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ATPM 13.07
July 2007





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Accessory Review

by Frank H. Wu,

i-Volution Shell


Developer: Vaja

Price: starting at $359–392 depending on laptop model

Requirements: MacBook or MacBook Pro

Trial: None

As soon as I clicked “Submit Order” on the Web site, I knew I had purchased the most decadent object I have ever considered acquiring. In the weeks I waited for the Vaja i-Volution Shell for my MacBook Pro, I dreamt about how it would change my life. If I always had my laptop with me, I would be better organized, more efficient, and thus more productive and more successful…

Of course, I knew that the allure of the custom-made leather case would wear off soon enough. And I always have my laptop with me anyway. So like all other hopes we have for this acquisition or that object, our desires lead only to material gain and not life fulfillment. But it can be quite impressive material gain.

I had previously owned PDA cases from the Argentinian manufacturer, which claims to use only the best hides from a nation known for its cattle and to offer more than a thousand custom combinations of features and colors. The PDA cases were terrific. The leather was as advertised, the highest quality. The fit was perfect.

Trendspotters have theorized about the meaning of women’s purses as status symbols. Women once were regarded as higher class if they weren’t burdened by the need to carry their own goods, having servants who did so, but now fashion demands that they change bags every season.

Perhaps carrying cases for laptop computers are the geek equivalent in conspicuous consumption. They certainly are a necessity for using a laptop computer to its full potential. It isn’t clear, however, why leather still has its allure. Ballistic nylon, neoprene, and various other synthetic materials are lighter, more durable, offer greater levels of protection, and can be had more cheaply—not to mention avoiding the sacrifice of animals. Yet leather has an exquisite feel and smell; it offers a sensual pleasure even as it ages.

Vaja seems to have progressed rapidly as a company—deservedly so. It now has a full range of products, including briefcases and wallets. To my eye, their corporate aethestic—the color combinations they feature, the soft corners, the silver logo—look distinctively more European than North American. I am too inexpert in this, as in most matters, to offer more than a hunch, but I’d wager others who looked at their offerings would discern the same style.


My i-Volution Shell arrived after a month. It came in a tasteful, albeit plain, box, inside which it was wrapped inside a plastic bag. It was gorgeous, but it also reeked. It looked exactly as it had been depicted on the Web site, black with a yellow stripe. I’d selected black, out of the misguided advice of an ex-girlfriend who insisted one’s leather accessories should always match one’s hair, with the yellow accent, because I’d written a book by that title. The smell was overpowering. It is to be expected, I suppose, from the tanning process or whatever is the appropriate term. From past experience, I expect the look to continue to be captivating over the long term, just like Apple’s designs. The odor dissipated after a day.

This is a magnificent carrying case. Every surface is leather. It comes with or without a carrying handle; mine is sans handle. The exterior has nothing extraneous, except that Vaja logo in the corner, which I didn’t care for originally but which I’ve accepted. The interior has ridges in the corners that hold the laptop in place. There also are padded inserts, which are made of a contrasting perforated leather (i.e., matching the exterior accent). The center insert can be personalized.


There must be some thin, stiff material between the exterior and interior layers of leather, to maintain the shape. The zipper is a heavy-duty plastic type with smooth action, including around the corners. For some reason, the little brochure that comes with the carrying case warns that the zipper should be pulled shut only with the MacBook inside.

The design seems to provide enough protection to be used by itself, with nothing else. The leather offers enough texture for a good grip. It is not an ideal surface upon which to place the computer while it is in use, because the rubber feet on the MacBook will leave deep imprints that do not fully fade away. I initially decided I should flip the case over if I was using the case as a heat shield, to avoid leaving a permanent indentation. I subsequently acquired one of those laptop desk contraptions to use as well, because I don’t know how the high level of heat will affect the case over the long term.


The i-Volution Shell has a few flaws. It is bigger and heavier than other cases. Its design also makes it difficult—but not impossible—to use with the MacBook still inside, because the sides are just a smidgen too high to allow easy access for the MagSafe power adapter and to the ports.

I don’t believe I can buy another carrying case for my MacBook Pro. Thank goodness, this is virtually perfect, because it is so expensive. If you want the best, however, this is it. There is no excuse to leave your laptop at home, if you can transport it in such style.

Update (2009-07-07)

I have an update on the Vaja case. I have enjoyed using it. It offers the needed protection and looks great. Unfortunately, however, it has not held up to wear and tear as well as might be expected of expensive leather. Three of the corners have become quite frayed, the leather ripping and separating from the underlying foam-covered plastic. The “before” photos show the damage. I used Gorilla Glue and did my best to repair the areas. The “after” photos confirm how difficult it is to do so. To be fair, the case did stand up to about 16 months of daily use and abuse: it was typically inserted into a briefcase, where it undoubtedly rubbed up against other items. A person who used the case by itself would likely have a better experience; my other Vaja goods have stood up much better.





Reader Comments (3)

Marcus Jarvey · July 26, 2007 - 12:21 EST #1
I hate to be rude or too direct, but do you ever NOT adore a product you review? I found ATPM recently when looking for a decent laptop pad, and read your review of the iLap (which I agreed with). Then I read your review of the iCurve, and then your review of the Cool pad, and realized that you seem to love everything regardless of how useful it really is. In fact, you say in the beginning of the article that you loved your pad and that it was great, etc etc, but then when you add the info about the new Podium model you talk about how you could never really use the original on your lap!

And here we are again with an opening statement that makes this seem like the best product ever! You'd be doing your readers a service to temper your accolades a bit. After reading that article, I decided to look elsewhere for my opinions because I am obviously not going to get a true review here.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 26, 2007 - 13:26 EST #2
Marcus - just my two cents, while I agree that keeping accolades in check but for when they're truly deserved would be wise, if you look at our review index, and start at the bottom, working your way up, you'll see that not everything reviewed by ATPM gets high marks.
Frank H. Wu · July 26, 2007 - 14:03 EST #3
Well, I haven't given everything rave reviews. Indeed, the specific reviews referenced about the iCurve and Cool Pad and Pdoium model, etc., aren't by me. Anyway, I just submitted a rather negative review to ATPM.

For what it's worth, the above review of the iVolution case notes it is very expensive, rather heavy, and it seems to pick up indentations when you put the laptop onto it. So a reader who was evaluating it would be aware it has these not insignificant problems.

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