Pros: Simple hard plastic protection for a 4G iPod, including Click Wheel protection.
Cons: Simple by comparison to otherwise more versatile options available at or around the same price.
Following publication of our original review, Power Support adjusted the price of the Crystal Jacket to $20.00, thereby mooting one of our major criticisms of this product. We preserve the text of this review as-was, but note the impact of the price change below.
Clear plastic used to appear only as an element in plastic or metal iPod hard cases, but in recent months three companies have ratcheted up their production of fully transparent iPod cases. We’ve previously looked at iPod mini cases from Power Support (Crystal Jacket Mini), Speck Products (Mini FlipStand) and Contour Design (iSee-mini); now the competition has spilled over to the fourth-generation iPod, with Power Support’s Crystal Jacket ($27.00), Speck’s 4G FlipStand ($29.95, sold for $21.00 and up), and Contour’s iSee-20 and iSee-40 ($19.95) all beginning to appear in stores.
Of these offerings, Power Support’s is unquestionably the simplest, but is also likely to be the most expensive depending on where you shop. Like the company’s iPod mini Crystal Jacket, the Crystal Jacket 4G includes three key pieces – front and back clear plastic shells that snap together to protect all of the iPod save part of its top, its Dock Connector port, and its Click Wheel. Unlike the mini Jacket, Power Support sells two versions of the 4G model molded to fit 20GB and 40GB iPods. Each includes a clear adhesive Click Wheel protector called Wheel Film, which neatly protects the 4G iPod’s biggest exposed component against scratching.
(We’ve reviewed and previously liked the Wheel Film, and it hasn’t changed from its prior incarnations save having been sized to fit the 4G iPod.)
For some reason, Power Support also includes two clear adhesive stickers, the purposes of which aren’t entirely obvious because the included instructions are in Japanese. Given the size and shape of the stickers, one of which is cut with a Click Wheel hole, we can only guess that one is supposed to attach to each face of the inserted iPod for extra protection. We initially suspected that the stickers were necessary because of a potentially rough circle of plastic on the lower interior of the case’s back, but this turned out to be an integrated rubber spacer to hold the iPod more firmly in place. The stickers therefore remain a bit of a mystery. We’re beginning to hope that although the company is Japan-based, it will produce dual-language instructions at some point in the near future, as this is the first (but probably not last) time we’ve had to scratch our heads to figure out what something was inside of their packages.
Finally, a small hard plastic ring is included with each Crystal Jacket as a case removal tool.
The Crystal Jacket’s two hard pieces are snapped on to the 4G iPod, and lock into place with two gentle plastic latches. Using the removal ring (or a fingernail), you can easily pop the case open after it’s been attached.
Although the 4G Crystal Jacket is more protective, Power Support’s Crystal Jacket for the iPod mini was easier to like. Less expensive ($20) and compatible with Apple’s packed-in iPod mini belt clip, the mini Crystal Jacket was versatile and a good value relative to other hard-case options available at the time. Its wide open top and bottom, while not as protective as many other cases, allowed users to enjoy maximum compatibility with top- and bottom-mounting iPod accessories. We found uses for that case that other hard cases didn’t have.
By comparison, the 4G Crystal Jacket is pretty close in price to our current favorite 4G case, Contour’s Showcase 4G ($32.95), but a lot simpler, and lacking in features. For that matter, it’s more expensive than Contour’s recently released iSee-20 and iSee-40 cases, which while not as impressive offer very similar functionality – plus detachable belt clips, plus pop-open covered Dock Connector holes that are admittedly on the very small side.