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December 18, 2006

Review: Vaja Balance

vaja balance

Vaja, the Argentinian maker of deluxe leather cases, has released its lineup for Zune players, which includes its Balance, Classic, Classic Top, and Classic Top Retro models.

We recently put the Balance through our testing regimen at the Zunerama workshop. We found that if you're in the market for a top-quality case for your Zune, and don't mind paying for it, you won't be disappointed by the Vaja Balance.

vaja balance

Packaging. You get a feeling you're venturing into a high-end encounter just from the un-boxing experience. Vaja's packaging includes tastefully understated markings on the outer slip cover, which encases an inner covered box.

Flip open the lid and I swear that a subtle scent of leather wafts out of the box. I don't think I've enjoyed opening something this much since... well, since I took my first Zune player out of its box.

vaja balance vaja balance

What's in the box.

vaja balance

Clockwise from top left, the box comes with a set of promotional cards for Vaja accessories, a disclaimer card explaining the variabilities of genuine leather products, the case itself, an envelope containing three screen protectors, and an instruction pamphlet.

Setup. The screen protector slides snugly into a track inside the case.

vaja balance vaja balance

vaja balance

Your Zune slides into the case from the top. It's a tight fit the first time, and I had a bit of a wrestle to get it back out. The leather stretches slightly with use though, and in fact after repeating this three or four times the sliding in and out was a little easier.

Features and Performance. vaja balance

Like all Vaja products, the Balance is a hand-crafted case made from full-grain Argentine leather. The stitching - uniform and expert throughout - is subtle and adds to the distinctive look of the case.

Vaja cases are notable for their broad personalization options. For each of Vaja's Zune cases, you can choose from 18 different colors, 3 belt clip options, and even text and graphics engraving options. Vaja's excellent personalization site shows you what your case will look like with each option. Color options are free; belt clip options are $4 for the ultra clip and $20 for the rivet clip system; you can also choose to have no belt clip. Text engraving for one line of text is $10; engraving of a graphic such as a logo goes for $30.

vaja balance

The case leaves the top exposed, for ready access to the lock switch and the headphone jack. This differs from some cases, including the fliptop cases in the Vaja line, that protect the entire top except for the headphone jack.

vaja balance

The bottom of the case has an opening for the sync cable. The bottom also has openings at the corners. I'm not sure why those are there, but they do help give leverage points for pushing the player out of the case - on those rare occasions when you decide it's time for your Zune to dress down.

Front and rear shots:

vaja balance vaja balance

vaja balance

The screen protectors are robust and offer very strong resistance to scrapes against the car keys in your pocket or other hazardous encounters.

We were puzzled by the blue tint of the screen protectors, which seemed to cloud the display and block the brightness of the screen. Thanks to a helpful tip from Zunerama member lpxxfaintxx, we found you can peel a thin blue film off of both sides of the screen, leaving a durable and completely transparent screen protector. Whew!

The Balance is designed such that all control buttons for the Zune are directly accessible. No pushing of buttons through a layer of leather needed.

Summary.
  Company: Vaja
  Link: www.vajacases.com
  Model: Balance
  Price: $60.00 (options are extra)
  Pros:
Superb workmanship; broad color choice and personalization options; design does not impede D-pad or control button use; impressive gift box.
  Cons:
You'll pay for the excellent quality.
  Overall:
The gorgeous workmanship and design of the Balance case earns it our Recommended by Zunerama rating. If you're looking for a gift for yourself or for some other hard-to-please Zune owner, you can't go far wrong when you say it with a Vaja Balance.

Zune accessory - Recommended by Zunerama

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