Staggering is the only word we’d use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we’re reviewing today — over 20 different models that we’ve been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review covers PDO’s Sleek Crystal Case for iPhone 3G ($25).
We’ve been quick to praise PDO for its excellent TopSkin and Aluminum series cases in the past, but the company’s record of hits is equally offset by misses. Unfortunately, Sleek is one of the misses, a clear hard plastic case that looks nice—if exceptionally familiar—but stumbles in its attempt to offer superior coverage to similar competitors.
You get three main pieces with Sleek: a front shell that covers all of the iPhone 3G’s face save for its speaker, Home button, and touchscreen, a clear screen protector, and a back shell with a built-in rubber Dock Connector cover. PDO also includes rubber covers for the Sleep/Wake button and the volume buttons, though they’re not attached to the case. We don’t say this often about iPod or iPhone cases with detachable inserts, but we found these extremely easy to lose; they didn’t do a great job of staying in place and appeared destined to disappear.
Though PDO should be commended for trying to cover the iPhone 3G—collectively, Sleek tries to do more than Contour Design’s iSee for iPhone 3G, which sells for more but doesn’t include screen or Dock Connector protectors—the execution here is off. Our sample unit’s rubber Dock Connector cover didn’t fit quite right, so it stayed open on the bottom rather than closing, no matter how we tried to make it stay shut.
Thus, our only option to use the case was to detach it altogether, leaving an almost sharp rough edge at the case’s bottom. Once removed, it didn’t leave the case fully Universal Dock-compatible—Sleek barely seated on a Dock Connector plug, and did not provide a reliable connection. The headphone port and camera holes on the case, however, were reasonably cut, permitting full use of the iPhone’s camera software and literally whatever oversized headphone plugs we wanted to connect.
There are other little rough edges in Sleek’s design—the interior molding lines, slightly less than ideal-feeling rubber covers, and the fine but not fantastic film are all little knocks. But we’d gladly have forgiven them for the price if the case had worked as expected, using slightly smarter individual components. As-is, we’d call Sleek worthy of a flat C, and that only because the errant Dock Connector cover can be removed; that said, it wouldn’t take a lot of re-engineering for PDO to produce a same-priced follow-up that’s worthy of our high recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: Portable Device Outfitters (PDO)
Compatible: iPhone 3G