Review: Miniot iWood 3G with Dock
Dating back to the 2005 release of the original iWood nano and similar iWood 5g, we've been impressed by the concept and execution behind Miniot's iWood products. Hand-sculpted, the iWood cases were traditionally book-style flip-open wooden boxes that all but completely covered iPods when closed, providing complete screen and control access when open.
iWood 3G (€80, shown here in padouk and walnut) is the most intriguing version yet from this Netherlands-based company. Unlike the iWood touch, which completely obscured the device’s touchscreen when closed, iWood 3G is a two-piece design that slides top and bottom pieces together, together protecting virtually all of the iPhone 3G’s body, including all but the thin front surface of its chrome bezel. There are even integrated covers for the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons—a feature we’ve seen in some plastic cases—with holes left for the face, headphone and Dock Connector ports, microphone, speakers, and camera.
What’s missing? Most conspicuously, screen protection. Last year, Miniot announced the original iWood for iPhone with a polycarbonate screen protector, but nothing like that is found in the present version; you have to provide screen coverage on your own. It’s an unfortunate omission, given the price of the case and the very low cost of tossing in a screen shield—its absence makes iWood 3G the only Miniot case we’ve tested to leave nearly half of its device exposed.
iWood 3G is, like its predecessors, something of a mixed bag as a practical case. Earlier iWood cases were unable to work in Universal Docks and with some accessories due to their physical sizes and port cutouts. This version provides just enough room to connect Apple’s official cables, but not Universal Docks or oversized plugs. You can slide the bottom piece of the case off for greater Dock Connector compatibility, but the headphone port is only for smaller plugs; Miniot would do well to offer users their choice of accessory hole sizes. On the other hand, holes for the camera, ringer switch, and speakerphone features work without any issues.
The single biggest factor in iWood 3G’s favor is its physical beauty. Miniot has done a truly great job of sculpting an attractive wooden shell to cover the iPhone 3G, making each case from a single piece of wood so that the grain lines match when the two pieces are put together. Padding on the inside and a smart locking mechanism make the case feel very secure on the iPhone’s body, and over the course of 10 days of pocketing and normal use, the cases stood up well—only the walnut one showed a small rear scratch. That having been said, one of iLounge’s editors in Canada has been using an iWood 3G for more than a month, and managed to modestly damage his by dropping it on the ground; due to the material, this isn’t a case for users with slippery fingers.
Another interesting detail on iWood 3G is its potential for customization. Miniot makes it available in six different woods, specifically maple, cherry, oak, mahogany, padouk and walnut, including a one-letter monogram with the purchase. You can also add a back-of-case message or logo-styled engraving for separate charges. Our samples arrived with nicely etched iLounge logos on their backs, and Miniot has consistently done a very good job with its customization. The company also offers a matching wooden “Dock” for an additional €20, with the ability to hold your USB Dock Connector charging cable and pass through speaker audio, though it obscures the bottom microphone. You can turn the iPhone 3G on its side in the Dock to use it as a viewing stand, though you’ll need to pull the cable to continue charging in this orientation.
All in all, iWood 3G represents a mostly smart transition from past iWood cases into a new and improved form: getting rid of the screen-obscuring wood from past cases is exactly what the touchscreen iPhone and recent iPod devices need, however, a film protector should certainly be included as a replacement for the €80 asking price, and accessory compatibility will remain somewhat of an issue for many users. These are the only reasons iWood 3G falls short of our high recommendation; if you’re looking for an eye-catching wooden case, this may be only real option out there, but it’s a strong one. As long as you’re willing to live with its limitations, you’ll be very impressed by iWood 3G’s design and overall quality of manufacture. Our rating for the Miniot Dock would be a little lower based on its limited utility.