Review: Case Mate Signature Leather Case for 3rd Generation nano
We've probably received more leather iPod cases in the past two months than in the past two years, so in an effort to cover as many as possible, we're writing only brief reviews today for all but the most interesting ones. This is our review of Case Mate's Signature Leather Case for 3rd Generation nano ($25).
Leather case makers have a clear choice to make between two paths when beginning designs for new iPods: go with an old-fashioned, boring flap to cover the iPod’s face, or spend a little extra time tailoring a case—including protection—to the iPod’s special contours, screen, and Click Wheel. We always prefer cases that go the extra mile and provide a play-through design, and so Case Mate’s Signature Leather Cases for the new iPod nano and classic immediately caught our eye.
The basic design is unquestionably inspired by the work of Argentina’s premium leather case maker Vaja: a hard shell wrapped in nice-looking, slightly glossy leather in your choice of colors—and in some cases, textures, a new twist. Case Mate offers the Signature Leather Cases in smooth black, red, or pink colors, as well as a “perforated” black version; the iPod classic also has a smooth black integrated belt clip version as an additional alternative, while the iPod nano version is also sold with “dangle” or “clasp” lobster claw-style metal hooks as an option. You pick the attachable or pocketable version you prefer for the price, and don’t need to worry about a belt clip nub or hook if you don’t want it.
Case Mate’s smooth Napa leather versions are definitely nice, looking and feeling nicer than most of the lower-end case options we’ve tested, though not quite as deluxe as the best, typically more expensive leather cases out there. We preferred the look and feel of the perforated versions, which are unlike virtually all of their competitors in adding both nice texture and a slightly different look to the familiar case shape; without the perforation, the somewhat staid edges of the Signature Leather Cases tend to draw the eye.
Protection varies a little from version to version. The iPod classic takes, which are separately sized for 80GB and 160GB iPods but otherwise identical, are almost the same as the basic iPod nano version, offering coverage of the whole back, 85% of the sides, much of the metal front, and small parts of each model’s bottom. They both leave the top and top side corners totally exposed, as well as the Click Wheel; film screen protectors are included, as are a cleaning cloth, and applicator card, but contrary to what’s listed on Case Mate’s web site, no Click Wheel protector is included in the package. A thin strip of metal on the nano’s face is also exposed between the Wheel and the screen. Both sized cases leave a little metal exposed around the Click Wheel, as well, and while the nano versions invariably leave the bottom fully open, the classic one exposes only the Dock Connector, covering the rest.
The hook version of the iPod nano case differs a little. Instead of exposing the nano’s top and bottom, it exposes only the bottom, with the hook centered right below the Dock Connector. This design actually turns out to be even more highly accessory compatible than the other versions—even including Universal Dock and “virtually any bottom connecting device” compatibility, which the other nano version lacks in favor of requiring thinner Apple-like connectors—and more protective, but it’s very hard to get the nano out once it’s inside, enough that we deducted from that version’s rating for that reason alone. You’ll need to apply more than gentle pressure to the nano to get it out, and pressing too much might damage the nano’s screen; focus on the metal and Click Wheel, then press firmly but not in a way you’d imagine could damage the iPod inside. Fortunately, because the case works with accessories without iPod removal, you might not need to take the nano out.
Though all of the Signature Leather Cases for iPod nano and iPod classic would have done better in our ratings with a little extra protection and a hint of additional design finesse, we appreciate Case Mate’s reasonable iPod-specific pricing, very much like the look and feel of the leather for the prices, especially the black perforated versions, and also like the clip and hook options. These are very good play-through leather cases, particularly if you can benefit from the versions with attachments.