The two most important factors in a case, in my view, are protection and usability, with aesthetics coming in third. Unfortunately, to create a case that excels in one category, you must often make sacrifices in another category. Marware’s Sportsuit Sleeve for iPod nano is a perfect example. This neoprene pouch is among the best I’ve seen in terms of protection: The exterior is so thick and cushiony that I wouldn’t doubt a nano could survive being tossed from a high building while in the Sleeve. (I didn’t try such a stunt, by the way, just to be on the safe side.) But because it uses an all-protective pouch design, accessing your nano’s controls means you need to pull the iPod out of the case. In fact, in my own usage, I found that you have to remove the nano entirely in order to access most of the controls. And if you happen to be doing something else at the same time — like, say, walking — this increases the chance that you’ll drop the iPod; so in some ways even the most protective pouch cases come with their own risks.
What’s more, when I first inserted my nano into the Sleeve, I couldn’t figure out how to plug the headphones in. (I admit, I didn’t read the directions for the case before using it.) A closer look at the packaging revealed the trick: To put the iPod in “head” first (i.e., upside-down); when you pull the case’s velcro-closed flap over the bottom of the iPod, there’s a small notch so you can plug your headphones in.
Though spartan, the Sportsuit does have a couple neat features. The back has a mount for Marware’s Multidapt system, which, for an additional cost, lets you add accessories such as a car mount, a bike mount, or a lanyard; a simple plastic belt clip is included. I also liked the small pouch on the front of the case that can store your earbuds, though larger headphones (and even larger earbuds or canalphones) won’t fit.
As I noted above, the Sportsuit Sleeve’s protection comes at a cost to its usability. If you’re OK with pressing play and putting your iPod away, the Sportsuit Sleeve is hard to beat. But if you prefer to interact with your iPod in its case, the Sportsuit Sleeve, like most “pouch” cases, will likely fall short of your needs. –Dan Moren