Pros: Beautiful design, fit, and finish, including hard plastic screen protection. Optional detachable belt clip is implemented quite well.

Review: Vaja iVod mini

Cons: No Click Wheel protection, custom-colored price may deter some buyers.

After testing so many iPod mini cases, we imagined that we were running out of words to describe them. And then something really impressive arrived in the mail.

Vaja’s iVod mini case for the iPod mini is the impressive something, with customization options that bring it close to perfection in leather case design. But predictably, that near-perfection comes at a price: $49.90 and up. Featuring an integrated hard plastic screen protector and an optional detachable belt clip system, the iVod mini is definitely the first case we would recommend to fashion-conscious users with the cash to spend.

An iVolution

Last month, we reviewed Vaja’s Classic case for the iPod mini, which we noted had three major flaws: it didn’t protect the mini’s corners, offered buyers relatively few color customization choices – traditionally a feature that set Vaja’s cases apart from others – and had a flip-open front panel, which many users find an obstruction to easy control and screen access.

We were thrilled to find that the iVod mini fixes all of these problems. The soft, slightly padded leather case covers all of the iPod’s corners properly, providing two millimeters of impact resistance on all sides. A high-class sewn black fabric interior grips the mini without scratching it, and the built-in hard screen protector looks and works great. A total of two pieces of high-quality leather are used to make each case: one for the front and sides, and a second for the back, each part internally reinforced with hard, inflexible lining.

Like Vaja’s other handmade products, the iVod mini recalls an age when “handmade” meant “deluxe” rather than “amateurish,” and makes a strongly favorable first impression: our black leather review case looks every bit a luxury leather product, and features only a small metal Vaja logo on its bottom right face corner for branding purposes. Mirroring Vaja’s new product packages, the black-on-black fabric interior stylishly capitalizes on reflective material to subtly display the Vaja logo.

And Vaja now impressively offers at least 28 different colors for buyers to choose from – everything from white to gray to black, red to green to blue, many colors in multiple shades. Seeing the entire collection in the company’s new catalog (and web site), we couldn’t help but feel that the iVod mini is what Lajo’s and iSkin’s silicone rubber cases would look like if they were available in leather. Given our appreciation of those cases, that’s a major compliment.

Review: Vaja iVod mini

In remedying the Classic’s deficiencies, Vaja introduced only a single new one: because the iVod mini doesn’t have a front flap, it doesn’t cover the iPod mini’s Click Wheel, top or bottom. Instead, the top is entirely exposed as a place for the iPod to slip in, the bottom provides substantially open access to the Dock Connector port, and the Click Wheel is left fully accessible.

We didn’t mind the exposed top and bottom at all, given that Vaja wisely chose to provide small lips on both sides that extend just enough past the top of the iPod to prevent drop damage. Scratching of the iPod’s exposed surfaces remains a possibility if you keep the iVod mini in your pocket with keys, or in some other potentially dangerous place, but we don?t suspect most users would take that risk with a leather case like this one.

Similarly, though we suspect most users won’t mind the exposed Click Wheel, the iVod mini would be virtually perfect if there was an optional cork-like pop-off Wheel protector. Regardless, there’s little doubt that the case is awesome as-is, and will suit most users’ needs quite perfectly.

Customization and Use

Because each of the iVod mini cases is handmade, users can use Vaja’s web site to customize the product in ways we find really impressive: for an additional $10, Vaja will laser-engrave a 20-character line of text on the rear of the case. And for $30, Vaja will emboss your graphic or company logo in as many cases as you want to order at the same time. Every iVod mini comes standard with the Vaja name lightly embossed in the bottom rear of the case, though it’s hard to see in our small pictures.

More interestingly, Vaja offers two versions of the case – one with a plastic “Ultra Clip” belt clip (add $4), and one without. Our review unit included the clip, which uses an interesting new solid brass nub – one that is brightly designed to be impossible to accidentally detach from the clip while the case hangs vertically from a belt. While we’re generally not fond of belt clips, and still would prefer the cheaper, nub-free case, we really liked the design of Vaja’s nub-and-clip system.

Use of the iVod mini was elegantly simple: slide the iPod into the top and it stays in place, even when turned upside down and jostled. While it’s easy to remove the iPod when you apply pressure to its open bottom and slide it out, it takes several hard upside-down shakes to accidentally dislodge it from the iVod, a great overall design.

Review: Vaja iVod mini

And we found that the case looked great and provided easy iPod mini accessibility no matter where we took it. The Dock Connector port is wonderfully accessible, as are the headphone port and hold switch. Even Vaja’s small but sturdy rear brass nub proved unobtrusive during our testing, leaving us very impressed overall with the case’s overall practical performance.

Pricing and Parting Thoughts

Overall, the iVod mini impressed on virtually every possible angle: we loved the way the quality leather felt, looked, and covered the iPod mini. It is without doubt a luxury product, and better engineered overall than any other iPod mini case we’ve seen.

Our only reservation is its price, which as of the time of publication is listed variously on Vaja’s page at either a reasonable $49.99 or pricey $69.90, most likely representing the difference between the custom-colored version ($69.90) and a “standard” black leather version ($49.99).

At $49.99, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the iVod mini to any person interested in a leather iPod mini case, especially if Vaja’s stock color is indeed the handsome black version we tested. But at $69.90, not including any customized embossing or the optional belt clip, the value equation is less certain for a small leather case; reasonable people may disagree as to whether extra color choices are worth $20. Vaja’s variety of color choices is truly impressive, however, and leather case buyers will likely find the iVod mini – customized or not – to be acceptably priced given the scarcity of comparably beautiful options.

Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school – ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

Our Rating

Highly Recommended

Company and Price

Company: Vaja


Model: Vaja Classic

Price: $49.99 – $69.90 (color dependent)

Compatible: iPod mini

Jeremy Horwitz

Jeremy Horwitz was the Editor-in-Chief at iLounge. He has written over 5,000 articles and reviews for the website and is one of the most respected members of the Apple media. Horwitz has been following Apple since the release of the original iPod in 2001. He was one of the first reviewers to receive a pre-release unit of the device, and his review helped put iLounge on the map as a go-to source for Apple news.