For our debut “gear” review, we’ve chose to take a look at incase’s Topo Gaming Cover for the 2nd Gen iPod Touch. It is a lightweight, silicone case with a couple of special raised ergonomic grips on the back, which are intended to enhance the gaming experience. Made from a single-piece molded rubber with a grooved pattern on the back that is reminiscent of a topological map, the case covers both the power and volume buttons, but has a large cutout at the bottom for the 30-pin connector and headphone jack. The case was really easy to put on the device and once on, it fits like a glove and stays put.

The first thing I noticed about this case was the insane amount of grippage (if that’s a word) that the Topo Gaming Cover offers. With this case on your device, it’s going nowhere. This is a particularly nice feature to have, especially if you are going to be letting a child play with the device. My 3-year old daughter Emily helps me review apps aimed at toddlers, so she uses the iPod quite a bit. My previous case was a glossy, hard Speck Candyshell case and despite its tough shell protection, I always felt like I needed to keep a close eye on her so she didn’t drop the iPod. On the other hand, even though the Topo Gaming Cover is softer cover, I actually feel like I can leave her alone with the iPod since I know its not going to go flying.

Onto the main selling point, the “gaming” grips. Personally I was hoping the “bumps” would be even thicker/bigger than they are, perhaps as much as twice the current size (want more of a c-cup than an a-cup ;-)). The naked iPod Touch is much too thin for my tastes, especially when gaming, I really want something bulkier that I can get a good handle on, but then again, I do have fairly large hands. I completely understand why incase made the grips on the smaller end, As they are, they don’t add too much bulk to the case, still keeping your iPod Touch rather thin. The grips are actually the perfect size for people with smaller hands, like my daughter, giving her a much more solid hold on the device.

The case’s rubber material is soft and very comfortable to hold especially during long gaming sessions. The edges that wrap around to the front of the device mean that you can safely lay your iPod Touch face down on any surface. For those of you who carry your iPod in your pocket, you can expect a bit more resistance when pulling it in and out. Like any rubber iPod case, over time this case does collect a fair amount of lint, leaving your iPod Touch feeling a bit furry. Although, this is not a big issue since a quick cleaning with a damp cloth or paper towel and the case feels as good as new.

The Topo Gaming Cover is made for the 2nd Gen iPod Touch, but I suspect it would also fit the 3rd Gen as well. It comes in a variety of colors including black, royal blue, red, acid green, magenta and royal purple (from the Apple Store), and it retails for $29.95. In addition to the Topo Gaming Cover, incase also makes a similarly designed model, the Orb Gaming Cover, which has a slightly different pattern and different color options.

Unfortunately the Topo Gaming Cover is not all unicorns and rainbows, I did have a few issues with the design. First, generally the edges which wrap over to the front side of the case (to keep it on) do a nice job of staying down flat, but near the corners they have started to raise up just a tiny bit, creating a place for dust to collect. These flaps will also get in the way when playing any game or app that requires you to do something on the very outside edge of the screen. For instance, it especially hinders your ability to select the first letter of the first sentence on the screen. This is really my main frustration with an otherwise great case. The other issue I had is with the thin piece of rubber on the front/bottom of the screen, just above the 30-pin connector port. A common issue with MOST iPod Touch cases, this seems like it could be very prone to breakage or stretching. So far it has held up perfectly, but I’ve been taking conscious steps to avoid damage. If you are pulling your iPod Touch from your pocket and it’s in there top-down, you may accidentally start pulling at this piece while trying to remove your devce from your pocket. To eliminate this situation, I have started putting my iPod Touch into my pocket bottom-end first, this way I will always be pulling it out by the top.

In Conclusion

So what’s the verdict…gimmick or genius? Well, I think it falls somewhere in the middle. While the incase’s gaming grips wont make your iPod Touch feel like a XBOX 360 controller, they are quite comfortable. At a price tag of $29.95 MSRP, this is not a cheap case. In fact when compared to the plethora of sub $5 silicone cases available all over the web, it seems downright expensive. On the other hand, you are receiving a quality product for the money, even after two months of very heavy daily use, the case still looks brand new. Which is something I can’t say that about the last “budget” silicone case I bought. If you are looking for a comfortable and grippy silicone case that’s just a little bit different, this may be the right case for you. It is available for $29.95 directly from incase, the apple store and many local retailers. If bargain hunting, you can occasionally see them sold for a little less at Amazon and ebay.