Review: Tunewear Prie Hook
Pros: Very protective case for full-sized iPods with interesting leather patterns, plastic Click Wheel and screen protection, metal hook for attachment to clothes and bags.
Cons: Tailoring of holes for each iPod is off a bit because of one-size-fits-all design, Click Wheel access is a slight challenge, headphone port may prove problematic for users of oversized headphone plugs, beige version not as nice as the others.
When we first saw Tunewear’s Prie Hook cases for full-sized iPods ($54.95), we weren’t exactly sure what to think of them. In the past, the Japanese accessory maker’s designs have ranged from superb (Icewear shuffle, iLounge rating: A) to the alright (Poptune for iPod mini, iLounge rating: B-), but certainly more good than bad. After the success of the company’s earlier Prie cases (iLounge rating: A), this very different follow-up initially didn’t make a lot of sense to us when its initial version arrived in beige some time ago. New colors and a slight design tweak have elevated its profile.
Prie Hook is a leather- and fabric-covered box - yes, a box - that dangles any full-sized iPod from a thick, sturdy metal hook. In current versions of Hook, the iPod’s screen and Click Wheel are covered by clear plastic, while narrow rectangular holes are cut in the top and bottom for headphones and Dock Connector connections. Each box seals closed with a reinforced bottom flap and two silver snaps, providing very substantial coverage for the iPod’s body. Tunewear’s logo appears upside down on the rear flap, visible but unintrusive in any case.
The odd thing about the Prie Hook box is that it’s not in any way designed to be svelte - it’s around twice the thickness of today’s 20GB color iPods, and still cavernous by comparison with the thickest 60GB iPods. Tunewear uses a velvety interior fabric to protect the iPod inside against scratches, and what appears to be a metal springy sizer that automatically adjusts the inside of the case to an appropriate thickness for any iPod that’s placed inside.
Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all iPod cases rarely adjust perfectly for each iPod, and that was the case here too. The alignment of Prie Hook’s front holes tended to be a little bit off for each iPod we tested, exposing a little of the plastic below the screen and Click Wheel. Prie Hook also modestly miscenters the bottom hole for thicker (40/60GB) iPods, so a little shifting may be necessary to use Dock Connectors. Sealing the hole and just using the bottom snaps might have worked better. We had no problem using typical accessories with the case, but did find the top hole too thin for the oversized plugs that are used with better-quality headphones, and the Hold switch a challenge to use while inside.
The plastic Wheel protector also presented a challenge. Because it doesn’t sit flush with the front surface of the iPod - rather, it’s elevated a millimeter or two - you need to really press down on it to make any of your commands felt. While protective and attractive, it’s not the functional equivalent of protectors we’ve seen from Power Support, iSkin, and Vaja.
On a more positive note, the Prie Hooks are available in four new colors that we found really interesting - a black “enamel” leather that goes really well with U2 iPods, a python snakeskin version, and two crocodile patterns (silver/gold and black). If you’re thinking of buying a Hook, we’d recommend any of these designs, and particularly the black enamel, which attractively uses white stitching all over its front and back.
The original beige leather Hook we received is comparatively plain, and doesn’t do the boxy design any favors - we wouldn’t rate it as highly as the others. This older model also differed from the newer versions in that it used a small rounded cut-out for the iPod’s headphone port and had no hole for the Hold switch. Overall, the newer headphone port design is better, though as described above, still not quite right.
Tunewear’s decision to include a very substantial hook was a good idea. Spring-loaded and solid, the metal hook holds to the case’s top with a fabric loop. It’s sized for easy attachment to a bag, belt loop, or virtually anything else you might be wearing. Its largeness works well given the design of the rest of the case.
As a general rule, we expect quite a bit from cases that sell in the $50 and up price range, and by that standard Prie Hook is just on the fine edge of recommendability. While the fit of the holes varies a bit from iPod to iPod, and the Wheel protector isn’t as easy to use as we would have hoped, we do like the look of the newer Prie Hooks, and think that more than a few people - fashionistas, especially - will be willing to put up with their idiosyncracies. After all, few leather cases (save Vaja’s) offer screen and control protection to begin with, and these are substantially protective, if not quite as properly executed in the particulars as they could have been.