Until recently I used to own a third generation 15 GB iPod. The iPod was nice, but with the case that came with the unit, it was too large for my tastes and I could not view the screen or access the buttons when the unit was inside. I could have bought a new case, but I eventually made the decision to buy the 6 GB mini when it came out, since I didn't really need all that storage space. Four GB was enough for me in terms of music, since with my encoding rates of 192-256 kbps, I can fit over 500 songs into 4 GB. However, I need about 2 GB for data backup, so the existing 4 GB iPod mini was a little anemic for my purposes. A 6 GB unit would be perfect. Knowing the 6 GB 1" hard drives would be out soon, at the end of 2004 I sold my 15 GB iPod and waited for the 6 GB iPod mini. It was finally released in late February.
Two of the best features about the iPod mini are its clip-on belt clip (included) and its clip-on arm band (optional accessory). No case is required at all to strap the unit onto your belt or arm. However, this leaves the front of the iPod mini exposed to the elements. Fortunately, there are several cases now available that offer compatibility with Apple's belt clip and armband, such as the Agent 18 mini shield (CAD$25, US$20) and mini shock (CAD$35, US$25). These hard cases protect the iPod mini's screen and finish, yet still leave the click wheel accessible. I wasn't sure which of the two to get, so I ordered both.
The first to arrive was the mini shock. It's a nice looking case composed of a two-piece white case with a transparent front window. It also has rubberized portions on the top and bottom and inside to help protect the mini from, as you guessed it, shock. However, because of the extra protection, the case itself adds a fair amount of bulk to the iPod mini, making it nearly as large as a regular iPod. Since overall size was an issue for me, back it went. However, it would be an excellent case for other people.
The second to arrive was the mini shield. This case is simply a transparent... well... shield, which is composed of two pieces of plastic approximately 2 mm thick. The back portion can be removed when the iPod mini is to be used with the belt clip or arm band.
The above picture is the naked back of my iPod mini. The Agent 18 mini shield has not yet been attached.
This is the back of the iPod mini with the mini shield attached. (Apple's white belt clip is sitting beside it.) As you can see, the engraving* is still quite visible with the back shield installed.
While most of the case has a frosted appearance, the window over the iPod mini's screen is completely clear. There is also a cut-out for the click wheel. The white belt clip is again there for comparison, this time propping up the iPod mini, demonstrating the delineation between the front and back shields. You can also easily see why the belt clip is compatible with the front shield (once the back shield is removed).
One key point about the shield is that it is about the same thickness on the sides as the belt clip. This means there is no increase in the width of the unit beyond what the belt clip adds. However, there is a slight lip at the top and bottom of the case. You can see the top lip in the middle opposite the belt clip if you look closely at the picture. These plastic lips are only a little over 1 mm in height, and do leave most of the top and bottom open for easy access for other iPod mini accessories. However, the lips would pose problems for accessories such as the Griffin iTrip mini, so the mini shield case would have to be removed to fit the iTrip mini on the iPod mini properly. The same would be true for use of the iPod mini dock. I do not use either the iTrip mini or the dock, but for those who do, fortunately the front shield can be relatively easily removed, even though it provides a nice solid and snug fit when installed.
As you can see from this picture, the belt clip fits perfectly with the front shield attached. Note the white edges of the belt clip on either side of the iPod mini. (The removed back shield is at the top left.)
By the way, at the top right of this picture is my Firewire Brando Workshop Retractable SyncCharger Cable (US$17). The iPod mini now only comes with a USB 2 cable, and my Macs do not support USB 2. I got my Brando Workshop cable from the US, but in Canada it is available from large retailers under the Cicero brand (CAD$10). The oversized clickwheel in this picture and the iPod mini logo in the first picture are from my iPod mini T-shirt. :)
Conclusion: The Agent 18 mini shield is an excellent inexpensive case that is compatible with Apple's clip-on accessories.
Compatible with Apple belt-clip and Apple armband
Does not increase size of iPod mini significantly
Case has to be removed to before using the iPod mini with a dock and some other accessories.
Overall rating: 4.5 / 5
* - In case you're wondering, the engraving is part of a famous (albeit somewhat odd) medical quote:
"Failure to examine the throat is a glaring sin of omission, especially in children. One finger in the throat and one in the rectum makes a good diagnostician." - Sir William Osler