Vaja i-volution Review

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by TheBearman, Jul 14, 2008.

  1. TheBearman macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #1
    I know a few of you have been looking at the Vaja i-volution case for the Air. Let me share what I have at the moment, I'm still wanting to test it for the next week or so to see how it performs.

    First, this is not my first case from Vaja. I have been a fan for some time. They make quality products which have always met or exceeded expectations.

    The i-volution Leather Suit for the Air comes in your choice of two different leather types. The smother softer Caterina, or the more robust Floater. The list price for these cases are $280 and $300 respectively. There is a newer "Crystal 2" version selling for $460, made with the Caterina leather. You have several color choices and now only two design options for the grip or spine.

    The version I selected was the Caterina, not so much to save money but I prefer the softer material and my Air is a personal system not subject to extended use every day. I also selected the stainless steel mesh grip which for some reason is no longer available. The only two options now available for the grip are solid leather or a vented leather or "pique". I selected the stainless for the reasons or concerns others have voiced over this case, heat management. I'm not sure why it was dropped and as you will see later that may be a mistake.

    The overall design and quality are as I would expect for the money, with a few minor exceptions. The case has cutouts or clearance for the LED sleep/IR sensor, the magnetic catch, the power port and the drop down connection ports. The mesh grip area extends well onto the bottom and is as wide as the vents on the Air. The base of the Air slides into the cover base and under two fabric straps on the front corners to hold the machine. The top cover latches over the top and at two points at the bottom of the lid. The leather appears to be adhered to a plastic form, allowing latching to the Air display. The two halves are connected permanently by the grip.

    As I said there are some minor exceptions to the design and quality. The first is that the base cover doesn't lock to the Air as the top half does. This isn't really a problem as long as you pick up the Air by griping the sides of the base and not the display. Lifting by the display will separate the machine from the cover. I'm not sure if this is a problem with just my version or the design. This is not a factor when the lid is closed as the grip becomes taunt and there is no play in the cover.

    Another concern is when opening the Air. If you are in the habit of opening the lid with your thumb at the corner, you might want to change how you open your Air. Opening the Air this way will cause a minor separation of the cover from the Air. I don't think it will cause problems, but I would rather not risk the possibility of damage. As already stated they did include a cutout for the magnetic catch which lines up with an attachment point on the top.

    There has been a recent thread with concerns over the play in the lid. The added weight of this cover does seem to have a negative effect on that. When I lift the Air with the lid open, shifting the machine back and forth will cause the lid to move. For the moment the lid doesn't move on it's own in normal use, we'll see how it is in a few weeks.

    The last little bothersome item is the power port. Because it is located so far back on the Air the only way to attach the power supply cable is with the cable running towards the front. This can get in the way as I'm sure most route with the cable heading towards the back. Not really a flaw, more a limitation imposed by the Air itself.

    And now for what everyone is concerned about, heat. I wish I could say the case has no effect but I can't. My initial test showed that with the case applied and the Air running CPU test the overall temps were up about 2 deg C across the board. That really isn't that bad, but I didn't stop there.

    I'm not going to debate the core shutdown issue, but I will report what I found. As a test I started with a cool Air and used CPU Test and Activity monitor. For CPU test I selected huge, 10, 2. On the initial run the system was run without the case. After 10:15 seconds I started seeing the second CPU drop out. It didn't completely shutdown, just dropping one or two seconds then five to eight seconds of running. I let it run for 25 minutes total and it never completely shutdown.

    I then repeated the test with the case on. It still lasted 10:15 seconds before starting dropouts but at 14:00 the second core dropped completely.

    I am going to make an assumption that although the case doesn't effect the standard cooling by blocking the vents it does limit the dissipation of heat from the case. I believe that the air runs on the edge of failure and it doesn't take much to push it over that edge. I selected the stainless grip it the hopes that it would help manage the heat.

    I'm going to assume that this would also be a problem for other cases of similar design. If anyone with the clear case what to comment feel free. As I sit here typing this post my CPU temp is running at 52, which really isn't that uncommon for my machine.

    I'm going to test this for my normal use over the next week and will provide additional updates.

