AVA’s Smooth E hardshell for the iPod nano is one of the best cases I’ve had the pleasure of testing. It combines good protection and accessibility in a slim profile that’s easy to use. And as if that’s not enough, it throws in some nice extras and a feature or two that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
The Smooth E looks like a slightly bulkier version of the iPod itself. The front edges are sharp, like the nano’s, while the bottom edges are rounded. Made out of ABS plastic with a liquid-polymer coating, the Smooth E is pleasant and, as the name would suggest, smooth to the touch. There’s an opening for the headphone jack and dock connector on the bottom and another for the iPod’s Click Wheel on the front. That’s it; the rest of the case is solid plastic, with a clear, hard-plastic window for the nano’s screen. To open the case, you lift the bottom end slightly and then slide the face off. Easy, but secure. Inside you’ll find a felt-lining into which you gingerly place your iPod. Slide the face back on and you’re ready to go.
One of the single nicest features of the Smooth E is the way it handles the nano’s hold switch. That control has been the bane of many a case-maker’s existence; it’s small and has negligible height, making it difficult to operate through the small notch that most cases provide. At the same time, its function is critical to the nano, so it’s not as if you can just cover it up. But AVA solves this problem by putting its own plastic switch on top of the Smooth E. Line it up with the nano’s switch and you can flip it on and off as if you were using the switch itself. It’s the best implementation I’ve seen, bar none. AVA also includes a lanyard, an earphone pouch, and a magnetic clip that you can use to secure your headphone cables.
Despite my raves, the Smooth E has a few shortcomings. AVA provides an adhesive, clear-film cover for the Click Wheel, but it’s the weak point in a case with protective features that are otherwise superb — I wish there was a bit more protection for the Click Wheel. (Granted, if the rest of the case didn’t offer such good protection, I might not be so picky.) Also, there’s the tiniest bit of play in how the nano fits inside the case — shake it and you’ll feel the nano rattle around a bit. Not a lot, but enough that some might find it disconcerting. Finally, the bottom opening for the dock-connector port and headphone jack are a tad too narrow for some third-party accessories; my aftermarket headphone’s plug just barely fit, whereas SendStation’s PockDocket FireWire was too thick.
That said, these minor flaws are heavily outweighed by the Smooth E’s benefits. The plastic hardshell is solid, your iPod’s screen is well protected but easily visible, and all of the controls are easily accessible. Those who rely on third-party peripherals might give pause to the tight quarters the Smooth E provides for dock and headphone connections, but anybody looking for serious protection without a loss of accessibility will find a lot to like in this case.