First, stop reading this review. Yeah, you heard me, stop reading and visit Vaja's site. You'll need Macromedia Flash installed on your computer, (and the site will warn you if you don't have it and if not, just go to the link it wants you to go to and install it).. so forget trying to view Vaja's site on a Treo, and do it on your computer.
Revel at the opening animation, because it changes all the time. I'm not sure how often they change it but whatever it is, it's always mind-bendingly beautiful, mesmerizing and like a short art film. To say their Web site designers have as much talent at what they do as their case designers and craftsmen have at what THEY do would not, in my opinion, be an exaggeration.
Whenever Vaja releases a new Treo case, as a long-time reviewer of all things Treo, they send me a Press Release and ask me if I'd like one for review. Umm.. silly question. Of course! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Vaja makes the Rolls Royce of leather cases for personal electronics, and not just Treos. So.. when I want a review sample of their latest masterpiece, they ask me to go to their site, sniff around that particular new case's ordering page, pick whatever color I want, any customization options, and then a few weeks later, Fedex hands me a padded mailer with a beautiful new Vaja case in their standard gift box inside.
A small nitpick here.. I'd prefer it if Vaja used a Fedex BOX rather than a padded mailer.. a box would be more protective because sometimes those mailers get bashed by other packages in transit.. I've never received a damaged Vaja case inside the mailer, but I have had the case's snazzy gift box come out slightly crumpled a couple times..
But.. without exception, every time I open that package, and pull out the beautiful white double-slipcase Vaja box, open it, and get a whiff of that glorious, new leather beauty nestled inside, well, there's just nothing like it. I absolutely LOVE the smell of brand new cowhide leather products. If you do too, then you know what I'm talkin' about.
Last Fall, Vaja introduced their first Treo case that had both a front protective flip lid or "Top" and a clear window in it ("Visor"), and I reviewed it last December.
They've been making their upscale top-of-the-line i-volution cases for a couple'a three years or so, but this was the first one that had a window in the lid. Unfortunately, that window is fixed in place; it doesn't flip up so you can tap your screen as well as see it. That'd make it even handier, but it is what it is.
So earlier this year, Vaja introduced another new Treo 700p/w/wx case, the "Caddie", which is the subject of this review. The Caddie is available for a few other gizmos, including two Motorola phones and two models of iPods.
What we have here is yet another variation on their classic i-volution design, but with a few differences and a beautiful bonus.
First, take the i-volution, which is a perfectly-fitted, CAD designed ABS plastic shell, over which their artisans shape and form sensuous Argentinean "Caterina" cowhide leather, so that not a single stitch is visible anywhere and add the hinged, magnetic-closing top or flip-lid to it.
The lid is permanently attached to the case with a leather hinge. Like all other i-volution flip lid cases (except the "Visor" top, which has a window instead), the Caddie case has Vaja's famous "push-push" spring-loaded, single SD card holder built into the lid.
Now put a snazzy, contrasting, white perforated leather "racing stripe" vertically down the front of the lid and line the whole thing with matching white leather embossed with Vaja's logo.
As with all other i-volution cases, the Caddie is open at the top. Your Treo simply slides down inside the case and is held in by pressure. No clips, fasteners, buckles, just a nice, leathery hug. This leaves the entire top (antenna, card slot, ringer switch, infrared window), part of the back (stylus in its silo, camera lens and primping mirror), and part of the left side (volume rockers and side button) exposed.
The earpiece and rear speaker are both protected by genuine stainless steel mesh grilles. The Treo's front LED is visible through a perfectly-shaped little oval window cover, and down on the bottom, with the lid closed, you only have access to the audio jack. To get at the multi-connector or charging port, you have to flip the lid down.
Another minor quibble here: if Vaja would make the lid's leather hinge just a squinch (technical term) narrower, OR design it with a little hole, such that the Treo's tiny square power jack was exposed, you could plug in your standard charger without having to keep the lid open to do it, and I've made that suggestion to them.
Unlike other models in the i-Volution line, when you go to Vaja's site to design and build-to-order your Caddie case, you're only given one color choice. Other i-Volution models can be a solid color OR have a different color for the front and back halves. The Caddie case can't. There are 36 colors from which to choose, and the "racing stripe" down the front of the Caddie automatically comes in one color: white.
This go-round, I decided to go a little wild and order a purple i-volution. Vaja calls it "Violet" but, well, take a look..
Purple's probably my favorite color and although I have a lot of review sample cases from many other companies, I've never owned a purple leather case before, so why not. In person, it's absolutely stunning.
It reminds me of the famous little 19th century poem
I never saw a purple cow;
I never hope to see one;
but I can tell you anyhow;
I'd rather see than be one!
For a few dollars more, you can tick on the "Ultra Clip" option, and even watch an animation of how the clip is installed and removed from the case. If you prefer a totally smooth back on your Caddie, just skip the clip. Vaja's precision machined steel "Rivet Clip" is not an option with the Caddie case, for reasons I can't guess. Plain, smooth back or Ultra Clip - you choose.
Want your name laser-engraved on the back of the case? This is a zero-cost option. Just tick the appropriate box, and type in your name, or that of some lucky friend if you're giving them one of these beauties as a gift. For more money, Vaja will engrave your company's or any logo on the back of the case too, but you'll have to send them a .JPEG image of the logo, and all of that is explained as you proceed through the ordering process.
Vaja's Web ordering routine is cool, since as you click different color boxes, or options, a "showroom" duplicate of your customization choices changes, in real-time, on the left of the screen, again, thanks to their Flash-driven site design. You don't have to guess what your Caddie will look like when Mr. Fedex hands it to you.. you can see it right on-screen. But when designing your case, choose wisely, because once you're done, and have entered your credit card information, the order goes into production and you can't change anything. Delivery usually takes two to four weeks depending on where you are, seasonal demand, and what-not.
So why is this case called the "Caddie"? I'll show you why with your Caddie case purchase you get both the i-volution case, PLUS Vaja includes in the same box, a gorgeous little soft leather bag. Also made of their wonderful Caterina leather, the bag, or caddie, is snow white, and lined in silky smooth, jet-black satin, and even that black lining has Vaja's logo patterned on it. These guys sweat the details.
Whatever case color you choose is used as an accent stripe that runs around the perimeter of the bag. Vaja's two-piece metal "V"-ish logo is on the front, and the bag has a heavy duty, woven draw-string with a chrome-plated pull that actually LOCKS shut, so it can't accidentally open and lose its contents.
Now I stared at this beautiful little caddie, bag, accessory, whatever you want to call it and wondered to myself, so what's the deal here? Do you put your Treo into the i-volution and then put THAT into the bag? Or put the naked Treo into the bag instead? Or put neither the Treo nor the i-volution in the bag and just use it to hold other stuff, like maybe your Bluetooth headset, or cables, or your GPS receiver, a wad of cash, or some more SD cards, or whatever else you want to stash in it and tote around with you? And the answers to all those questions are "Yes." Use the "Caddie" for whatever turns you on. It's up to you.. there aren't any rules here as to what to put in it.
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