At some point, there’s enough of a price difference between something classy and a less impressive alternative that you’ll be effectively tempted away from your first choice by dollars alone. Such is the case with Uniea’s new U-Suit Premium ($35), a Napa leather case that apes Vaja’s earlier $280 iVolution Silver: while not identical, U-Suit Premium is close enough that budget-conscious users will get most of the experience at a sixth or eighth of the price. Versions are available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPod nano, each with the same $35 tag.
Both Vaja’s and Uniea’s designs start with a hard shell that has been coated in leather—here in your choice of black, red, or pink colors—then augmented with silver metallic edging. There’s no question that people will prefer Vaja’s take, which uses glossy silver appliques that cover an iPhone or iPod touch’s Home button and even the ear speaker of the iPhone; Uniea runs less expensive-looking rounded metallic piping around the edges of each device’s screen and controls. Little details, such as the iPhone’s camera hole, look a little rougher because they’re not metal-clad, and the metal on the sides—absent in the iPod nano version—is thinner in the U-Suit Premium than in Vaja’s original. It’s partially compensated for in the nano model with a detachable metal carabiner hook, which enables the nano to be worn from a belt or bag.
Even if the U-Suit Premium cases suffer a bit by comparison to the designs that inspired them, there is no doubt that they are major improvements on Uniea’s original U-Suit cases. For only a little more, you get better-quality leather, the metallic edging, and slightly thinner case designs. We would pick the Premium versions any day over their predecessors, which looked a bit cheap and had touches—poor-looking belt clips and oddball holes—that detracted further from their initial appeal. Each U-Suit Premium is a thoroughly refined improvement on the original.
This doesn’t mean that Uniea’s fixed everything. Protection hasn’t improved from the earlier versions, which leave the top, top corners, and bottom of each device open, and Universal Dock compatibility hasn’t been improved, either. Additionally, the iPod touch and iPhone versions didn’t include screen protectors—something Uniea has said it will remedy in its shipments—and the removal of the belt clip features from the iPhone and iPod touch cases hasn’t been replaced by any other solution, so these are purely for pocket use. By comparison, the iPod nano U-Suit Premium includes the aforementioned hook-style belt clip and a screen protector. By the case pricing standards for that smaller model, it’s a little expensive, but it’s also a little nicer looking than many of the leather cases we’ve seen.
While none of the U-Suit Premium cases will blow you away, they’re all well-made, good-looking cases at generally reasonable prices—nice alternatives for people who like Vaja’s iVolution Silver cases yet can’t afford them. They merit our B+ rating and strong general recommendation because they manage to evoke the same basic visual cues as the Silver cases without completely cloning or replacing them; these are clearly a step or two down visually, but seven or eight steps down in price. For $35, the U-Suit Premium cases suffer only by comparison with some of the top peer-priced leather options we’ve reviewed for these devices, some of which do a little better on protection, minus a little of the style. In any case, these are big improvements for Uniea, which after a year of experimentation is now emerging as a legitimate player in the iPod and iPhone case business, and we’re anxious to see what the company does next.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod nano (video), iPod touch, iPhone