OtterBox iPod nano case

"I got a lotta time for otters," someone sang recently. What a coincidence that I happen to be reviewing the OtterBox case for the iPod nano.

The nano measures 3.5 by 1.5 by 0.25 inches. When placed it in the OtterBox, it takes on new dimensions. To be precise: 5 by 2.25 by 0.6 inches. That isn't as large as a video iPod, but it does deprive the little nano of its miniaturized charm. Now why would you want to do such a thing?

Well, says the manufacturer, because the OtterBox is waterproof, dust-proof, dirt-proof, sand-proof, and drop-proof. That's a lot of proof. In search of confirmation, I slipped my black nano onto the minijack built into the case, closed the case, and flipped the catch, which took some exertion because the plastic case is built to an extremely tight tolerance. I started the iPod on some Haydn string quartets and then:

  • Dropped it on a carpeted floor in my office. The nano kept playing.
  • Dropped it on an oak parquet floor in my vestibule. The nano kept playing.
  • Dropped it on a ceramic tile floor in the hallway of my apartment building. It bounced merrily and smacked the tiles a couple of times before coming to rest. The nano kept playing.
  • Just to be sure, I also smacked it against a wooden bookshelf a couple of times. The nano kept playing.

    All these shock tests were from the height of my navel. According to the tape measure, my navel is 40 inches off the ground, making me unfit for professional-level basketball.

    Please note that the nano uses solid-state memory, not a hard drive. Had I been using a hard-drive-based player I might not have been so bold. The nano's survival was a credit both to its durability and to that of the OtterBox.

    Sand-proof testing would have required a trip to the beach. In the dead of a northeastern winter, this seemed beyond the call of duty. To check on the dust- and dirt-proofing, I dragged the thing around my livingroom rug by the headphone cord. It was a Friday and I hadn't vaccuumed for six days. This seemed a little anticlimactic compared to the drop tests but seemed to confirm the dominant trend. The nano kept playing.

    According to the OtterBox people, the product enables you to take your iPod swimming when combined with water-proof headphones. My headphone drawer compares favorably to that of any audiophile, but somehow the whole aquatic-listening thing has eluded me. I settled for dunking the case in the bathroom sink for 10 seconds (not completely, however, since the non-water-proof headphones left the jack vulnerable). This may not have been the definitive water-proofing test, but it was the best I could do. The nano kept playing.

    The OtterBox Website warns: "OtterBox for iPod cases are NOT adapted to withstand pressures experienced by scuba diving." The company does not say anything about putting the case in a vise, running over it with a car, or subjecting it to withering sarcasm.

    At this point, I decided to stop tempting fate. Our lawyers would probably like me to add that nothing said heretofore, herein, or hereinafter states, avers, or implies that you should do these things to your nano, any other iPod, any other player, or indeed anything at all, with or without an OtterBox, or that we will pay for a new one if you do, under the laws of the United States, Canada, Lichtenstein, and the Seadonia Empire.

    One thing I rather liked about the case was that the membrane covering the click wheel had a coarser matte finish than the click wheel itself. That enabled my fingertip to slide over it more easily without sticking. It was actually easier to surf the nano with the player encased than with the player nude.

    Seriously, if you're in the habit of literally tossing your oh-so-scratchable iPod nano into a briefcase, purse, or carry-on, where it rubs and bumps against numerous hard objects, the OtterBox might be a fine investment.

    OtterBox cases are available for most iPods including the video ($50), photo ($30), 20GB ($30), mini ($30), and shuffle ($20). The company also makes cases for laptops, tablet PCs, PDAs and, oddly enough, cigars.

    Price: $40 (nano case).

    Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater. For links to the latest edition, visit

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