    This is one of the most expensive cases available for the Air. Is it worth it? I don't know if I can answer that for everyone. I know that I don't plan to support it just because I need to justify my expense. I know how hard I push my Air. As I already stated this is my personal system and is really used for casual activites. I do use MS Office, BBEdit, Firefox, iTunes, etc but nothing that really will press the CPU for an extended amount of time. For now I'll keep it. Well, let me rephrase that, I'll keep using it. There is no return policy for these cases short of a outright defect.

    Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer.

    BTW, videos do not push the CPU that hard. I didn't have any problems running youtube videos with the case applied.
     
  2. billyripkin macrumors 6502

    billyripkin

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago
    #2
    Thanks for posting. Do you happen to have any photos of your air with the case?
     
  3. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #3
    There are some photos on the Vaja site, but I don't have any at the moment. If there is something specific I will be happy to snap a few and post.
     
  4. dibara2003 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Location:
    Hawaii!
    #4
    i give you credit for buying such an expensive case. even if i had enough money to play around with, idk if i would've paid. sure looks nice though.
    I second seeing pictures of yours!
     
  5. accrane macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2008
    Location:
    Orlando
    #5
    i would be really interested in some pics of it on your machine...
     
  6. Alan Taylor macrumors 6502

    Alan Taylor

    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Location:
    Mississauga
    #6
    Wow! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts since the case isn't something I'd buy on a whim!
     
  7. billyripkin macrumors 6502

    billyripkin

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago
    #7
    If you get a chance I would love to see some real world photos of the case. I looked at the website and love what I see there.
     
  8. minik macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2007
    Location:
    Bellevue, WA
    #8
    That leather case looks very nice. On the other hand, I'm thinking of a Vaja case for my iPhone 3G.
     
  9. MazingerZ macrumors 6502

    MazingerZ

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    #9
    REgarding the heat, I have the Speck case and have similar issues when using the case.
     
  10. umgolfer macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Location:
    MI
    #10
    I've had a number of Vaja cases and the leather is outstanding quality. Of course it should be since the price is quite high. Heat issues would seem to be a concern on a laptop. I wonder how it is in real world use..
     
  11. mBurns macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Location:
    USA
    #11
    Interesting review. I love Vaja products too.
     
  12. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #12
    I'll try and get some pics posted later today. I have also asked TXCraig to add comments.
     
  13. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #14
    [​IMG]
    Packaging
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Nice logo, standard for all Vaja products
    [​IMG]
    This view is the case ready for the Air. Note the indentation for the feet.

    [​IMG]

    This is a closeup of the vent area.

    [​IMG]

    Although this really doesn't look much different that the second pic, the Air is installed and this is as it appears closed (top).

    [​IMG]

    Here is the open view.

    [​IMG]

    This is a closeup of the corner showing the fabric straps.

    [​IMG]

    Note that the grip opens or expands to provide some room for airflow. Between this expanding and the stainless steel mesh of the grip it helps prevent excessive overheating.

    [​IMG]

    This shows a back view, the grip as well as the 2 catches for the lid.

    [​IMG]

    Bottom view. The feet on the bottom are leather, not rubber as on the Air.

    [​IMG]

    This shows the cutout for the power port. Note the indentation for the power running forward. Based on the lack of available space behind the power port I don't see what other options Vaja had available.

    I hope these are useful. I had a tough time with the dark leather getting reasonable pics. The color, which really doesn't show well here is a dark brown.
     
  14. queshy macrumors 68040

    queshy

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
  15. n0de macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2005
    #16
    So no over-heating issues to report with longer use?

    It looks great, now I have to justify the price.....
     
  16. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #17
    I wanted to update everyone on the heat concerns with this case.

    What I have found is that this case does impact cooling enough to be a concern. I can do some surfing and most single task without much of a problem. Heat starts to become an issue when you attempt to do more than one thing at a time.

    For example, I was downloading a movie from iTunes while attempting to watch another. Doing this lead to a complete core shutdown causing the watched movie to start to stutter. Another test involved scanning images, building a slidshow (iPhoto), with a browser and mail running in the background. Again, a single core shut down completely.

    Even running most task on their own will cause the fan to spin up more quickly than normal. That's not always the case, sitting here creating this post with several things open (iPhoto, Quicken, iTunes) sitting idle in the background my fan is running 2500. If I send iTunes off to download some movie or a series of podcast I'm sure it would jump to 6200 in no time.

