gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Vaja ivolution Top SP Leather iPad Clamshell Case Review

The ivolution Top SP iPad case marks the first case I’ve looked at from Vaja, a company whose cases I have lusted after since I began looking at iPhone cases back in 2008. My anticipation for this particular case has been entirely justified, and it’s definitely going to be tough competition on the style and quality fronts.

Fortunately its 0 (about £120) retail price and 35 day wait for the hand-crafting procedure leaves plenty of room for more affordable and traditional competition. But the ability to customise the case with a contrasting choice from 26 different colours and your own choice of text (an additional ) or graphic () really makes it part of the cream of the high-end crop, and ensures that you can set your otherwise generic-looking iPad aside from the crowd with a completely unique case. There’s definitely a high value proposition here, but what does that 0 get you?

From the moment I grasped the Vaja ivolution box, I was overcome with anticipation, and it was highly justified. I had no idea what to expect, as Vaja had given me no idea what colour or style of iPad case they had sent, so it became quite an exciting experience. You might think this is just a case, but something this well made, understated and beautiful, even if its just iPad clothing, can be exciting.

The Vaja iPad case came in a plain, unassuming black box in which the case lay nestled and wrapped in paper. I peeled back the paper to reveal a startling Ferrari red case bisected with a white stripe. I’ve no idea which particular colours these are from the 26 choices, but they very quickly grew on me. My best guess would be Cayenne Red/White. It’s easy to produce stunning colour combinations with the choices available at Vaja, and this
particular combination is almost a spot on match to what I would have chosen: Rosso (burgandy?)/White for the record.

Artsy shots ahoy! Scroll down for a full gallery of photos.

The Vaja ivolution Top SP Leather iPad case is a unique clamshell design, the likes of which I haven’t yet seen from any other manufacturer and, no doubt, will never see so well executed. The general idea is that the case consists of two completely separate components, a back cover which clips around the iPad and remains in place at all times, and an opaque front cover which clips over the front and protects the screen when it’s not in use.

There are several benefits to this design, the first and foremost being the sheer amount of protection it’s able to offer your iPad. The front cover is reasonably sturdy, although not aluminium reinforced, and is bevelled so it can absorb knocks and bumps without translating them directly to the iPads glass screen. Secondly, because it can be completely removed you can more comfortably use the iPad without a dangling cover flap. You don’t have to remove the front cover and set it aside, however, it can clip to the back of the iPad for storage where it remains out of the way whilst you use your shiny new toy.

The curvature of the front cover is also a downside, however, making the ivolution Top SP one of the few iPad cases which doesn’t provide a sturdy, wobble-free platform for table-top typing. It’s a case that’s clearly designed to be held, showing off the contrasting coloured, striped front cover in all its leather glory.

Unlike almost every single leather case I’ve ever had the pleasure to look at, the Vaja ivolution Top SP completely lacks stitching. This means that it relies entirely on adhesive to keep the front and back leather panels bonded to the case, a brave prospect if ever I heard of one. Fortunately Vaja are vigilant in their quality control and manual construction, the leather is bonded consistently and firmly with no visible separation or peeling. I actually conducted a fingernail check around the edge of the case, trying as best as I dare to see if it would peel away with absolutely no luck.

I’ve often thought stitches an essential part of leather case styling and detailing, but I don’t miss them on the ivolution Top SP. They result in a case which is as cleanly designed and elegant as the iPad itself which, of course, is only fitting for a case designed to enclose the iPad.

The stitchless construction is quite impressive, wonderfully clean and perfectly bonded.

Following on with the stitch free design, the stripe down the front is not stitched over the top of the red leather, but rather painstakingly inset and glued firmly into a groove cut into it. The result is a smooth, uninterrupted top surface which is so expertly joined that, to the unaided eye, it almost appears to be the same panel of leather. The camera and a harsh directional light show up some minute imperfections, but these are to be expected from a hand-made case.

The leather stripe is beautifully inlaid in the centre of the case.

The downside to the handmaking process is that, upon very close inspection, rough cuts to the leather are quite evident. I experimented briefly with leatherworking myself, albeit it wasn’t actually real leather so it wasn’t quite as difficult to cut. I found that using a steel ruler and a scalpel yielded very consistent and straight cuts which I think could have been replicated on this Vaja case but only for the straight edges (around the metal Vaja logo badge for example). One could argue, however, that the slightly rough edges lend the case a certain amount of character that a machine manufactured alternative would lack.

Under the scrutiny of a camera lens, the rough cuts are quite evident. This one wont be visible under the edge of your iPad, however.

The one complaint I have with this particular example of the Vaja ivolution Top SP leather iPad case is the metal badge on the front. It seems to have been set too harshly or deeply, leaving some unevenly pinched and distorted leather around the outside, creating a minor blemish to the front of the case. I’ve no objection to the badge itself, of course, it’s a nice simple logo that feels at home right where it is, it’s just not particularly well set.

Not the most subtly embedded logo.

I theorise that Vaja, because they typically produce these cases to order at a fairly high price and managed to send me this one particularly quickly, have sent me a case that doesn’t quite make their typical grade. I will, therefore, grant them the benefit of the doubt on this one, as their own photography shows a slightly better set badge. Incidentally, their photography also clearly shows the same rough cuts of leather that I’ve highlighted, but it’s far less noticeable, as would be the case in day to day use.

Vaja’s flash customisation page ironically will not actually work on your iPad.

Overall, it’s an absolutely beautiful, well made, extremely well bonded despite the lack of stitching, and very strikingly coloured case. It may not have a built-in stand, or any other fancy frills, but that’s analogous to the iPad itself. You paid a premium to use an iPad over the, albiet lacklustre, more fully featured competition, and the premium you would pay for a Vaja case is exactly the same. Only this time, it goes toward making your iPad unique, and making sure it stands out from the crowds of others, lending a stylish air of individuality to your tablet. If you can afford one of these cases, for for it. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll still have something to show for it when everyone else and their dog has an iPad one or more versions better than yours.

If I’ve ensnared you into wanting to investigate this luxurious, customisable iPad case further you can head on over to Vaja Cases to check out their full range.

Since my review sample was made, the ivolution Top SP case has been modified to move the logo from the center stripe to the right-hand side. This is good news for fans of asymmetry but I, for one, am glad to own a case with it in the center.

Monday, May 17th, 2010, iPad.