Price: $59.90 and up (color, feature dependent)
Compatible: iPod 4G
Vaja i-Volution 4G with Wheel Protector
Pros: Beautiful design, fit, and finish, including hard plastic screen protection and optional Click Wheel protector, detachable belt clip, engraving and embossing.
Cons: Price, especially price of customized options, may deter some buyers.
Vaja’s iVod cases have been iLounge’s favorite leather cases for years. Made from high-quality leather, contoured beautifully to each iPod’s curves, and generally built to the demands of discerning customers, the iVods have repeatedly scored top A marks from iLounge editors and readers alike. Even so, the Argentine company has continued to improve its designs, adding numerous additional color customizations (30+), embossing and engraving features, and belt clips to its list of optional features. We’ve addressed many of these features in previous reviews, and won’t re-trace them, but suffice it to say that you can make any Vaja case look very distinctive for the right price.
The latest Vaja case we’ve received for review is even better than its predecessors. i-Volution 4G ($59.90 and up) starts with the padded, beautiful leather front molding and flat, hard-reinforced back, sides, and bottom derived from earlier Vaja products, each with soft curves that parallel the iPod’s without unnecessarily buiking it up or squaring it off. Every one of the curves and its stitches in our review case looked perfect, save for a single thin dangling stitch near the top of the case’s excellent integrated clear plastic screen protector. The i-Volution covers the iPod’s bottom corners in particular better than any other leather case we’ve seen.
And it does a great job with the rest of the iPod, too. Every inch of the 4G’s body is protected save a small hole at its Dock Connector port and a large one at its top. These two holes permit you to insert and remove the iPod, which takes a bit of a push from the bottom with a thin finger or blunt object. Given that we’re talking about a case without a flip-open lid, however, we must underscore the significance of the fact that the iPod’s entire front and entire back are covered.
Including the Click Wheel. i-Volution is the company’s first case to feature an optionally integrated thin plastic “Wheel Protector.” For only $6 more than the case’s standard price, the Wheel Protector makes the i-Volution the first leather iPod case to protect both the iPod’s Click Wheel and screen at the same time without using one of those pesky PDA case lids. It’s a welcome alternative to buying protective stickers or going without full iPod face protection, and better yet, it works really well. But for the slight sound of fingers touching plastic, you’ll never know that it’s there. It’s so good that it should be a standard feature on all of Vaja’s iPod cases.
We also like the fact that Vaja cases don’t force us to pay for features we don’t want or need - say, a detachable belt clip ($4) or mixed colors ($10+) - though these features are there for people who want them. Attractive single-colored versions are available, and equally stunning. For the adventurous, Vaja even makes striped versions of the i-Volution cases called Rasta, which start at eye-popping prices of $90 to $110, but look unlike any other leather cases available. Virtually all of Vaja’s cases are custom-made, which adds a bit to their ship time but results in a product that’s tailor-made to your personal tastes.
Our only small issues with the i-Volution are fairly predicable to frequent iLounge review readers: price and top protectiveness. The prices of Vaja’s custom-made i-Volutions - which unlike its standard black-colored versions are always “in stock” - are unquestionably near the top of the iPod leather case list, a fact mitigated by our own (and numerous readers’) positive long-term experiences with the company’s products. They’re resilient, don’t fade, and don’t fall apart. You pay more, but get quality in exchange.
Top protectiveness is a somewhat different story. Understandably, the i-Volution needs a way to render the iPod easily removable and insertable, so the case’s top hole is large, and consequently exposes both the iPod’s top and sides’ tops. In a perfect world - A+ territory - this case would find a way to protect the whole top, and cost less. Absent that, more of a passively protective lip would have been great.
But we otherwise love the build quality, overall look and customization of these cases more than any others we’ve seen. Unless Vaja makes it or some spectacular established leather designer comes along, you won’t find a leather case better made and matched to a fourth-generation iPod than the i-Volution 4G. Years after the introduction of its first version, and many competitors later, it continues to be worthy of our highest recommendation.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.