Review: Vaja iVolution Top Crystal 2 for iPhone
Model: iVolution Top Crystal 2
Price: $220 (+ shipping)
Nearly five years have passed since iLounge reviewed Argentina-based Vaja's earliest iPod cases, the traditional PDA flip-style Classic Case and the more impressive play-through design i-Vod. These cases distinguished themselves from competitors in quality: they're hand made from beautiful, high-quality leather that was and is unrivaled by $35-40 alternatives. Since then, Vaja has released dozens of premium-quality leather cases, and though the concepts have remained generally the same, three things have changed: the iPods, Vaja's color options, and its prices.
Over the years, we’ve watched as the i-Vod has morphed into various iVolution cases, and seen the Classic Case take on several variations per iPod, as well. Today, we’re reviewing four of Vaja’s latest cases: the play-through iVolution for iPod touch ($80) and deluxe iVolution Silver for iPhone ($280), plus the flip-style iVolution Top SP Holster for iPod touch ($80) and deluxe iVolution Top Crystal 2 for iPhone ($220). This review covers the latter two cases; a separate review covers the first two.
Last year, we tested two Top-series cases from Vaja: the Top Holster and Top SP Holster for iPhone. Both cases used the exact same flip-open design—a reinforced rear shell with a large flap that covers the iPhone’s front—and differed only in one detail: the SP case added a cool racing stripe to the standard Top Holster’s face. Each case offered 40 different color choices, with SP enabling you to pick one color for the case, and a second for the stripe.
A few things have changed in the Top SP Holster for iPod touch, which like the iPhone version is also sold in a stripeless version (not shown here) for $70. Vaja has resculpted the shape of the case to fit the thinner, simpler iPod touch, but the result isn’t quite as visually appealing: the front half now opens from the bottom rather than the top, yet still exposes all four of touch’s corners, and because there’s no iPhone chrome to peek out, it doesn’t look as cool from the front as the prior version. Similarly, the back doesn’t have the same contoured, padded accents of the iPhone take, which added a little glamour to what otherwise would have been a flat, boring shell. You now get 36 colors to choose from, rather than 40, as well; rear belt clip ($5), text ($10) and graphic ($30) customization options are available, too.
Top Crystal 2 for iPhone is a somewhat different story. For the past couple of years, Vaja has been offering Crystal versions of its play-through iVod cases, sold at dramatic $340 prices and distinguished from cheaper models by adding over 70 embedded Swarovski crystals, an included hand strap, and a matching included carrying case. Though not for everyone, the iVod Crystal cases have been stunning, and hot gifts for female iPod fans.
Vaja appears to have struggled to figure out a way to bring the same Swarovski magic to its iPhone cases, and Top Crystal 2 is the result: rather than place fewer crystals on the edges of an iVod/iVolution-style play-through case, Vaja chose to add them to the front and back of a Top Holster. Then it went further, adding two floral engraving choices that, like the Swarovski crystals, run across both of the case’s sides. You now get 14 color choices for the case, and 7 for the crystals. And Vaja preserved the matching hand strap and bag pack-ins from before. All good, right?
Sort of. Top Crystal 2 is actually a lot less crystalline than before, thanks to Vaja’s decision to cut the number of crystals down to 30 total—20 on the front, 10 on the back—and shrink the crystals down to a size we’d describe as diamond chips. The leather strap is now a $30 option, not a pack-in, bringing the price up to $250. And a couple of the leather touches—the slightly imperfect fit of the front flap relative to the back, and the engraving—are okay, but didn’t really light our fires like the prior version of Crystal.
Both of these cases suffer from the same issue as all of their flip-style peers: inconvenience. Want to take a phone call or access the iPod’s controls? Peel the case’s flap open. Let it dangle there while you’re using the screen. There’s really no doubt that the iVod/iVolution play-through case design is more practical and superior for typical iPod and iPhone use, undermined only by Vaja’s recent lack of screen protection.
That said, if you are looking for a case that doubles as a decorated canvas. the iPod touch Top SP Holster and Top Crystal 2 are presently as artsy as high-quality leather flip cases come. Small molding, engraving, and crystal tweaks could make them look sharper for their respective prices, but as-is, they’re good options if you’re looking for an immediately distinctive case and willing to pay a bit too much for the privilege.