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PDA Case Reviews

-Posted April 2004 by Andrew Goldstein (xdalaw)

I love PDA accessories. And, among my favorite accessories, are PDA cases. If you've found this article, you know all about the incredible variety and choices offered from a number of different case manufacturers. In this article I will review four cases designed for the Dell Axim X3/X3i series Pocket PC. All of the cases reviewed in this article will work with either the X3 or the X3i. Some manufacturers make a separate model for the X3 (which won't accommodate the antenna of the X3i). You should consider that when choosing your case. I have referred to both models as the X3i for the purposes of this article.

Like ice cream, no one case "flavor" is best for everybody. Since we all have unique tastes, styles and needs, this review is only one person's opinion. This roundup will include brief descriptions of notable features of each case, along with a numeric rating of each case on five different factors: 1) Quality; 2) Value; 3) Functionality; 4) Style; and 5) Overall Rating. The rating is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ideal.

Before I begin, I must tell you something about myself, so that you can better understand my rating criteria. I am a lawyer who happens to be a PDA addict and I always have my PDA with me. I have owned eight PDAs over the past decade and I've also owned tons of cases and accessories. I also tend to be a little more “traditional” in choosing my PDA case. I don't like bulky and gaudy cases. Unlike some, while I don't use a belt-clip, I do appreciate that option. In sum, I look for a case that complements my PDA. I want a case to fit well, look good, and offer adequate protection for my expensive toy/tool.

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Rhinoskin Aluminum Hard Case

The Rhinoskin aluminum hard case is a tough case designed to protect your Axim without adding a lot of bulk. The case comes with a removable belt-clip. The case sells for about $32.00.

First impression: This is my second Rhinoskin aluminum PDA case. (I had one for my Dell Axim X5.) I think an aluminum case is a necessity for anyone who owns and carries an expensive PDA. For me, it's mainly my "weekend" case. I throw it in my pocket, on my car seat, or in a travel bag. I need a case that will keep my PDA safe, when it inevitably gets knocked-around.

Unlike the X5 case, you can immediately recognize that this is a Rhinoskin. The raised letter label on the front of the case, the "bubble" over the navigator and other buttons, and the linear ridges on the sides, breaks the monotony of an otherwise rectangular box.

Design comments and features: The surface of the aluminum seems to have a rougher texture than my older and smoother X5 case, making it a little easier to grip. Inside is a neoprene liner to cushion the Axim from shocks and bumps.

The Axim is held securely in the case with two pairs of overhanging edges, while the entire face of the PPC is exposed for easy access. The front cover swings open from left to right, as though you were opening a book cover backwards. It also latches closed firmly.

The case has cut-outs to allow access to the stylus, the jog-dial and the headphone jack, the speaker and the reset button. There is no cut-out for the power button and for the microphone on the front of the PDA.

In addition, the Dell-supplied sync connector fits through another cutout on the bottom of the case.

The backside of the front cover has two slots for holding SD cards. The slot recedes into the cover, thereby protecting the Axim's screen from the cards.

The case does accommodate the antenna of the X3i. But, the top of the antenna is partially exposed. It sticks out about an 1/8 or ¼ of an inch above the top of the case. As a result, an upside down drop might spell doom for your antenna. That's not good!

This is a problem because the Rhinoskin is my "protective" case. I would have preferred the case to include a little “bump” to completely cover the X3i's antenna.

Final thoughts: I do like this case, except for the imperfect protection for the X3i's antenna. But, even with that serious flaw, the case is still very good.

Rating

Quality: 8.5. Good materials and well constructed.

Functionality: 8. Except for the partially exposed antenna problem, the case protects on belt, or in pocket or bag.

Style: 8. Simple and industrial, with a touch of character.

Value: 7. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Overall: 8.5. A very good case.

Web Site: www.saunders-usa.com/rhinoskin/cat.cfm?cat_id=5081, $32

 

Rhinoskin Aluminum PDA case

Rhinoskin PDA case

Krusell Black Leather Case

The Krusell black leather case is intended to be an affordable, quality leather case. The case comes with a unique, removable belt-clip. The case sells for about $24.00.

