Pros: Resilient and attractive ballistic nylon exterior combined with a clear vinyl interior; protective and fashionable, available in seven colors. Uses Marware’s excellent belt clips, superb fit and finish.
Cons: Pricey for a fabric case.
Based purely on build quality of their finished products, there’s no question in our minds that Marware is and has been one of the top producers of iPod cases. While we could go into great detail praising the company for fit and finish details - those little things like proper stitching, tight manufacturing tolerances, and smart, professional use of attractive parts - we’ll simply say that when the company wants to make a high-quality product, it doesn’t skimp on the little things.
The company has just introduced a new PDA-style case for the iPod mini, featuring sealable front flaps and detachable belt clips. TrailVue ($29.95) is one of the coolest iPod mini fabric cases we’ve seen, even though it’s in the PDA front-flap style we typically don’t like so much. Back in July, we reviewed and really liked Gravis’s G-Pod, a similar flip-front iPod case made from resilient ballistic nylon, and available only in a black camouflage color. While the G-Pod was limited in general appeal by its choice of patterns, TrailVue has no such issue. Marware’s designed an attractive, single-striped ballistic nylon and transparent plastic case that’s available in seven different colors - some eye-catching, others less so - and even more protective than the G-Pod.
TrailVue’s concept is simple. There’s one piece of heavy reinforced ballistic nylon that folds around the front and back of the iPod mini, creating a hard back and a front flap (with small Marware logo) for the case. The inside back flap has a heavy clear vinyl iPod mini holder that protects everything but its top, Click Wheel, and Dock Connector port, each of which is covered when the front nylon flap is closed. A substantial nylon latch at the bottom of the flap provides the Dock Connector coverage and uses Velcro to hold the flap shut on the case’s back. Like most Marware cases, TrailVue includes a detachable and high-quality belt clip on its back.
It’s easy to slide the iPod mini into its vinyl holder, and similarly easy to use the mini once inside. When the case is closed, it provides very close to maximum protection for an iPod mini, and the vinyl proves a nice way to show off your mini’s color through TrailVue’s sides without exposing the iPod to the elements. We also like the rubber headphone port spacer Marware included in the case’s top flap to permit use of the mini while inside. You won’t be able to use oversized headphone jacks with your mini while in TrailVue given the design, but since the case is intended for use outdoors, we’d hazard a guess that not many people with iPod minis will be using the sort of headphones (read: expensive ones) with TrailVue that might pose a problem.
Having used a number of ballistic nylon cases for other portable electronics in the past, we can only say that the material remains one of our favorites under rugged conditions. TrailVue is designed for precisely that sort of activity - by comparison with Marware’s MetroVue - and we’d call it superb overall for such situations. We really liked the stitching of its parts, especially its single stripe, which integrates very well visually with the rest of the case despite the fact that they’re separate pieces of fabric.
Our one and only issue is its price. At $29.95, it’s a fair bit pricier than the highly similar G-Pod ($15), though the comparison between Gravis’ cheaper full-sized iPod case and Marware’s iPod mini case isn’t entirely perfect. Fabric cases are really pushing the edge of acceptability at a $30 price point given the versatility of other options out there, but we liked TrailVue enough to give it our “highly recommended” grade anyway - with that slight qualification.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.