Price: $40-45 depending on color
Requirements: iPod video 60/80 GB (a separate model exists for the 30 GB iPod video model).
iSkin, king of All Things Silicone in the iPod and Mac accessory market, has branched out into a new material: acrylic. They’ve put it to good use in the attractive and transparent iSkin Claro, a hard case for iPod video models that allows for an optimal video viewing experience while still providing a high degree of protection for the iPod.
The three-piece iSkin Claro, plus one black iPod.
The basic design is similar to many other hard cases for the iPod, but with a twist. The Claro uses a silicone insert to protect the iPod from any tiny particles that might get between the case and the iPod. It is important, as iSkin points out in the manual, to ensure that the iPod and silicone insert are both scrupulously clean before putting the iPod into its new silicone skin, lest any abrasive particles lead to scratching of the iPod late.
Just drop the iPod into the case and slide the faceplate on.
The silicone liner makes a respectable case on its own, though it doesn’t provide any screen protection and is fairly loose.
With the iPod in the skin, you simply drop it into the case and slide the cover on, sealing the iPod’s screen behind an acrylic barrier while still allowing access to the scroll wheel through a thin silicone membrane. Many cases give you easy access to either the screen (visually) or the controls (manually) but at the expense of protection. The Claro provides the best of both worlds; you get protection for the screen, and controls with minimal effort and fuss.
The silicone liner isn’t perfectly cut. It’s difficult to see, but the headphone jack cutout is slightly off-center, causing the headphone jack to hit the liner. This could potentially cause static or poor sound quality, but the silicone liner is fairly thin.
Alas, the Claro falls short of perfection. Larger headphone plugs are impossible to use thanks to the tiny hole in the case. iSkin will be happy to sell you a $10 extension adapter, however, which will enable the use of any size headphone plug.
As with many other iPod cases, you can charge and sync the iPod without removing it from the case, although Dock Connector accessories generally don’t work unless they fit entirely in the cutout.
Dock Connector–based accessories simply do not work with the Claro. The acrylic is too thick and too inflexible to allow anything other than a cable to attach to the bottom of the iPod. To be fair, other iPod hard cases have this same problem, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this limitation. Finally, the belt clip—which has a very nice “kickstand” feature that other cases would do well to emulate—feels rather flimsy, almost to the point that a long jog or pulling it the wrong way removing it from your belt might break it.
The iSkin Claro thoughtfully includes a “kickstand” that allows you to stand the case up on its own.
As iPod cases go, the Claro falls somewhat behind in the style department. There’s an element reminiscent of stripper shoes in the all-clear design, although colored silicone inserts are available that lessen the degree of in-your-face transparency at an extra cost ($20 for three). There is also a “Special Edition” Claro available—at a $5 premium—that appears to be molded of black acrylic with a clear faceplate, a dramatically classier-looking design.
This is what the iSkin Claro looks like with no iPod in it.
The no-fuss access to the controls and ease of screen viewing really make this case stand out as a good choice for people who watch a lot of video on their iPods. I find that I prefer this case in my car because of the easy access to the controls, and the belt clip, while flawed, makes this a better case for running than either of the two leather cases I’ve previously used.
At $40, the Claro is a premium-priced case that isn’t necessarily a premium performer in all aspects. If you use headphones with an oversized plug or dislike the jelly-shoes aesthetic, you’ll want to look elsewhere. If you watch a lot of video and don’t use many accessories, or just want an easy-access case that keeps the iPod well-protected in the car, this is an excellent choice.