I’ve long been a fan of Agent 18’s clear-plastic “Shield” cases, which offer excellent protection without adding a lot of bulk to your iPod. And I gave the company’s Video Shield Kit, for the fifth-generation iPod (with video), our highest rating thanks to an excellent selection of included accessories. Agent 18 has taken a similar modular approach with the new NanoShock Kit, and although it’s not quite as compelling as the Video Shield Kit, it’s still a good all-around package.
Like Agent 18’s earlier mini shock case, the NanoShock’s Cover — the actual case part of the kit, also available separately for $20 — uses a two-piece design, this time made of clear polycarbonate. The front piece clips on securely to the sides of your nano and protects your nano’s face and most of its left and right sides; the screen is protected while the Click Wheel remains accessible (and, therefore, unprotected). The back piece also clips on to the sides of your nano — the wraparound clips of the front and back pieces mesh perfectly — and completely protects the player’s back. The top and bottom edges of the nano are exposed to provide access to the dock-connector port, headphone jack, and hold switch. (Unfortunately, you can’t use bottom-mount accessories, such as third-party microphones, with the Cover attached, as the front of the Cover has a small “lip” that extends slightly over the bottom of the nano to prevent the case from sliding off.)
The Cover alone provides good overall protection, and fits securely enough that even after dropping my Cover-clad nano from several feet — multiple times — neither piece came off. But for added protection, the Kit includes two dark-gray, rubber “caps,” one for the top of the case and one for the bottom. Each cap slides over and end of the case and adds a good amount of additional shock protection if you ever drop your iPod. The top cap includes an opening for your iPod’s hold switch, while the bottom protects the dock-connector port but still allows you to connect headphones. The caps don’t fit quite as tightly as the main Cover pieces — one or the other sometimes came off when pulling my nano out of my pocket if the side of the cap got caught on the edge of the pocket — but they stay on well enough that they won’t pop off if you drop your iPod.
The NanoShock Kit also includes three other handy accessories that make the case a very good value. Two of them — a belt clip and an armband attachment — take advantage of the Cover’s modular design: you just remove the back piece of the Cover and snap on the belt clip or armband piece in its place. Each is made of black plastic instead of clear, but each uses an identical wraparound design that meshes perfectly with the front piece of the Cover — when using either attachment, your iPod is protected exactly the same as if you were using the back cover; you can even use the rubber caps with the belt clip or armband attachment.
The clip attachment provides a basic, plastic belt clip that doesn’t rotate or expand, but works fine for clipping your nano onto your belt or waistband. The armband attachment includes a thick, non-removable neoprene armband that secures via Velcro strips; it fits arms 9 to 15 inches in circumference fairly comfortably.
The final accessory included with the NanoShock Kit matches one that made the VideoShield Kit one of our favorite cases for full-size iPods: a Universal dock adapter specifically designed to accommodate a NanoShock-Cover-clad iPod nano. This solves the dilemma presented by protective iPod cases which prevent your iPod from working with dock-cradle accessories. As long as those accessories use Apple’s Universal dock design, you can use the included dock adapter instead of your nano’s own and you won’t have to remove your nano from the NanoShock; the included adapter works even with the belt clip or armband attachments.
At a price — $30 — at which many vendors are selling basic iPod nano cases, the NanoShock Kit gives you a well-made, low-profile case; optional shock-protection caps; a belt clip; an exercise armband; and a unique, custom-fit Universal dock adapter. You won’t find many iPod cases with such a compelling combination of quality and value.–Dan Frakes