Pros: Rugged soft plastic iPod mini case that wisely uses detachable parts to protect the iPod’s screen and controls. Includes a detachable belt clip and nub.
Cons: Dock Connector port could have been a little larger.
Back in February, we reviewed and loved Speck Products’ ToughSkin for 4G iPods (iLounge rating: A-). Now Speck has released ToughSkin mini ($34.95), which not only preserves all of the best features from the full-sized case, but properly addresses two of the three issues we had with it. As such, the new ToughSkin is tied with only two other rubber cases we’ve reviewed as a flat-A, highly recommended iPod mini case. Our review below is based upon the full-sized iPod ToughSkin review, with differences pointed out wherever appropriate.
ToughSkin is fundamentally different in design from virtually all of the rubber iPod casese we’ve tested. Rather than duplicating its own or other companies’ thin, simple designs, Speck looked outside to a niche market – ruggedized electronics. Ruggedizing is a process by which ordinary electronic products are physically and mechanically reinforced against various forms of shock, scratch, and drop damage; you may have seen it in certain thick, plasticized PDAs or tablet computers, or otherwise in the package scan and signature computers carried around by UPS and FedEx drivers. The goal is to take a delicate item and make it safe to subject to more than everyday wear and tear, but perhaps a step or two shy of intentional misuse.
Using Kraton plastic like most of Speck’s other cases, ToughSkin mini essentially ruggedizes the iPod mini’s entire body. Its corners in particular benefit from dramatically enhanced, thick soft plastic “bumpers,” while its sides are similarly ribbed with the brick-like extra protection. Hard transparent plastic is used for screen and Click Wheel protection, as well as for a belt clip nub and frosted belt clip. Unlike the full-sized version of the case, ToughSkin mini’s nub doesn’t need to be unscrewed – it pops through the interior of the case, leaving a small hole in the back if detached.
Both the screen and Click Wheel guards attach with integrated plastic pins to small holes in the case – the screen guard with four, the Click Wheel with two. At the top of the Click Wheel guard is a hole that integrates with the ToughSkin case to seal closed, but the bottom pins work as a hinge to pivot the Wheel protector open whenever necessary. Only three holes are left in the case – contoured Hold switch and headphone port holes at the iPod’s top, and a smaller hole at the bottom, which provides access to the iPod mini’s Dock Connector port.
We found it exceedingly easy to insert and remove an iPod mini from the ToughSkin, and the various attachments give ToughSkin a level of protectiveness and versatility that we can’t help but like. As with the full-sized iPod version, iPod minis encased in ToughSkins easily survive drops from four- or five-foot heights, and we feel relatively confident that they’ll do more than that if pushed.
Additionally, Speck’s design is attractive, a bit more masculine than a lot of other cases we’ve seen, though the mini version is available in a bunch of lighter, female-friendly colors as well. Of the colors – clear, pink, blue, black and green – we liked the clear one the most, but the other colors are quite nice, too.
Speck has fixed two of the issues we noted in the original case, first by eliminating an interior plastic sizer that was used to make the full-sized case accommodate different-sized iPods, and second by reducing the size of the ToughSkin’s top hole to the minimum necessary for use of the headphone port and Hold switch. We were thrilled by both changes. However, the Dock Connector port remains slightly on the small side – Apple and Belkin peripherals will work fine, as will most third-party attachments, but larger cables might be a challenge.
We’ve had mixed feelings about Speck’s Kraton plastic cases in the past, but ToughSkin is clearly its highest-use application: it looks tough, feels tough, and integrates very well with the detachable hard plastic components. At $34.95, it’s not the cheapest iPod mini case we’ve seen, and though we’ve not been thrilled to see Speck selling its smaller cases at full-sized iPod prices, we’re willing to make an exception for ToughSkin because it’s so polished and well-made in all regards. You come close enough to the protection of a good hard case for most purposes, but get something that you’ll want to use under other circumstances, too. Overall, this is a great design, and close to perfection at what it does – a great release for Speck and for iPod mini owners.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Model: ToughSkin mini
Compatible: iPod mini