    Performing these same activities without the case did cause the Air to run warm, but at no point did the core shutdown completely (if at all). This is, from what I see from others, normal operation. As I have stated in other post, if I don't block the back vents I can only cause a core to skip a beat even running a intense CPUTest suite.

    Does this mean you can't use the leather suit? No, working within its limits and knowing those limits makes it somewhat useful. Although multi-tasking seems to be out (for the most part) I can still surf the web or watch a movie without a failure. I will continue to use it, but I expect that will be limited to when I travel or just sitting around the house.

    I will say I honestly can't recommend this case to others. Despite how nice it looks, how great it fits and the overall protection provided it simply doesn't handle the heat well based on my test. I will say Vaja did try their best to provide a case that allows free movement of air across the back. I honestly believe the problem is that the Air uses the entire aluminum case to help dissipate heat. Wrapping the shell in leather prevents the system to properly cool.

    Some of you might not have these concerns or might only use your Air for light-weight activities. In that case you may find this case useful.

    I know there is at least one other member (TXCraig) with this case and I would really like to hear there thoughts.

    BTW, I did update the photos to point to higher res images.
     
  17. queshy macrumors 68040

    queshy

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    #18
    The high res pics look great, thanks.

    Too bad about the heat. We couldn't have really expected perfect airflow when using a case that literally wraps the air up like a baby.

    Most of the time you won't be downloading movies (probably) so I wouldn't worry too much about it in the long term.
     
  18. macbook123 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    #19
    Sorry if I'm being ignorant here, but why do you want to put the MBA in a $280 case? Isn't the aluminum more pretty?

    Do people want to use the case to protect the aluminum from scratches?

    But if they want to protect it, when are they every going to enjoy what they protected, i.e. when are they going to take it out of the case to see the pure aluminum shell?

    And if it's only about the protection, why buy a $280 case?

    I guess people are buying the case because they don't like the Aluminum?

    Thanks for helping me understand.
     
  19. queshy macrumors 68040

    queshy

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    #20
    I see what you're saying, but everyone has their own taste. Personally I agree with you - I love the aluminum look and don't want to keep my Air inside it. Also, for my iPhone, I bought a slip out case and not one in which the iPhone stays inside.

    But this vaja case is really nice, too, and I'm sure it appeals to tons of people.
     
  20. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #21
    My feeling on this case, as it is with any case, is to keep the device looking new as long as possible. Most of the time my phone or laptop will live in its protective shell. That way, the few times it is "out and about" it will look as good as the day I picked it up.

    Oh jeez, I just realized I've become my parents! What's next, plastic slip covers?
     
  21. Mactagonist macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Location:
    NYC - Manhattan
    #22
    OP: Have you installed Coolbook or replaced the thermal paste on your MBA?

    Id like to get an idea of where you are coming from with your thermal issues.
     
  22. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #23
    I have replaced the thermal paste and I did try Coolbook. Prior to replacing the thermal paste I couldn't even watch YouTube videos without dropping a core completely. I now, without the case, need to push the cores using something like CPUTest to cause what I would describe as a intermittent core drop. Not enough to effect anything running but visible on activity monitor.

    As for Coolbook I didn't find as useful following the upgrade to 10.4. Take a look at my results in the MBA Temps thread. You can see with Coolbook in place and lower voltages it still seemed to run warmer with Coolbook than without.

    You're welcome to perform the same test I did to see if your Air runs about the same temp wise. I keep waiting to hear from someone else to see if mine runs warm or not.
     
  23. TheBearman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    #24
    Maybe I spoke to soon concerning Coolbook. I know that during some test I performed following the upgrade to 10.4 the core temps were a little higher with Coolbook enabled. Because of this I didn't continue to use it so all the results and the core drop outs with the case applied are without Coolbook.

    Following the Mac World podcast I opted to try it again to see if it made any differences. The problem of ripping with Handbrake and dropping a core was resolved with CB applied. The system ran hot, 85c and the fans were at max during the rip, but it never stumbled.

    Based on this, I now feel I can run with the case all the time.
     
  24. Mactagonist macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Location:
    NYC - Manhattan
    #25
    I am glad to hear it, coolbook helped me as well.
     

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