We’ve already seen a resilient iPod nano case called Knox, but as vault-like case designs go, Speck’s new ToughSkin 2 Tough ($30) is the smartest one we’ve yet seen. Several steps up in design from the company’s too-expensive prior ToughSkin for iPod nano (iLounge rating: B), this sequel is more of a complete rethinking than a small upgrade, and delivers considerably better value for the dollar, while preserving the family’s reputation for ruggedized, anti-drop protection.
Rather than merely using a thick, blocky rubber body like the ones in prior ToughSkins, Speck has come up with an innovative combination of metal, rubber, and hard plastic that approximates the design of a door frame, complete with a metal hinge bar on the left and a matching clasp bar on the right. With U-shaped plastic left hinges, ToughSkin 2 Tough’s front flap moves outwards like a door to let your nano in to its hard rubber frame, snapping shut with a single plastic clasp on the right. That it can open in this way isn’t initially obvious, however; the front hinge and clasp pieces are mixed with three matching U-shaped side mounts attached to a stationary hard plastic back plate; both the front and rear pieces of plastic are smoke-colored and translucent so that you can see your iPod inside.
There’s a hole for the nano’s Click Wheel; the screen is only slightly tinted by the smokey plastic.
What ties the whole case together is black rubber, resilient like what was used in the prior ToughSkin, though nowhere near as necessary to protect the nano’s body given the new plastic and metal pieces. Now the rubber serves to hold the nano in place between the two plastic faces and metal bars; the rubber gives way just enough to fit the nano’s rounded sides. Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough of the rubber here: Speck doesn’t include a rubber Click Wheel protector like the one found in its See-Thru Lucid case, and it exposes the nano’s entire bottom, albeit under several millimeters of bottom rubber edging. The rubber gives enough at the bottom to let you connect oversized headphones, but not the largest Dock Connector cables we’ve seen, its only ease of use limitation.
A positive addition to 2 Tough’s design is its new belt clip: Speck has finally stepped away from the two-piece detachable clip designs of years past, and developed an easy to snap- or slide-on ratcheting clip that doesn’t compromise the nano’s rear protection when removed. While the clip’s larger than the ones in earlier Speck cases, we prefer the added rear protectiveness that it affords when detached, and didn’t find it to be unacceptably large when it’s on.
Like its iPod mini, 4G, and 5G predecessors, the latest ToughSkin isn’t the right case for everyone – it’s specifically made to appeal to those who don’t mind bulking up their iPods in order to add anti-drop protection, which it delivers in spades, though even then, because of certain omissions, it’s not quite as protective of the whole iPod’s body as we’d have liked. Regardless, we found the design appealing enough that we’ve found ourselves wanting to use it since we first spotted it at Macworld Expo – the sort of excitement typically associated with our high recommendation – and after testing it, we’re certain that it’s one of the most interesting second-generation iPod nano cases out there.