Apple iPod Mini
When I first got the Ipod mini, I was very impressed by the slick clean lines and the anodized metal casing. It was very small (about the same size as my cell phone) and the casing seemed durable. Three days later, I quickly discovered that it was very easy to scratch the metal casing (after having two dings appear from minor scrapes) because the supplied belt clip left the ipod mini exposed to the elements. In addition, putting it in your pocket could cause the screen to get scratched by loose dirt and keys (although I do not know why anyone would keep keys in the same pocket as their mini).
Speck Products to the rescue:
The Speck Products iPod Mini skin comes in a pack of one or three with available colors clear, blue, and green. There is also a similar case for the 3G (reviewed by Julie) as well as the older ipods. The skin is made of shock-absorbing soft flexible rubber (called KRAYTON) and is about .080 inches thick with negligible weight (about 1oz). The rubber is also supposed to be scratch resistant
When I first saw the case, I was expecting a hard rigid shell. Instead, I was greeted by the soft flexible rubber that felt very nice to touch. This was a good first impression. Now the easy part was over, I had to put the skin on the mini. Putting the skin on was no easy task because you had to literally force the mini inside. I guess the skin is made this way to ensure a tight “skin” fit. Once the skin is on you wriggle it around a bit to make sure the cut-outs for the wheel and the skin are lined up properly.
The case has two main cut-outs, one for the screen and one for the clickwheel. In addition, there is a slit on both the top of the case and the bottom of the case. The top slit allows access to the headphone/remote control port as well as the hold button while the bottom slit allows access to the bottom connector/port of the mini. The case also has some vents on the back.
I believe that these vents were a design trait carried over from the older generation ipods which needed some places to dissipate heat. This is not a problem with the newer generation ipods as well as the mini and this makes this feature strictly for aesthetic purposes. In addition, the skin has a removable lanyard which is in the middle of the two cut-outs (or slits) on the top of the skin.
The two-week test:
Now the initial impressions are over, it was time to subject the case to a rigorous day to day test which will closely simulate the conditions the case and the mini will be subjected to under normal usage.
Test 1: Day to Day usage
When using the case daily to listen to music during commutes to class and work, I used the supplied lanyard (or neckstrap) which was pretty cool. It allowed me to have close access to the mini so I could easily navigate around the menus without having to unclip it from the supplied belt clip. This feature also circumvents the use of a remote because the mini is in very close proximity. However, if you are using regular headphones with a long cord, it becomes a bother because the cord hangs down and it can get tangled. However I use the Sony MDR-EX71SL (it has a short cord) headphones so this was not a problem. Another way I used the case was the good ol’ fashioned way of putting it in my pocket. Because of the sturdy rubber, I did not worry about the mini getting scratched. However, because there is no screen protector built in (although I custom cut a Fellowes protector on my mini screen) there is still the issue of loose dirt and keys scratching the screen. In addition, there is a tendency for dirt and dust to get stuck in the inner parts of the cut-outs. This turned out to be a really annoying problem and it happens anytime you put your mini in a closed place such as a bag, pocket, or a purse.
The final way I used the skin (along with the lanyard) was by looping the lanyard around one of my belt loops and then putting it in my pocket. With this done, if I drop my mini when bringing it out of my pocket, it will still be hanging from my belt loop. This is quite ingenious but I doubt that the makers of the skin had this in mind. Nevertheless, it is still a cool option.
Test 2: Use in the gym
So far the speck case has performed excellently so now I decided to get a little bit ambitious and take it with me to the gym. Because the belt clip supplied with the mini cannot be used with the skin, I was forced to either use the supplied lanyard, or to put the mini in my pocket. Unfortunately, both options are not ideal for mid to heavy exercising sessions because the mini tends to bounce around too much. However, if you do not intend on jogging or moving around too much, then it will work just fine for you. On the upside, because of the thickness of the skin, it offers superb protection. I dropped it a couple of times and it bounced back unscathed. In addition even though there is no built in screen protection, the screen is recessed therefore if you drop the mini face down with the skin on, the screen will not get affected. Overall, I think the skin will be perfect for use in the gym if it had a supplied (or optional) clip or armband because the thickness does not allow the ones supplied by apple to be used with it.
Overall, I believe that the Speck products ipod mini skin is a hit, with very few misses. It accentuates the natural ergonomics of the ipod (which I believe it should, after all it is a skin) and it makes the mini easier to hold and use. The supplied lanyard makes the skin more versatile by offering alternative ways to cart around (and display of course) your mini. On the downside, there is no screen protection. In addition, the case (and the supplied lanyard) tends to get dirty real easy especially if you keep it in your pocket, bag or purse.
However, the above problem could be solved by buying a darker color skin (I believe the supplied lanyard is always white though) to summarize this review, I commend Speck products for their work on the skin and I believe that anyone who buys it will be satisfied with the style and protection that It has to offer. It wins my stamp of approval
Price: $19.95 ($29.95 for 3 pack)
Easy to grip
Does not add too much bulk
Supplied lanyard works like a charm
Gets dirty too easy
Added bulk does not allow you use belt or arm clip
No built in screen protection