Review: Tunewear Ambassador and TuneWallet Nappa Leather Cases for 5G iPod
Pros: Nappa leather cases available in three color combinations, well made and attractively designed. Ambassador case’s excellent carabiner clip and solid belt clip are both detachable options, and its rear see-through engraving window is a unique feature; Wallet’s four card or cash compartments make it a viable alternative to a real wallet for some users.
Cons: Included TuneFilm protectors are unimpressive replacements for the integrated screen and Wheel protectors found in earlier nano versions of these cases, detracting from looks of iPods inside in a way not befitting their price tags. Both cases expose portions of iPod’s top and bottom unnecessarily.
Shortly after the release of iPod nano, Japan’s Tunewear released nice but expensive nappa leather cases called Prie Ambassador and TuneWallet, the former a multifunction case with two types of clips, and the latter a folding, wallet-style design with a two-pocket compartment for cash or credit cards. Now the company has released Prie Ambassador and TuneWallet 5G, larger versions of these nano cases with several small changes for fifth-generation iPods. Each case resizes properly to fit both 30GB and 60GB fifth-generation iPods.
Prie Ambassador ($50) is a multifunction leather case designed to be worn on a belt or bag. It covers the majority of your fifth-generation iPod’s back, sides, top, and bottom in precision-stiched nappa leather, with holes cut out for the iPod’s screen, Click Wheel, Hold switch, headphone port, and Dock Connector port. There’s also a clear plastic window on the case’s back to show off any engraving on your iPod - a distinctive feature of these cases - and a separate included set of TuneFilm clear protectors that cover your iPod’s face and part of its back. You can choose from three colors of Ambassador: white stitching and lining on a black exterior, red piping and stitching on a black exterior, or white stitching and lining on a white exterior. Our review unit was the white stitched black version.
First, the good: as with the iPod nano version, the company’s leather and stitching are both solid, and the interior lining of the case is soft and suede-like - no complaints here. Ambassador also has one of the best carabiner-style hooks we’ve ever seen on an iPod case, a thick, durable metal piece that’s easy to attach and detach from the leather body. We also continue to like the company’s detachable rear belt clip, which is low profile, pretty strong, and uses a smart prong-like mechanism to attach and detach from the case. The only negative aspect of the belt clip’s design is orientation-related: it mounts your iPod horizontally rather than vertically, less than ideal for the video-equipped iPod, but the carabiner makes up for this. It holds the iPod upside down, but a swiveling mechanism in the hook lets you easily turn the iPod upright while it’s dangling. With Ambassador, you have the choice.
The bad part of Ambassador is primarily traceable to TuneFilm protectors, which are third-rate by comparison with the other clear protectors we’ve tested. Our photo above shows the iPod with TuneFilm on - ignore the screen bubbles, which can be worked out if you have a perfectly clean iPod and spend the time kneading them manually; the real issue is with their edges. Each of the cuts to TuneFilm’s edges (exterior and interior) are ragged, making air bubbles difficult to remove at each ragged point. When the iPod’s inside the case, you won’t notice this at all for the screen, but the Click Wheel protector is another story. It looks “wet” at all times, especially because it uses a separate cut-out guard for the center Action button. A token cover for the iPod’s rear (shown at the bottom of the TuneWallet 5G review below) is similarly ragged, and also a little smaller than the one Power Support includes with its Crystal Film, not providing great protection. Ironically, Ambassador would have been better off just keeping the integrated screen and Click Wheel protectors found in the iPod nano version - they looked a lot better than these.
As noted above, Ambassador exposes the 5G’s Dock Connector port, Hold switch, and headphone port, the latter in our view the only necessary hole of the bunch. Given that the case has a snap-closed bottom that is easy to pop open, there was really no need to leave a hole for the Dock Connector - Tunewear didn’t do this on the iPod nano version, and we liked that - but while we continue to prefer designs with closed Hold switches, some may like this aspect of the design.
When we reviewed Ambassador for iPod nano, we thought that it was a great case design in virtually every way save price. The larger Ambassador for the 5G iPod is a better value, but because of the so-so TuneFilm and lack of integrated protection for the screen, Click Wheel, and Dock Protector, it’s not as good of a case, either. Don’t let the TuneFilm pictures scare you away from the otherwise good case design: Ambassador is still a recommendable case overall, but we wish it had better protection, and would expect it for the price.
Like Ambassador, the Prie TuneWallet 5G ($40) design is largely similar to the iPod nano version: your 5G is mounted on the left side of a horizontal wallet, with credit card compartments on the right side. There are still three color options: white accents on white leather, red on black leather, and white on black leather. This time, there are a total of four compartments - three card sleeves layered on top of each other, and one cash pocket underneath all of them. The case’s interior is all leather, and the holes are essentially the same as Ambassador’s: screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector, Hold switch and headphone port. When closed, TuneWallet covers all but the iPod’s top and bottom, but the same TuneFilm from above is included as an option for those who want to use it.
We generally liked TuneWallet’s look and feel: both the all-white and black-and-red versions we received looked sharp, with the same precision stitching and good leather quality we’ve come to expect from Tunewear. On the black and red version, the red accents are small and attractive, lining the Click Wheel, screen, and edges of the case; red stitching is used instead of the white on the other versions. Especially given the limited number of wallet-style cases for the fifth-generation iPod at the moment, this one’s a good option - better on overall quality and design for the dollar than iPodstreet’s comparably priced Bifold Leather Encased (iLounge rating: B-).
The only distinctions from other wallet-style cases we’ve tested for 4G and 5G iPods are these: there’s no padding in the leather here, and no clasp to hold the case closed, an interesting omission given that Tunewear engineered a nice internal fabric loop that makes it super easy to remove the iPod inside. Minus a magnet or other clasp, the case flops open unless the iPod-heavy side is rested on top of the card compartment, an issue which won’t mean as much to users of traditionally clasp-free men’s wallets as users of women’s. All users will be affected by the open top and bottom ports, however, which are on the generous side.
Our previous comments about TuneFilm apply equally here: the integrated components on the iPod nano version of TuneWallet looked better than the film used to protect the 5G iPod here, though there mightn’t have been a need for any film if the wallet could be trusted to stay closed with a latch. Since that’s not the case here, the Film’s necessary, but not so good. It’s not as big of a factor here as it is in Ambassador, however, because of TuneWallet’s generally protective flap.
As with Ambassador 5G, TuneWallet for the 5G iPod is a better value than the nano version, and though it has some small issues, it’s still recommendable - better overall than iPodstreet’s Bifold design, but still leaving a bit of room for improvement. It’s a solid wallet if you like the idea of putting iPod and currency in the same place, and especially cool in black.