Pros: A highly professional-looking leather iPod mini case with a unique spin on PDA-style design, using two flaps that close with a magnet. Available with or without an integrated belt clip nub and clip.
Cons: Belt clip is one of our least favorites; PDA-style design is generally a bit dated for iPods given the variety of other protective and less encumbering options.
When beautiful leather is married to smart design, the results for an iPod case can be nothing short of spectacular. Vaja’s iVod mini (iLounge rating: A) has managed to pull off an almost perfect combination of good looks and functionality for some time, and other leather case makers have been playing catch-up. Now Kroo has introduced three different leather iPod mini cases – Soho, Laguna, and Executive ($19.95 each, available for $15 and up) – which are surprisingly attractive given their astonishingly low prices. We review each of these cases separately, but provide a reference picture of the entire collection for those who may be interested in seeing the other reviews.
Kroo’s Laguna is the most traditional of the company’s three iPod mini cases, but that’s not a bad thing. Available in seven colors – of which we tested a pink-ish unit described as light purple, and a jet black unit – Laguna also comes in two flavors, one with an unremoveable black belt clip nub and detachable plastic belt clip, one with a flat back. The detachable belt clip is the only unimpressive part of the package: it’s the same design as the cheap one-piece Capdase belt clips we’ve already noted we dislike – functional, but not in any way fantastic.
Otherwise, the cases are both attractive and fairly smart in design. They’re half PDA cases in that they use an interior sheathe to hold the iPod mini, with a hard (cardboard-interior) back and large protective hard front flap. But the large flap doesn’t flip up from Laguna’s top; instead, it opens to the bottom, with a second smaller flap at top. The two flaps hold together (and close the case) with two small magnets, one centered at the top of each flap. A Kroo logo is tastefully embossed at the bottom right corner of each case.
This is a good design for a couple of reasons: the iPod mini stays inside the central sheathe, which has a vinyl screen and Click Wheel guard that works just fine. The bottom flap can close to protect the mini, but if it hangs open from the bottom, it doesn’t interfere with your use of the controls like a top flap would. And yet the smaller top flap manages to cover the mini’s top quite adequately, providing holes just large enough for the Hold switch and headphone port. There’s no hole for the iPod mini’s Dock Connector, so if you want to use that, you’ll need to remove the iPod from the case.
Both flaps extend a bit past the central sheathe, guarding the iPod mini against direct side impacts if it’s dropped. Better yet, the central sheathe covers the mini’s sides and corners almost entirely, so your chances of scratch or other damage are smaller than with most PDA-style designs – Marware’s TrailVue (iLounge rating: A-) as one of the more notable exceptions.
Design and looks aside, what makes the Laguna cases worthwhile is their pricing. As they can be had for substantially less than $20 a piece – sometimes as low as $12 – they’re a good value for the dollar, and by virtue of price alone are infinitely more replaceable than cases that sell for more. They’re a step shy of our highest recommendation level only because of the PDA-esque design, which we’ve seen many times before and don’t find terribly exciting without substantial exterior innovations. But if you like that style of case, and want a colored leather body that will impress your friends, it’s hard to go wrong with Laguna.
Company and Price
Company: Kroo/Leader Wireless
Compatible: iPod mini