OtterBox has long been known for its waterproof, crushproof cases, which have been used by everyone from Rangers to roadies for transporting everything from computers to concert equipment to cameras — the company even makes cigar cases. OtterBox has now entered the iPod case market and has done so impressively, with waterproof cases that set a new standard for protection.
OtterBox’s iPod case is available in three sizes: one for iPod minis; one for 20GB 4th-generation iPods; and one for 30GB, 40GB, and 60GB 4th-generation iPods and iPod photos. The first two fit their respective iPods like gloves. The latter fits 60GB iPods perfectly, but uses foam spacers for the thinner iPod models; this doesn’t reduce the protective ability of the case, but it does make the case slightly less form-fitting with these models.
To insert your iPod into the case, you open the lid (which pivots only 35 degrees or so) and slide the iPod in until its headphone jack connects firmly to the 1/8″, stationary headphone plug inside. (An external pass-through headphone jack lets you plug in your headphones.) As you squeeze the case together and snap the latch closed, you can feel the resistance of the rubber gasket that forms a seal around the case. Once closed, this seal provides waterproof protection to a depth of 1 meter. The waterproof seal also means the OtterBox case is great for keeping other elements — sand, dirt, dust — away from your player, making it a great case for any kind of active use. And the rubber “bumpers” inside the case provide very good shock protection in case you drop or bump your iPod.
(If you’re interested in submersible/waterproof headphones, OtterBox recommends those from SwimMan, available at http://swimman.net/pages/859130/index.htm.)
Another advantage the OtterBox case has over most “crushproof” cases on the market is that it doesn’t prevent you from controlling your iPod when inside. A thick plastic membrane over your iPod’s Click Wheel provides full access to the iPod’s front controls; the case also lets you view your iPod’s screen. And a removable belt clip on the back also adds cable management functionality — the clip has “wings” around which you can wrap excess headphone cable.
Alas, all this protection comes at a price in size — all three cases are fairly large. Not including the belt clip, the iPod mini version is 5.2″ x 2.6″ x 1″; the 20GB model is 5.7″ x 3″ x 1″; and the largest model is 5.7″ x 3″ x 1.2″, each adding significant bulk to your iPod. But that bulk is easily worth it considering the excellent protection these cases provide. Overall, OtterBox’s iPod cases have become our favorites for those times when you need the ultimate protection.
(See our review of the OtterBox for iPod shuffle in our Cases section.)
Note: OtterBox also offers a different line of cases, retailing for $30, that fit 3rd- and 4th-generation iPods and iPod photo models. These cases, which are white instead of clear, offer similar shock protection but are only water-resistant, not waterproof.–Dan Frakes