When thinking of the difference between cloth pocket diapers vs. cloth diaper covers, think of pocket diapers as basically being glorified covers. The extra layer hiding the inner layers on a pocket diaper makes it look better on the inside before and after it gets peed or pooped on than a cover and it can be pre-assembled. Both of these features are the reasons pocket diapers are hailed as husband and babysitter friendly.
A cloth diaper cover is basically a leak resistant cover that holds a prefold (a prefold is like the cloth diaper your grandmother used) in place. You just set a prefold in them and they attach to your baby much like a disposable diaper would.
A cloth pocket diaper is similar but, instead of the prefold sitting on top of the cover, there is an included pocket that a prefold or fitted insert can be stuffed into.
Let's take a look at the main differences of cloth pocket diapers vs. cloth diaper covers.
People generally argue that diaper covers are the no-fuss way to go, but it's really just whatever you're used to. They will say this because with covers it is faster to assemble the diaper since you are simply placing a prefold onto the cover. A little creative folding can be done to make its shape match the cover, but that is up to you. With the pocket diapers, the prefold or insert must be stuffed into the pocket. The truth is, once you get used to it, either way is no problem.
Pocket diapers have to be machine washed after each use, but it is OK to reuse them in an emergency as long as it was just pee. Covers can be used and reused a handful of times before machine washing, again as long as it was just pee. For the poopy diaper, it's one and done with either type.
Generally, covers are a little less expensive than pocket diapers, and you can get along with far fewer of them while still making it through the day which means the up front cost to buy a few days' worth will also be lower. They will also last longer since they don't need machine washing as often, thus saving them that extra wear and tear. In terms of cost, diaper covers are a better value.
You can put about anything in a pocket diaper like a standard prefold cloth diaper or a microfiber insert. Prefolds, contour diapers, or fitted diapers - but not microfiber inserts - work well with covers. Microfiber inserts are not meant to come into contact with poop directly. As far as absorbancy goes, however, they all act basically the same so this is not a real differentiator.
When you baby poops in a cover, you will definitely have a dirty prefold but you almost always gets on the cover as well. This means you will likely have two things to clean. With pocket diapers the cleaning will be a bit easier because you only need to get the poop off of the pocket diaper itself, not the prefold or insert that are inside the pocket.
Having used both, I think most people would be happy either way.
If you would prefer to save a few bucks and do laundry less often, go with the cloth diaper covers">diaper covers. If you would prefer a more foolproof way of assembly and a little less effort cleaning, go with the pocket diapers">pocket diapers.