Pros: Clean, attractive silicone rubber case for iPods 3G, 4G, and mini, with nice textures and top-mounting accessory compatibility.
Cons: No protection for the iPod’s controls or screen and limited protection at its top, too small Dock Connector port at the bottom, and possibility of color-shifting under heat stress.
Though roughly ten companies are currently producing rubber cases for the iPod, it’s hard to predict exactly what you’ll find inside each company’s box. Unexpectedly, the most recent generation of rubber cases has been rocked by fit and finish problems, in some cases attributable to a rush to get products to market immediately after the introduction of the fourth-generation iPod. And since so many of the cases look alike from a distance – but actually have small problems that limit their utility – it’s especially important to know which will best suit your personal needs.
XtremeMac’s new Silicone Sleeves for 3G, 4G, and mini iPods ($19.95 each, $29.95 for 3-packs) are virtually identical to one another but for size and controls: they are professionally detailed, matte frosted silicone rubber cases with consistent designs. Each case features a clean, flat front, ribbed sides, plus an attractive rear with an XtremeMac logo and rows of tiny dots – not holes – to aid in iPod heat dispersion. True holes are left for each iPod’s screen and controls, each cut and spaced properly, and different-sized cases are made for each generation’s thicknesses of iPods to guarantee proper spacing and fit. The bottom of each case includes a rounded rectangular cut-out for the iPod’s Dock Connector port, while the top of each case features a hole for iPod insertion.
On the 3G and 4G iPod cases, the top hole is a large slit with lips that continue to cover part of the top front and top rear of the iPod, leaving an iPod-wide opening for the hold switch, headphone port, and any top-mounting accessory you might want to attach. The iPod mini Silicone Sleeve’s entire top is open – no lips protect the mini’s top.
In essence, the XtremeMac Sleeves are more attractive versions of Power Support’s Silicone Jackets for the iPod (iLounge rating: B+), cases we liked from a functionality standpoint but thought plain visually. We especially liked the textured sides and backs of XtremeMac’s Sleeves, and thought them amongst the best-looking designs we’ve seen.
Eliminating one of our issues with the Power Support Jackets, XtremeMac sells its Sleeves in multiple colors, though you need to buy a three-pack from the company in order to get them. A “Hot Color Sleeves” pack includes attractive pink, blue, and green Sleeves, while a “Neon Sleeves” pack includes fluorescent green, yellow, and orange. Given that a number of companies are offering single rubber cases in a person’s choice of colors, we think that the individual colors should be sold separately, especially given that XtremeMac’s colors are in fact so bright and nice.
Our four issues with these Sleeves are consistent from version to version. First, all three feature a too-small Dock Connector hole that was difficult to use with accessories that don’t use Apple’s official Dock Connector plug, including Belkin, Monster, and others. As a result, the Sleeves were a pain to wrestle with when we tested them in a car, and can’t be used in an iPod Dock unless at least partially removed. Skins from Speck and others have solved these problems in different and positive ways.
Second, like Power Support’s Jackets, the slit-like lack of complete top coverage may bother some people who are looking for comprehensive anti-scratch protection. Some companies’ products (such as iSkin’s) get around this by letting you insert the iPod through the screen hole and using a thin top membrane so that top-mounting accessories still work.
Third, unlike Power Support’s Jackets, the Sleeves don’t come with any sort of protection for an iPod’s screen or controls. However, the Sleeves are cheaper than the Jackets, and at least in the case of the iPods 4G and mini, you can buy such protection separately – from Power Support or others.
Fourth and finally, we noticed that one of our test white Sleeves exhibited an interesting color shift when we left it in a car – its uniform milkiness shifted into light streaks that ran across the case’s back. Though Apple recommends against leaving your iPod in a car, and we don’t advise it, either, this is a fact worth noting if you plan to subject your case to possible heat abuse. We didn’t mind the change at all, but it was surprising to discover.
On the bright side, the Silicone Sleeves are very easy to put on and take off, and are just as resilient as the majority of other rubber iPod cases we’ve tested. XtremeMac’s choice of rubbers doesn’t leave an iPod with “wet” looking spots under the case’s surface, either – a boon to obsessive iPod fans. With the exception of their openness to iPod front and top scratches, and their small Dock Connector holes, they are very good cases and nicely show off the iPods inside. If you’re not worried about scratching or accessory use, you’ll find a lot to love about the Silicone Sleeves.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.
Company and Price
Model: Silicone Sleeves
Price: $19.95/each, $29.95/3 pack
Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo