Review: Tunewear Prie Classic Face Case

Pros: Beautifully designed case with high-quality components, available in several styles to appeal to different types of users – though mostly sophisticated women.

Cons: Dock Connector port and headphone jack port are on the small side, limiting the iPod mini’s connectivity when inside, and while design is highly appealing for female users, men may not be as taken with it.

Review: Tunewear Prie Classic Face Case

Few consumer electronics products can claim to have inspired demand for dainty girlie cases, but the iPod mini’s an exception. Apple’s smaller-sized, color-cased mini has surprisingly broadened the iPod’s appeal past a largely male demographic, and now the challenge has been to develop proper accessories for the product.

Though iLounge has seen its fair share of attempts at unisex and feminine cases, relatively new iPod accessory maker Tunewear is the first to completely nail a classy female-specific design: the company’s new leather Prie Classic Face case has the same je ne sais quois indicia of quality that has previously separated Vaja cases from all others, but in a distinctly feminine package that likely will do for women what Vaja’s sculpted cases have done for men.

To be accurate, we should say “feminine packages,” as it turns out that there are four versions of the Prie case: we received and reviewed the Classic Face A Type version, but there’s also a Classic Face B Type version that’s identical except for the types of straps it includes. A Type cases include two two-point straps, first a detachable short leather strap for hand carrying and in-purse use, plus a detachable long leather strap that transforms the case into a totable purse, or enables it to be hung around a neck. B Type cases include a one-point (lanyard-style) neck strap and an integrated loop on the back of the case for belt or carry bag attachment. We think of the A Type case as the more female version, while the B Type case is likely to be the more appealing option for males.

The other differences are in the interior “Faces” of the case. All Prie cases are traditional PDA case-style rectangular box with opening front flaps that reveal the iPod mini’s face. Each front flap includes a small interior slot large enough for a business or credit card, and a Velcro pad that holds the case closed at the iPod mini’s Dock Connector port. The bottom of each flap has a second piece of leather in a soft U shape, tastefully embossed with the Tunewear logo.

Differences appear when the Pries are opened. Whereas the “Classic Face” design protects the iPod inside with a leather shield cut to expose the Click Wheel and Screen, the “Open Face” Prie leaves the mini’s face almost entirely, well, open. A small ridge of leather on the left, right and bottom sides of the mini is the only protection offered by the Open Face Prie once the front flap is pulled back, a major protection difference considering that the Classic Face also includes a nice integrated vinyl screen protector for the iPod mini. Again, the appeal of the Classic Face and Open Face likely skew a bit by gender: we suspect the Classic Face would by appearance appeal more to women, while the Open Face slightly more to men. But in this case, we would recommend that potential buyers put gender aside; the Classic Face’s decidedly more protective design is easier to recommend to any user.

Review: Tunewear Prie Classic Face Case

The final issue that necessarily implicates gender is Tunewear’s choice of colors: the green and hot pink glossy leather cases, each with white accents and stitching, are unquestionably geared towards women, while canvas grey (with white) and jet black leather cases are more unisex yet will definitely appeal more than the other colors to men. Tunewear’s canvas grey Prie is the only one of the bunch made from a material other than leather, and though we did not receive one for review, it otherwise shares the traits of the leather cases described below.

Tunewear’s most interesting design choice was to pick expensive-looking stitching, clasps and eyelets for the Prie cases: the A Type’s short strap includes lobster claw clasps, hooks into polished metallic rectangular eyelets in the Prie case, and its combined stitching and material look every bit as good as what you’d see at a luxury leather goods store. The long strap is even more impressive, a legitimately long piece of leather with larger, quality clasps at its ends and the ability to adjust its length to whatever you desire. Though the meat of the Prie case is impressive, it’s these straps that give the product extra A-caliber class, and feminine emphasis regardless of color.

Impressions of the Prie case from multiple viewers were uniformly positive.

The quality of the leather used by Tunewear is unquestionably higher than that of most iPod case makers, and is instantly apparent as excellent from the moment the Prie is removed from its packaging. (That packaging, incidentally, is itself well-designed and does a good job of displaying the case inside.) Stitching at all points on the case is precise and meticulous in a way we rarely see in less expensive cases, and each edge of the Prie appears to have been given equally strong attention to detail.

Review: Tunewear Prie Classic Face Case

If there are any issues with the case, they’re ones likely to be blamed on the Prie’s dainty design consistency. The headphone port hole, precision fit to Apple’s remote control connector footprint and even professionally stitched around, won’t accommodate larger headphone plugs found on expensive headphones. (But then, they’re less likely to be combined with the inexpensive iPod mini, anyway.) And the Dock Connector hole is also on the very small side, with too little space on its left and right sides to attach most peripherals while the iPod mini’s inside. We can imagine why Tunewear made both of these choices for design reasons, and though we think that one of them certainly won’t bother most users, the other one might.

The final issue regarding the Prie cases is pricing, and in keeping with some Japanese market customs, Tunewear has again opted to use a system called “open pricing” for the Prie, whereby the manufacturer does not openly suggest a retail price. Even though the system is supposedly designed to promote retailer flexibility, in practice it leaves price levels unnecessarily ambiguous for customers, and as such we can’t provide a specific price for the Prie. A little hunting online suggests that the cases will retail in Japan and the United States for between $40 and $45, a bit more than Vaja’s iPod mini Classic case ($34.90 and up), but significantly less than its i-Vod mini case ($49.90 and up, though only $69.90 custom versions are now available). For men, the right colored Prie would likely fit quite nicely between these two cases in overall appeal, but for women, we think Tunewear’s got the clear winner of the bunch on value and looks.

Overall, the Prie we tested is as close to perfect for sophisticated female users as we’ve seen so far, Dock Connector issues aside.