Booq Venom mini Case
Pros: A PDA-style Nappa leather case with generally good attention to fit and finish and workmanship issues, good protection of the iPod mini’s body, and nice use of suede for the interior. Good Dock Connector hole at bottom for easy computer connections. Reasonably priced.
Cons: Belt clip is non-detachable, iPod mini’s corners and top are exposed, me-too PDA-style design.
Casemaker Booq has just released two sets of cases for iPods: Venom45 for fourth-generation iPods and iPod photos ($44.95), and Venom mini ($29.95) for iPod minis. Of the two cases, Venom mini is the better value: it’s essentially identical to the full-sized iPod version, except smaller, and with three minor differences noted in the modestly modified version of the Venom45 review below.
The difference between high-quality and low-quality iPod cases is generally apparent pretty quickly: fit and finish, materials, and “feel in the hand” tend to be a lot better on the higher-quality cases. Venom mini isn’t anything revolutionary from a design standpoint - it’s one of the increasingly common “upside-down PDA-style” case designs, which means that there’s a hard-reinforced piece of leather that wraps around the iPod mini’s front and back, and a tailored sleeve inside that holds the mini in place upside-down. You’re supposed to wear the case with its suede, non-detachable belt clip, and open its protective “flap” whenever you want to access your mini’s screen and controls. Together, the flap and belt clip add a fair bit of thickness to the svelte mini, and unlike many cases, you can’t slim it down by removing the clip.
Additionally unlike typical PDA-style cases, when you open Venom mini’s snap - a thin strip of leather with an orange B logo that wraps around the case’s top right side, as opposed to the left of the Venom45 - the iPod mini hangs down such that its screen can be read and body cradles with your hand. A standard PDA case keeps your iPod on your belt when it’s opened, which has the virtue of not tugging on your headphone cord like Venom mini, but the disadvantage of being much harder to see and use.
We’ve said before that PDA-ish cases are a tired breed, and aside from its use of a quality Nappa leather exterior and complementing suede interior, Venom mini is highly similar to other cases we’ve seen. While thick and protective of most of the iPod’s body (sides, bottom, front and back), it leaves the iPod’s four corners exposed on the sides when closed, along with around 80% of its top surface because its flap opens from the bottom rather than the top. We’ve reviewed a number of more protective PDA-style cases that have engineered around these issues, and found the Venom minis a bit of a throwback in this regard.
However, if you’re thinking of buying one of the cases, you’re likely doing so for the name and the workmanship. In these regards, Booq doesn’t disappoint. Against both the black and beige samples we received, the company’s small orange logo is a touch of class, and the overall look of each case’s suede interior is really quite impressive. The beige case has an iPod sheathe made from beige suede and an interior made from blue suede; the black case uses all black components. Both have the tangible traits of class we’d expect from products priced at this level, most notably a substantialness that leaves your iPod feeling well-protected wherever it’s covered.
It’s not covered everywhere. In addition to the exposed parts we noted, there’s also an adequately sized hole in the case’s leather bottom for Dock Connector cables, which we liked, although it was interestingly smaller than the hole in the Venom45. Inside, there are attractively cut holes inside for the iPod’s screen and Click Wheel - no internal screen or Click Wheel protector is included, or especially needed. All of the holes are precision stitched, and look every bit as professional as you’d hope for the price. Unlike the Venom45 case, there was no issue in properly aligning the Click Wheel or screen of an iPod mini with the Venom mini’s holes in either case. Proper fit is easier for case makers to check because of the iPod mini’s one-size-fits-all body design, which also removes the need for Booq to include the suede thickness spacers that came with the Venom45. Any iPod mini slips in and fits without any additional work on your part.
Overall, the Venom mini case stands out from the pack a bit more than the Venom45 because of its pricing - if you like PDA-style designs, it’s hard to find a Nappa and suede case for the iPod mini that feels this professional for the dollar, though there are a few that are more protective. We’re not huge fans of PDA cases given the great variety of other options available for iPods today, but based on the quality of the Venom mini’s materials and workmanship, we’re hoping that Booq will consider some other designs in the future.