You know there's something special about a company's product when other outfits make cheap look-alike knock offs of it, sell them for a fraction of the price of the real thing, and claim theirs is just as good. If you've ever carefully scrutinized a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army knife, a Montblanc pen, or (you ladies will know about these) handbags and accessories from such makers as Louis Vutton, Gucci, Coach, Hermes, Balenciaga, Prada, or Yves Saint Laurent, (just to name a few upscale examples), side-by-side with a cheap knock off you know what I'm talking about. Add Vaja's cases to the list of premium brands whose products are copied, but never equalled.
The imitations may look similar enough to fool the uninitiated and sure, they'll save you a bundle of money, but you're kidding yourself if you justify the purchase of a copy (or, if you prefer, a fake or counterfeit) of a premiere brand of something by thinking "Hey, this saved me a ton of money; I can't afford the real thing, but this is just as good."
Almost without exception, an inexpensive copy of a luxury brand name simply isn't the same. The quality of materials, attention to detail, and construction just isn't there. Sometimes it DOES simply come down to a matter of money. But then again if you're reading this, chances are you spent some serious money on your Treo, rather than going with a cheap, basic cell phone, and you did it for a reason. At over $600.00 retail, the Treo 700 series is Palm's top of the line; you can buy a complete desktop computer system and even some laptops these days for about the same price. You know it's a lot more than just a phone, but the reason people buy Treos is a dissertation for another time.
Still, an expensive investment deserves quality protection. If you've ever bought a new car, that whole pride of ownership thing kicks in, and I'm sure you've parked your new baby at work or a shopping center far away from others, just to avoid that horror of horrors, that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see someone else callously used your new pride and joy as their doorstop and there's your first door ding. Argh!
While some people actually carry their Treos around naked (the Treos, not the people.. c'mon, stop giggling, you know what I mean).. one of the first accessories most Treo owners go for is a case. Case styles are a very personal decision. I work with a lot of other writers; we review a lot of accessories, so we tend to own a lot of different cases, and eventually, everyone settles on their favorite brand and type, although most don't shy away from drooling over something better, more protective, and, if it matters to them, more upscale.
Treo cases come in an enormous spread of materials, designs, and prices. There are tight, form-fitting cases made of aluminum, magnesium, silicone rubber skins, transparent plastic, opaque plastic, and sheepskin. There are side pouches, simple slip-in cases, cases with and without lids, lids with and without windows, the choices are endless.
There's a constant discussion amongst writers: "Well, how much can you say about a case?" With Vaja, my answer to that is "a lot."
Vaja of Argentina makes the Rolls Royce of leather cases (and ONLY leather cases) for all kinds of portable electronics. Here we'll examine one of their newest offerings with the heady name: the "i-Volution Top with Visor Cover for Palm Treo 700 series."
While they make lower priced (but hardly "budget") cases, i-Volution is Vaja's top of the line. The quality of workmanship, attention to detail, and even the packaging could hardly get any better. Few Treo owners I know (except those who are, for some reason, leather-phobic) would turn up their noses at an i-Volution case.
A couple years ago, when I got my first Treo, the 650, Vaja sent me their "T65" model i-Volution case. I was astounded by the quality. I'd never seen a leather case with NO visible stitching before. Constructed of beautiful full-grain cowhide leather over a flawlessly form-fitting, CAD-designed ABS shell with a sexy fabric lining, it was like holding a work of art in my hand. My 650 slid down into the tight case which cradled and protected it like a mother would hold her baby. But the T65 lacked any screen or keyboard protection.
Later that year, Vaja added a leather-hinged, magnetic flip lid to the T65 and dubbed it the T66. Now I had another gorgeous case with all the style and panache of the T65 PLUS a protective, semi-rigid front lid. The beefy invisible magnets implanted under the leather held the lid shut, but it was easy to flip it open with a thumb, and close with a flick of the wrist. The lid even had an SD card holder with Vaja's cool "push-push" spring loaded insert and eject mechanism.
One could carry on a phone conversation with the lid closed, since Vaja designed it with perfectly-placed cutouts for the earpiece, mic, rear speaker, LED, even the camera's lens and mirror. And to add that extra quality touch, the earpiece and speaker's cutouts were embellished with genuine stainless steel grilles.
When the Treo 700p/w/wx arrived, Vaja was ready with a full line of i-Volution cases for them too. The flip-lid version was dubbed the T77. But there was still something missing. With the lid closed, you couldn't see the Treo's screen. I don't know about you but I like to see the screen while I'm on a call, no matter what kind of case I'm using. Apparently enough other people wanted the same thing, and Vaja listened, so behold the latest incarnation, the "i-Volution Top with Visor cover for the Palm Treo 700 series".
With the introduction of their latest models, gone are the alpha-numeric model designations; Vaja now uses descriptive names instead. Or as their Product Manager told me, "We changed the nomination of our products, and we don't use names like 'T77' or 'PA131' anymore, just the name of the line (i-Volution, Classic or Balance), if it's a product with cover or not ("Top") and the product ("Palm Treo...", "Apple iPod..." and so on).
This new beauty is exactly the same as the former T77 except instead of an SD card holder in the lid, they've installed a fixed-in-place (it doesn't flip up) screen window. As far as quality goes, nothing has changed.
Vaja touts its leather as strong, burn resistant, non-allergenic, durable, flexible, and like good wine, improves with age, developing a more natural and softer patina the more you handle it. Got leather car seats or a jacket? Then you know what Im talking about.
Vaja's cases are made of different kinds of leather, depending on the model. All leather used in Vaja products is full grain cowhide, NOT sheepskin.
Vaja says these hides are from the top ten percent of Argentina's leather and selected for quality, strength, character and grain. They have not been altered in any way, allowing the natural markings and character to show through. Full Grain cowhide is generally much cleaner and has minimal scarring and insect bites. This results in a more expensive product than other altered grain leathers, but they feel this is warranted to produce a product of extremely high quality.
Vaja's products are made one at a time in their own factories by skilled craftsmen who, they proudly claim, maintain the highest quality standards in the leather industry.
Their leathers, as all high quality genuine materials, have hand-made processes involved in their treatments, which means the material never looks exactly the same. You'll notice little variations in the leather tone appearance depending on the batch received from the tannery each time.
Bear in mind also that the images on Vaja's Web site are approximate samples of the real color, since leather will never look identical on a computer screen compared to holding it in person.
i-Volution cases are made from Caterina leather - these hides have a matte finish and a smoother appearance than other leathers Vaja uses on their other product lines. It's an extremely soft, flexible and elegant material.
As a side note, I've read Forum postings where some Vaja owners have complained that the leather color dyes have worn off their i-Volution cases' corners after months of use. Vaja advised that as with any genuine leather, the case should be handled with care, especially those with lighter colors. Hard use and rubbing against sharp surfaces may affect its appearance and durability. This is not to say i-Volution cases are "fragile" they aren't. But treat the case as you would any high quality leather, and care instructions are provided on Vaja's site should you ever get the case wet, get some greasy material on it, or scratch it. Remember, leather, by its very nature, develops a natural patina with use, but this doesn't mean you should abuse it.
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