Pros: Solid metal protection for the 4G iPod with hard plastic screen protection and a detachable belt clip option. Unlikely to scratch the iPod inside, and likely to withstand most damage outside.
Cons: Wheel hole is ever-so-slightly too small; relatively large hole in back to permit iPod removal. Minor issue – no wheel protection may put off some metal case users looking for Matias-style full frontal metal protection.
For experienced iPod accessory manufacturers, the retooling of earlier third-generation iPod cases and accessories for fourth-generation (“new”) iPods is a relatively easy feat. By integrating the earlier iPod’s four separate buttons into the surface of the Click Wheel, Apple turned quality case design into an almost effortless task: leave a rectangular cut out for the screen and a circle for the controls, plus ovals for the top and bottom ports.
It therefore took several case manufacturers only a month to develop and ship iLounge the first new cases for fourth-generation iPods. While similar to their prior products, these new cases do feature slight changes that may interest first-time and experienced iPod accessory buyers.
Metal hard cases for the iPod are trickier design propositions than they initially look: not only does such a case need to protect the enclosed iPod from the outside world, but it also needs to avoid scratching the iPod itself. iLounge has reviewed a number of metal cases, and over time they’ve generally (if intentionally) gotten worse at the former task but better at the latter one.
The reason for declining external protectiveness is that an all-metal, fully protective iPod case can actually be too protective for routine daily use.
While some users prefer full metal iPod protection with the ability to access the screen and controls only when the case is opened, others prefer partial iPod protection with exposed controls and plastic-covered screens. The internal protectiveness half of the equation is easier. Careful manufacturers polish their metal and insert just the right amount of thin foam on all interior surfaces of their cases, guaranteeing that the iPods inside won’t be tarnished by anything rough.
Because it was designed to permit a fair amount of access to the iPod even when closed, Pacific Rim’s new iShield metal carrying case for the fourth-generation iPod is highly protective inside and moderately protective outside. It consists of only two pieces which are permanently joined by a right-side hinge: a rear shell that covers most of the iPod’s sides, back, top and bottom, and a front shell that snaps closed on the left to protect everything but the iPod’s Click Wheel. The front shell features an integrated hard transparent plastic screen protector, which is framed by black foam. Holes in the case are left for the Click Wheel, headphone port, Hold Switch, and Dock Connector port, as well as a fifth hole on the case’s back that lets you push the iPod out with a finger or thumb.
Overall, the 4G iShield looks very close to great, marred modestly by a slightly undersized Click Wheel hole. Perhaps due to mismeasurement or perhaps for other reasons, the Click Wheel hole is a tiny bit off on exposing the full face of the Click Wheel.
(On an early version of the case we received, the hole was too small and its edge was just rough enough to make finger movement and button pressing a bit uncomfortable. A subsequent version (now shipping) improved this by adding a softer beveled edge around the wheel, and increasing the hole’s size. The cut’s still not perfect, but it’s close enough.) Similarly, the transparent plastic screen has a black edge that looks fine on its top and sides, but is a little jagged looking at the bottom. These are modest flaws, but they do detract a bit from what is otherwise a handsome case.
We were especially impressed by the holes Pacific Rim left for the Dock Connector port, headphone jack and hold switch. They’re just the right size for all sorts of connectors, and didn’t take a shortcut by leaving unnecessarily gaping spaces. And while it’s mildly disappointing that there’s such a sizeable hole in the back of the case – approximately quarter-sized, right where the iPod’s hard drive capacity is shown – the touch was partially necessary to permit easy removal of the iPod from the foam-lined interior of the case. But it could have been smaller.
Thankfully, the interior of the case is solid.