Over the past two weeks, we’ve been flooded with clear hard plastic iPod cases — eight for the third-generation iPod nano alone. Highly similar from product to product, we’re covering all eight in comparative reviews today, pointing out their few differences as appropriate. In the order we’re covering them in, there’s DLO’s Shell ($20), Griffin’s iClear ($20), Tunewear’s Tuneshell ($20), DLO’s HybridShell and MetalShell ($20 each), Speck’s SeeThru ($25), Gecko Gear’s Ice Case ($25), and Contour Design’s iSee nano V3 ($25). Updated March 20, 2008: Please see the note at the bottom of this review.
DLO’s Shell is this comparative review’s starting point because it is the most basic, and typical, of all of the designs here. It consists solely of two pieces of clear hard plastic—one for the third-generation nano’s face, and one for its sides and back. They snap together with four clips, two each on the left and right sides, and like all of the other cases here, the completed Shell covers all of the nano except for its Click Wheel and bottom, which provides full access to the nano’s Hold switch, Dock Connector, and headphone port. The case is fully compatible with Universal Dock-equipped iPod accessories, as well as oversized headphone plugs, but does not work with other Dock Connecting accessories that have larger plugs than Apple’s own USB cables.
Speck’s SeeThru is just like DLO’s standard Shell, but with two different rear covers, and long side clips like Griffin’s iClear. The first rear cover, like Shell’s, is flat and unadorned, while the second has a belt clip permanently glued on, such that the nano mounts with its ports facing down from your waist. Both rear shells have the Speck star logo on the bottom, but neither is otherwise distinguishable from the others; this is also the first case of the group to sell for a $25 price rather than $20.
Accessory compatibility is mixed. As with Shell, headphones and Universal Docks work fine with SeeThru. But oversized Dock Connector accessories are a crapshoot: our large test accessory was not able to fully seat with the iPod nano’s Dock Connector port, so your experiences will vary based on the size of the plug you’re trying to connect.
Our overall feelings about this group of clear plastic iPod nano cases were generally positive—these are all good cases—but there were no superstars in the collection: small accessory compatibility issues took away from what were otherwise the two best offerings in the group, Gecko’s Ice Case and Contour’s iSee nano V3, while the other cases looked good and worked well, but didn’t provide as much protection. Griffin’s iClear and Tunewear’s Tuneshell provide the most accessory compatibility of the group, but iClear isn’t as rough around the edges, while iSee nano V3 does the best on protection, and Ice Case the best on pack-ins; the one you’ll prefer will depend more on the features and pricing you prefer than their looks. DLO’s offerings vary the most in aesthetics for the same price, but none is a major standout from other shell-like cases we’ve been testing.
Updated March 20, 2008: Following publication of our original review, Speck updated SeeThru to include a clear plastic insert that covers both the nano’s screen and Click Wheel with fully transparent, uncolored protection even when the SeeThru case itself has been separately colored. Pictures of the updated SeeThru are above.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Compatible: iPod nano (video)