There’s a difference between calling your leather case “classy” and actually delivering a classy design, and as XtremeMac proved with its MicroFlip cases last year, that difference isn’t merely attributable to price — it’s about workmanship, attention to detail, and the materials used. But there’s a flip side to that coin: underprice a nothing special design and you can effectively appeal to lots of people, while overpricing can limit the appeal of even beautifully made designs.
Today, we’re looking at leather cases from two companies: New York-based AB Sutton is selling the Video Book ($118-138) and Video Slip ($88-123) cases for the fifth-generation iPod, while Hong Kong-based Capdase is selling three different $14 cases for the second-generation iPod nano: the Bifold-Style Classy Leather Case, Belt Leather Case, and Pattern Leather Case. AB Sutton’s cases could have earned our A-level high recommendation but for their extremely high prices, which are justified only by their incredible degree of customization, while Capdase’s designs were spared our C-level rating solely by virtue of rock bottom pricing.
In short, the Capdase cases are beyond familiar in design, and underwhelming in execution. The most interesting of the bunch is the Bifold-Style case, a padded leather wallet held together with a magnetic clasp, and outfitted inside with the simplest of iPod nano clips, two thin card pockets, and a rubber earbud holder and manager. You can pop the earbud manager out and attach an included, nice-looking hand strap if you want. White and black versions of Bifold are available.
Functionally, Bifold isn’t much to write home about. One of the two card pockets is a transparent ID card holder, and the other one’s similarly big enough for a card or a little paper currency. The iPod nano clip offers virtualy no side, top, or bottom protection for your iPod; it’s just there to keep the iPod in place, which it does without panache. Our feeling was that the solution was slapped together without much thought as a response to earlier, better designs by companies such as Incase and Marware; it’s not so much Classy as forgettable.
The Belt Leather Case is so-named for one reason: it’s a simple, flip-style leather case with a colored belt wrapped around its top, front, and bottom. This belt snaps closed on the case’s front, holding the flap down and thereby offering part-time protection for your nano’s face. Since Belt uses the same low-class plastic nano clip as Bifold, you get almost no top or side protection here, and the belt ironically covers the only part of the nano’s top you might want to access—the Hold switch. Flipping the nano still obscures the Hold switch, exposing both the headphone and Dock Connector ports through the case’s bottom.
Capdase’s only apparent frills in this design are multiple color choices – you can pick from 5, with black or white leather base cases and red, silver, green, blue, or pink belts – and matching lanyards. Frankly, they all look better in photos than they do in person; while we liked the padding of their front and back leather, they struck us as cheap-looking and feeling inside; commodity cases rather than high quality ones.
Finally, there’s the Pattern Leather Case, which isn’t great, but isn’t quite as bad as Belt. The basic shape and puffiness of its flip-closed leather design is identical to Belt’s, but instead of a colored leather stripe, you get one of two stitched geometric front patterns, and a magnetic seal rather than Belt’s snap. Inside the case is a full iPod nano holder rather than just a clip, which adds additional side and top protection, though not as much as it could have.
Our major issues with Pattern were also its low-class touches: its very prominent rectangular magnets further diminish the apparent quality of its interior design, which starts out weak with faux gold leather coloration. Like Belt, it comes with a nothing special lanyard that matches its white or black base exterior leather color, attaching to a D-shaped eyelet on its back. Price aside, its only saving grace is that its screen and Click Wheel holes are properly aligned inside, and thereby don’t detract further from its looks or functionality.
Truly, Capdase’s $14 per case asking price is the only reason some people might consider buying these cases—they’re not beautiful or exceptionally protective, but for the price, they’re well built and acceptable enough from the outside that we can’t totally write them off. Having said that, Capdase has done a lot better with prior cases, and though these cases score decently on points, they wouldn’t be at the top of our lists other than on pricing.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod nano (aluminum)