Boxwave Designio (Zen Micro) Review

By: Jonathan Kwan
May 11, 2006

Whenever you buy a new gadget or electronic device, the last thing you want it to happen is get scratches on it, right?. You want it to remain free of scratches not because you are going to sell it later, you want it to retain its beauty.

Of course, sometimes it's pretty ironic how people protect their devices. In most cases, their methods of protection usually hide their brand new electronics’ unique looks. In other times, cases protect their devices by taking all the scratches -- whereas you are going to look at a scratched up "thing" in the end. Of course, it comes with a theoretical knowledge of knowing your digital audio player, cell phone, PDA really retains its sexiness condition inside.

Retaining its original good looks is one thing, but having visual appeal while offering the proper protection is another. With recommendations from our readers as well as support from portable electronic accessories manufacturer Boxwave, we will take a look at what they have to offer for gadgets protection.

With "innovative products designed for more than 1075 devices", I decided to take a look at some protection for my beloved brand-new Creative Zen Micro 6GB. With over three different units to choose from that's designed for Zen Micro protection, I picked out Boxwave's Zen Micro Designio leather case for today's review.

Our review unit came in a bubble wrap envelope, transported using United States Parcel Service to my mailbox across the street. (My newly developed area has clusters of mailboxes located in various locations throughout the neighborhood; mine is approximately 50 meters away from my house.)

Opening the bubble envelope reveals a very high-class looking box, similar to those containing jewellery. I don't know about the rest of Boxwave's products, but a product constructed of leather seems to automatically aim for high-end portions of the market. With the actual product combined with its name and packaging, the whole 'high-end feel' just seems to come together naturally.

It seems the name of this product has a special significance to it. First of all, the word 'Designio' evokes a cluster of meanings. At initial glance, the word itself seems to automatically connect whomever that happens to come across the name to think of English word 'Designer' with an Italian touch to it due to the way the word is spelt and the fact that it ends with two vowels. As a lot of designer fashion products come from European nations such as... Italy, it gives a high-end feel to the product, as what I mentioned in my previous paragraph.

A bit of research indicates to me that this particular word is really Spanish, and it means 'aim' or 'intention'. This arises one question, what is the 'aim' or 'intention' of this product? Does it really do what it's aimed or intended for? There’s only one way to find out... therefore we'll move into our review today.

Before we continue, the digital audio player shown on the left in my photo above is my brand new Creative Zen Micro 6GB that I got from warranty replacement in which I'll use with today's review. The '6GB' that I mentioned has no real significance in relation to the case; the Boxwave Designio leather case for Zen Micro can accommodate Zen Micros of any capacity (4GB, 5GB, or 6GB).

Inside our review unit's box is a Sea-Green Designio leather case for lime-green Zen Micro 6GB, detachable belt clip with attachment screw and a reusable black bag that's made out of generally good quality, synthetic mesh cloth-like material. I chose Sea-Green because it goes in nicely with my lime-green Zen Micro 6GB, and aesthetically speaking, it really does go together well.

Some of my friends think this case looks very nice. Quoting one of our APH Staffs, "that makes the Zen look nicer!" On the other hand, I did find this case a bit on the bulky side. In general, whether you like it or not really depend on who is looking at it.

Our Boxwave Designio leather case is lined with a layer of soft, non-scratching black fabric that cushions your Zen Micro along with leather that wraps around the outside of the case. To slide the Zen Micro into the Boxwave Designio, it took me quite a bit of force because gaps between my Zen Micro and this case is minimal -- in fact, the Boxwave Designio leather case wraps very tightly around my Zen Micro. What's more, it took me an immense amount of effort and approximately fifteen minutes to remove my Creative Zen Micro out of the leather case. It's way too tight for my likings (Which includes battery changing issues), but for consumers who want their Zen Micro securely in place with no worries about their digital audio player sliding out of place, then you can consider this a positive aspect.

UPDATE: After a while of usage and a non-sweaty hand, pulling the Zen Micro out is a much easier task.

I also noticed that the Boxwave Designio leather case is a little short of completely covering my Zen Micro at the front; around 2 mm tall of uncovered area can be clearly noticed near the top.

I found Boxwave's Designio leather case for Zen Micro is a little too thick at the top, creating a half-centimeter deep pit at uncovered parts of the digital audio player's screen and touchpad. This design flaw may create touchpad navigation issues with relatively large hands and it is one of the biggest pulldown on the Designio's looks.

As one of the most vital part of most electronics, consumers generally care about their display or screen more than anything else. Unfortunately, no screen protection of any sort comes with Boxwave's Designio leather case for Zen Micro. I don't think it's too unreasonable if they throw in a separate adhesive screen protector or two, just like how a set of Teflon feet comes with the Icemat 2nd Edition.

Coverage at the bottom of the Zen Micro is excellent. It covers the entire bottom without any flaws; Boxwave's Designio leather case for Zen Micro even curves up a little at the back to fit with Creative Zen Micro's original design. Boxwave, the manufacturer's name, is also inscribed onto the case itself.

While the curve offers better protection, sliding the Zen Micro in and out will scratch the Zen Micro's back.

Near the top back of Boxwave's Designio case is a screw point for belt clip attachment, which I'll talk about in a minute. On top of the screw point is a small hook for neck strap attachment. A quick upward pull on the hook reveals to me that the Boxwave Designio seems to use some thin and very easy to rip leather. A quick rub around the case with my previous experiences with leather further proves my point.

Regarding the quality of this product, it seems to me that once you bend the narrow parts that goes around the perimeter of Zen Micro's screen, it's pretty much permanent. The filling material that makes this leather case a "hard shell" seems to be cardboard, or at least act like cardboard.

A side shot with the Designio's belt clip attachment. Unless you want to really wear the contained gadget around your hip, I would not have the belt clip attached because it's definitely very large, as you can see in our photo above.

In conclusion, I really like the idea behind this product -- protection with style in mind. Lining is soft and does not scratch up what's being protected. Unfortunately, there are several drawbacks that you should take a look at. First of all, it's way too tight with my Zen Micro for my likings. Aesthetically speaking, while it has good looks to a certain extent, it makes the protected device seem to have noticeably larger dimensions than what it originally was. This can be seen at the top when it created a deep 'pit' at the unprotected areas such as my Zen Micro's screen and touchpad. No screen protection is included like what I just mentioned, and its cardboard-like material used for filling seems to be unsuitable. Leather is thin and can be easily ripped at weak points. Finally, belt clip is large therefore shouldn't be used until you really want to clip your gadgets on your belt. While most of these drawbacks aren't excessively significant flaws, it may be magnified due to the price of this product. We'll be looking forward to Boxwave's next improved product!

Special thanks to Jane over at Boxwave for making this review possible.

Note: The number ratings below has been adjusted accordingly to comply with our new Number Rating System.

Rating: 4.5/10
What do these ratings mean?

Boxwave's Designio leather case for Zen Micro is a product with a great idea. However, there are a few things that Boxwave missed out that need to be fixed.