First impression: This is my second Krusell PDA case. (I had one for my Dell Axim X5.) Upon first glance and inspection, it seems like a pretty good case. However, while I appreciate the niche this case is meant to fill—i.e., the affordable, quality black leather flip case--the more I use it, the more disappointed I am. The design and fit just aren't good enough for a Krusell. When I (and other users) recognized the problems with the case design, I emailed Krusell with my complaints. Within a couple of days I received a very sincere response. Over the next couple of weeks I received another. I was assured that Krusell was aware of these problems, and that they were working to fix them. They also offered to send me a free replacement case once it was ready. (They did not know that I as working on a review of these cases at the time.) I was impressed! I took this as a sign that Krusell cared about their customer's satisfaction. Unfortunately, it's been more than two months since this communication, and I have not heard another word from Krusell.

Design comments and features: The case is well constructed of black cattle leather, a velvety-cloth interior and a firm and reinforced front cover.

The flip cover has slots for three credit cards and two SD cards, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with these pressing up against my Axim's screen.

The case also is designed with a corner cut-out to accommodate the X3i's antenna. The case has cut-outs to allow access to the stylus, the jog-dial and the headphone jack, the speaker and reset button. There is a cut-out for the power button and for the microphone on the front of the PDA.

So far, so good. The problems?

First, the bottom “pocket” of the case was not designed well. Krusell attempted to cut-out an opening that would expose the entire row of buttons on the bottom of the Axim. Unfortunately, the thin leather strip on the top of the buttons simply gets in the way of accessing the buttons. In addition, instead of creating a squared and solid slot for the

Axim to slip into, the bottom of the case is formless. And, as a result, the leather will not lay flat when the X3i is in the case.

This makes the case look ill-fitting and imprecise. It almost looks like the case was meant for another Pocket PC, and that it just happens to "almost" fit the X3i.

Secondly, the Dell-supplied sync connector does not easily connect through the cut-out on the bottom of the case, without risking damage to your PPC. (Some third-party charge cables may fit--I've used the Belkin without a problem--the fact that the Dell connector does not is unacceptable to me.)

Final thoughts: Krusell makes fine leather cases. This just isn't yet one of them. I do have full confidence that a redesigned Krusell case will solve these problems, and once again fill the niche they aim towards.

Rating

Quality: 5. Good leather, but flawed initial design and fit.

Functionality: 7. Thin flip-case with unique multidapt belt clip system.

Style: 8. Looks more expensive than it is.

Value: 8. One of the best values out there.

Overall: 6. A pretty good case at a pretty good price.

Web Site: www.krusell.se/index2.php?s=1, $24

 

 

 

Krusell Axim X3i Case

 

Krusell PDA case

Bellagio Designs Black Leather Case

This is another leather flip case. It is unique, however, in many ways. In fact, it's so unique that at first I wasn't sure if I liked it or not.

The Bellagio is a good quality case. The case sells for about $40.00. The case is available with a removable belt clip. The price puts this case in the middle to upper-end on the price scale for available X3i cases.

First impression: The first thing I noticed when I opened the box containing the Bellagio was the smell. I love the smell of leather. The Piel Frama smelled like leather. The Sena smelled like leather. The Bellagio smells like leather that was just tanned. It almost smells like strong ink. This isn't meant as a criticism, just an honest observation.

The case is fine quality. The leather is smooth and soft, and the stitching is clean and simple. When the case is closed, and you're looking at the front, it looks a lot like a Piel Frama--with a little more style thanks to it's metal Bellagio badge.

Design comments and features: The Bellagio case is an interesting creation. While it has elements which are reminiscent of some other cases, the creators at Bellagio Designs worked to create a beautiful and functional case unlike any other. I think the result is a mixed bag. But, I give the creators a great deal of credit for trying to push the PDA-case envelope.

Bellagio decided to utilize a snap-closure in their case. This is similar to the Piel Frama and the Krusell, and different than the Sena. The most unique element to the Bellagio is that it is designed to be used with the Dell sync cradle. The back of the case has a “trap-door” that flips up so that the bottom of the X3i can be placed in the cradle for syncing and charging. That's pretty neat! I don't know of any other cases that do that. (Of course, the case will also allow syncing with a cable or with a wifi network if you have that capability.)

The front cover is thickly padded and it feels reinforced, while the back cover is quite firm and strong. This padding, along with the permanent metal “nub” for the detachable belt clip, combines to make this one of the thicker X3i cases in the bunch. The result is that the case will fit into the inside pocket of a suit-jacket, or inside of a shirt pocket, but there's not much room left over for anything else.

