Price: $60 (+ extras/shipping)
Compatible: iPod 5G
Vaja Classic AP186 for iPod video (30GB/60GB)
As with several other PDA-style (flip-open front) cases we're briefly reviewing today, Vaja's Classic AP186 ($60 and up) isn't a breakthrough design, but its use of materials make it stand out from the pack. Designed to appeal to a premium iPod case purchaser, AP186 uses the best-looking leathers we've ever seen in an iPod case - our sample just looks gorgeous - and holds your 5G iPod behind a padded front flap that opens to reveal a highly deluxe leather interior with Vaja's logo embossed inside. A screen protector is included inside; Click Wheel protection is sold separately for $6, but not necessary in this design.
Buyers can choose a one- or two-toned case for the standard price, each made specifically to fit an individual iPod thickness (30GB or 60GB), not both. There are 17 Aniline leather colors and 14 Vitelino colors, plus dual-tone combinations thereof, an extraordinary number of choices by the standards of most leather cases. Additional options - belt clips or a metal hook ($4-20), personalization ($10-30), and matching interior lining ($10) - remain available. Without the matching lining option, you’ll get a soft leather interior that’s conceivably in a different color than the outer one(s).
We very much liked AP186’s precision handmade attention to detail, and the quality of Vaja’s leather; the exterior and interior are nothing short of beautiful. But protectiveness continues to suffer in this design, as all four of the iPod’s corners are unnecessarily exposed; this does permit any pair of headphones to work with the case, yet also leaves a lot of iPod susceptible to scratching. It’s also possible to scratch the leather itself - a common enough issue with such nice cases, but one that may lead you to treat AP186 with kid gloves. Additionally, the Dock Connector hole at the bottom is sized to fit Apple-sized cables, not larger ones.
Judged in the context of Apple’s recently-introduced Leather Cases for iPod (iLounge rating: C+), Vaja’s comparable protection, superior ease of use, and customizability will come across as a steal for premium case shoppers, hence our standard recommendation. That said, Apple didn’t set much of a bar, and PDA-style cases are truly becoming “classics” - not the best choice for users of video-enabled iPods. For those who feel otherwise, this is a beautiful case, though there’s no doubt that additional corner protectiveness or more features for the dollar would make AP186 an superior option.