capsule review

Contour Design Showcase nano V3

At a Glance
  • Contour Design Showcase nano V3

Contour Design's Showcase nano V3 is the latest in Contour's flagship line of iPod cases. Like previous Showcase cases, the nano V3 gives you very good shock and scratch protection without obscuring too much of your third-generation (3G) nano's own design. The case's clear-plastic front and rear sections use a clamshell design to protect every part of your nano except for the Click Wheel and bottom edge.

The two halves of the case lock together securely using a sliding latch; this latch makes it easy to get your nano in and out of the case, yet the case won't open accidently. A layer of firm, black rubber covers the sides of the case and forms a border around the front and back, offering shock protection and grip. Like all Showcases, the nano V3 provides good protection without adding much bulk.

Like the previous Showcase nano, the V3 protects your iPod's Click Wheel using a removable, silicone "skin" covering that fills the Click-Wheel opening in the front of the case. (You can choose not to use this covering.) The bottom edge of your 3G nano is protected by a black, rubber, flip-out door. To plug in your headphones, you flip a small section of the door to the left to expose the iPod's headphone jack. To plug in a dock-connector cable, or to access the iPod's hold switch, you flip the entire door towards the back of the case to reveal the bottom edge of the nano. Although this design is much better than the detachable cover of the Showcase for the 2G nano, the door still gets in the way at times. In addition, the nano's bottom edge is recessed too far into the case to accommodate many larger third-party headphone plugs, and you can't use bottom-mounted dock-connector accessories, or place your nano into a dock-cradle accessory, while the iPod is in the case. In this respect, I prefer the approach of Agent 18, which is to make the bottom of the case flush with the bottom of the nano.

The V3 also includes a removable, metal-and-plastic belt clip that can be attached to the back of the case in any of four orientations. Because the nano is so short, when the clip is attached so your iPod sits upright on your belt, the bottom of the clip partially blocks the dock-connector port on the bottom of the iPod; you have to remove the clip in order to connect Apple's dock-connector cable. But the clip is easily removed, and I like that doing so doesn't leave a protruding nub or post. Contour Design also includes a black-plastic disc that covers the clip-attachment grooves on the back of the case when you're not using the clip.

Unlike previous Showcase models, which included tiny rubber bumpers on the inside to provide additional shock protection, the inside of the nano V3 comes in direct contact with your iPod. Although this isn't a major issue with respect to shock protection--the nano's flash memory is less susceptible to damage than the hard drives found in larger iPods--it means that dirt or sand that finds its way inside the case could scratch your player. Unfortunately, because the front and back halves of the case don't close completely when the case is locked, this can happen more easily than with similar plastic-shell cases we've tested.

Contour's Showcase models have been among our favorite iPod cases for years. However, the 3G nano's small size and new shape have made it more difficult for Contour to apply the Showcase line's unique attributes--thin protection in a locking-clamshell design--without introducing a few issues not found in previous incarnations. The Showcase nano V3 is still a good case, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd as much as previous versions; at the same time, other, more basic, offerings, such as Agent 18's EcoShield, offer similar protection at a lower price.
--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • Contour Design Showcase nano V3

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