Review: Case Mate Signature Leather Case for iPod touch
Only three months after the iPod touch's release, there are lots of fabric and leather case options out there, so we're moving through another collection of nine options today to help you acquaint yourself with the great, good, and nothing special offerings. Four of the nine cases also come in highly similar versions for other iPod models, which we detail briefly alongside them. This review is for the Case Mate Signature Leather Case for iPod touch.
The best iPod cases are ones that are engineered to meet the specific cosmetic and protectivity needs of a given model, at a reasonable price, and without inconveniencing the user. Of today’s cases, two stood out from the pack for meeting these criteria, while the others ranged from pretty good to forgettable. Case Mate’s Signature Leather Case ($30) is the pick of the leather and fabric litter, thanks to its use of superior looking and feeling materials, while Uniea’s U-Suit ($30) falls a couple of steps behind but still does a good job.
Sold with or without an integrated, non-detachable belt clip, Case Mate’s iPod touch version of the Signature Leather Case is a simple leather-covered hard shell that lets your iPod touch slip in through its top hole, providing access to its bottom ports through a wide bottom hole. Using Case Mate’s typical Napa leather, the case covers all of touch’s back, much of its sides, and part of its front; a full-screen film protector is included for its face, as are an applicator card and a cleaning cloth. Black and red versions are available, though not in the different textures of Case Mate’s iPod nano and iPod classic versions of Signature Leather case, which are different enough from this one to be reviewed separately.
Uniea’s iPod touch version of U-Suit is also a leather-covered, play-through hard case, bundled with a clear film screen protector and a black plastic belt clip. It looks almost identical to the Case-Mate design—both cases expose touch’s bottom, entire top and top side corners, Home button, and proximity sensor—except in the quality of leather, which is okay but not great, and the U-Suit’s rear. That side features a not-so-brilliant change recently made by the company to its U-Suit for iPhone: a big notch has been taken out, so that you can remove the iPod from the case and mount it inside. In a word, the feature is all but useless: Uniea’s ratcheting belt clip locks into a position that’s just fine for widescreen video viewing, and if you mount touch vertically rather than horizontally in the rear hole, you can’t use its headphone port or Home button properly. The case is otherwise similar to the prior U-Suit in color options—white, black, purple, and red are available—and the rear belt clip nub unscrews to make the case’s back flatter if you prefer.
The standout features of Signature are its good looks, thinness, and convenience. Case Mate’s leather is only a small step under Vaja’s premium-grade material, with similar softness, shine, and texture, and the case’s slight padding makes it feel more than worthy of the asking price. Though it’s otherwise very similar to Uniea’s U-Suit, it feels almost as thin as we could imagine a good leather-covered hard shell getting, isn’t as rough on the fingers, and has nicer curves, particularly on the front.
Its back is also entirely protective, whereas Uniea’s is not, with an odd strip cut out for out-of-case iPod touch video viewing. U-Suit offers a few different video viewing options; Case Mate’s lack of such options is one of the case’s two only major functional omissions: Signature is also too wide to use in a Universal iPod Dock, and struggles with bottom-mounting accessories larger than Apple’s USB cable, including oversized headphone plugs. U-Suit is narrow enough to fit in a Universal Dock, but doesn’t mount fully on the Dock Connector; it has a better time with large headphone plugs, but just as hard a time with other larger-than-Apple-cable-sized accessories.
Other than its video stand advantage, Uniea also deserves a little thumbs up for its screen protector. Case Mate’s just covers the device’s touchscreen, but Uniea’s is a full face protector, with a hole only for the Home button. It’s a small difference, and doesn’t make up for U-Suit’s partially open back, but it’s appreciated.
Of the two cases, neither one suited our needs perfectly: we preferred Signature Leather Case’s looks, feel, and protection, but found U-Suit a better option for video viewing and oversized headphone use. Small tweaks to either design could make them A-grade cases, but as-is, they’re ahead of much of the leather pack on account of their solid protectiveness and reasonable pricing.