Model: Trail Vue for iPod video
Compatible: iPod 5G
Marware Trail Vue for iPod with video
Pros: A rugged, attractive iPod 5G case with five uniquely interchangeable colored bungee cords that nicely accent the otherwise black and gray body. Fits 30GB and 60GB iPods properly, includes very nice detachable Krusell Multidapt belt clip. Very protective.
Cons: PDA-style flip-closed design isn’t great for frequent users of iPod’s photo, video, or other screen features. While reasonable, pricing isn’t aggressive. Slight manufacturing imperfections detract a little from otherwise great design.
Marware has been releasing rugged nylon PDA-style TrailVue cases for a couple of years now, and this year’s model for fifth-geneation iPods - Trail Vue for iPod with video ($35, now with a space in the name) - looks even more action-ready than before. It’s sold in a single size that properly resizes with elastic sides to fit 30GB and 60GB iPods. Rather than offering multiple body colors, Marware instead uses black and gray fabrics for the case, then includes five interchangeable, colorful bungee cords that are used one at a time as accent pieces. Replacement of the bungee cords is easy: you tie a knot at a cord’s end, pass it through holes on the case, and tie another knot at the other end to lock it in place. If you want, you can wrap your headphone cords through the front of the bungees, but they’re mostly appealing for decorative reasons. There’s also a piece of protective iPod front film included with each case if you want to use it, though it’s not really necessary given the case’s protective front lid.
We generally have very good feelings about Trail Vue’s external and internal build quality - as with all of Marware’s cases, this one is nicely stitched, but it’s also one of the more intricate designs we’ve seen, making manufacturing more of a challenge. In addition to the bungie cords, there are four obviously different materials on the case’s outside - black ballistic nylon and mesh, mixed with gray elastic and soft neoprene - all tightly and attractively sewn together. Inside the case is a mix of ballistic nylon and soft clear plastic, which together hold your iPod in a sleeve. While 30GB and 60GB iPods fit inside without an issue, the only surprises here were in finish: there were some small blemishes on the inside and outside fabric, one of which you can see as a white dot on the right side of the case in the photo below, as well as the clear plastic iPod screen cover, which isn’t quite as nice as some of the best we’ve seen. These are comparatively trivial imperfections, but they’re there.
As a PDA-style case, Trail Vue does about as well as it can in the ease of use category. You still have to open its front flap to have access to the iPod’s screen and controls - the only two points lost from our maximum of 10 here - but the headphone port, despite being small, actually resizes easily to fit even oversized headphones, and you can access both the iPod’s Hold switch and Dock Connector port by opening up the flap. The Dock Connector is covered by a gray and black Velcro bottom latch, which we liked.
We continue to be impressed with Marware’s innovative ideas - it’s becoming harder to find a “me-too” design from the company, which we like a lot. The most obvious innovation this Trail Vue brings to iPod case design is its collection of bungie cords: you get five in the package, and it’s easy to tie and untie them, adding a nice splash of color to an otherwise neutral black and gray rugged package. Though it’s a less prominent form of customization than the old TrailVues offered - namely, going out and getting a case that’s in the exact colors you wanted - this one still works well, and its varied other materials preserve the uniquely rugged, outdoorsy appeal of past cases, for a collected total of three innovation points. The case also scores a fourth point for its included Krusell Multidapt belt clip, which is not only spring-loaded, thin, and resilient - all great things - but also interchangeable with other Krusell clips, if you want to use them.
Trail Vue scores very well on protectiveness, too. With the exception of the bottom corners of your iPod - and even then, only small slivers are exposed - it covers everything else, from front to back, top to bottom, and sides. Nothing more is left open to scratching than absolutely necessary. As a soft case, it rates only one of our two points for strength of coverage, but slight padding on its front and back make it one of the better soft cases we’ve seen in protectiveness, for sure.
At $35, Trail Vue is basically at the maximum price level we consider fair for a full-sized iPod case - it’s not aggressively priced, but people will likely be willing to pay the cost to get something that looks and feels this good. In our view, it’s worthy of our maximum two points of reviewer’s tilt here because it’s legitimately attractive, unique, and generally very well-made - a case we’d use ourselves if we were fans of the PDA-style design.
Overall, Trail Vue for the fifth-generation iPod is a solid accessory - we feel pretty confident that people looking for this type of case will most likely be thrilled by what Marware has conjured up this year. That said, a total of two points basically separated this case from a high recommendation, which we’d attribute either to the slight manufacturing imperfections, the lack of aggressive pricing, or the less-than-optimal-for-5G flip-open design. We continue to look forward to seeing how Marware will evolve and improve this design in the future.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.