-like thinness with the softness of neoprene. It’s incredibly comfortable, and definitely amongst the best we’ve tested. Better yet, the fabric features Dri-Fit, a passive cooling technology that we have been enjoying in Nike’s clothes for years – it offers incredible breathability in hot climates and workouts, and can be washed. We’d find it hard to imagine a better material to wrap around your arm than this one.
Nike’s also taken another novel step with the Armband, choosing to offer two sizes custom-fit to different arms. There’s good and bad on this: the Medium to Large armband we received fit fine on an average-sized man’s arm, and a Small to Medium version will do the same for women. Each one is designed to form fit the arm in an attractive, streamlined way without bulk, and they do. But there’s no XL version comparable with the longer armband sizes we’ve tested from other companies, so men with big arms may want to pass. Two color patterns are available, as well: gray outside with orange interior, and black outside with gray interior.
There are only a few things about the Sport Armband that aren’t so hot. First, though Nike has thankfully covered nano’s entire body from the outside, leaving only a medium-sized internal hole for the headphone port to be accessed, the case’s front surface is a bizarre, milky translucent protector rather than a clear plastic one. On the bright side, your nano’s screen and Click Wheel are both covered, as is the vast majority of its body. But unlike competing products, this protector distorts the nano’s screen underneath, and renders it readable only if the backlight is on. Second, there’s its support for the iPod shuffle, which is adequate but not spectacular; we’re not concerned so much that you can only access either the shuffle’s front or rear controls while the case is in use, not both, but rather that it’s clearly not as sleek inside as the nano is.
Third and finally, there’s the price. By iPod nano armband standards, $30 will buy a top-of-line option such as Incase’s Sport Case for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-), XtremeMac’s SportWrap (iLounge rating: A-), or Marware’s SportSuit Convertible (iLounge rating: B+), each of which includes a detachable case plus a wristband, wrist strap, or belt clip, if not two of the three.
Nike’s asking $40 for the Sport Armband, which can’t be used as a separate case and doesn’t offer as much versatility. We very much like the company’s choice of armband materials, save for the milky nano face protector, as well as its design, color choices, and comfortable sizing – if you have the right (average)-sized arm, like the way this looks, and don’t mind parting with extra cash, it’s worth getting as a dedicated armband. But you can do better on frills and flexible sizing for less from others.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod nano, iPod shuffle