The Axim fits nicely inside of the case. The inside lining of the case is fabric, so the X3i slides easily (but snugly). The Bellagio's design exposes the entire screen, and the buttons on the front of the X3i, but it also incorporates a thin leather strip between the two areas, to help to secure the PDA inside of the case. The concept is similar to the Sena and to the Krusell, but there is a significant difference. Unlike the other two cases, in light of the “trap-door” feature described above, the Bellagio case had to figure out a way to keep the case from slipping out of the bottom of the case. The solution was to place a thin leather strap under the bottom of the PDA.

Consequently, this strap has to be thin and narrow to allow access to the connector, when the Axim is placed in the sync cradle. As a result, it feels too flimsy to keep the PDA from falling out the bottom. I'm sure it won't give out, but it sure feels that way. I won't take that chance.

The flip cover also has a slot for a few business cards or for a credit card. There are also slots for two SD cards. Bellagio added another unusual design feature in this case. They decided to reinforce the leather around the sides and top of the screen by stitching a thin bar into the leather. The bar feels very solid, and is about the thickness of a ballpoint pen refill cartridge. Bellagio may have done this to prevent the inside cover from pressing directly against the screen. This makes sense if you have a credit or SD card in the lid's pockets.

The case has cut-outs to allow access to the stylus, the jog-dial and headphone jack, and to the speaker. While there is no cut-out for reset button, you can easily move the “trap-door” to gain easy access. There is no need for a cut-out for the power button and for the microphone on the front of the PDA, as the top edge of the case is so thin that it leaves them exposed.

The Dell-supplied sync connector fits well inside another cutout on the bottom of the case

The wifi antenna fits through the top of the flip case via a rectangular cut-out. However, the front of the case is so thick, that I needed to pull the cover down to snap the case closed and expose the antenna. It certainly didn't flip closed like the Sena case.

Final thoughts: If you want to be able to leave your X3i in the case when using the sync cradle, and if you like a quality, black leather flip case, this is the only choice for you. Just be prepared to lug a pretty thick package.

Rating

Quality: 8. Fine materials and quality manufacturing.

Functionality: 8. Ability to sync in cradle is unique and ingenious..

Style: 8.5. Good looking, classy styled case..

Value: 7. Not the cheapest, but a top-quality leather case, at a reasonable price.

Overall: 7.5. A very unique and fine case. But, I think it's a little too thick, and the restraining “strip” is a little too thin for my own taste.

Web Site: www.bellagiodesigns.com/showcategory3.php/39, $40

 

 

 

Bellagio Dell Axim case

 

Bellagio Designs Axim X3i case

DSI Aluminum Case (PDA Armor)

The DSI aluminum hard case is a tough case designed to protect your Axim without adding a lot of bulk. The case does not come with a removable belt-clip. The case sells for about $22.00.

First impression: The DSI case is a cheaper (both in cost and design) rival to the Rhinoskin case. It's not bad, but it's not quite as good, either.

Design comments and features: The aluminum on the DSI feels smoother than the Rhinoskin. As a result, the DSI is a little harder to hold onto. The case was not designed with any bumps or ridges, which might have helped with the grip problem common to an aluminum case. Inside is a neoprene liner to cushion the Axim from shocks and bumps.

The Axim is held securely in the case with a single pair of overhanging edges, while the entire face of the PPC is exposed for easy access. The front cover swings open from left to right, as though you were opening a book cover backwards. It also latches closed firmly.

The case has cut-outs to allow access to the stylus, the jog-dial and the headphone jack, the speaker and the reset button. There is a cut-out for the power button and for the microphone on the front of the PDA.

In addition, the Dell-supplied sync connector fits through another cutout on the bottom of the case.

The backside of the front cover has a single slot for holding a SD card. The slot recedes into the cover, thereby protecting the Axim's screen from the card.

Like the Rhinoskin, the case does accommodate the antenna of the X3i. But, like the Rhinoskin, the top of the antenna is partially exposed. In fact, even more of the antenna is exposed with the DSI than with the Rhinoskin, since the DSI case is a little bit shorter in length.

The antenna sticks out about ¼ or 1/3 of an inch above the top of the case. This is a problem because the aluminum hard case is supposed to be a "protective" case. I would have preferred the case to include a little “bump” to completely cover the X3i's antenna.

Final thoughts: If you are looking for a protective hard-case for your X3i, and if the price difference with the Rhinoskin is a problem, this is a good case. It does the same thing, just not quite as well.

Rating

Quality: 7. Slightly lesser-quality than the Rhinoskin, but still good.

Functionality: 5. No belt clip limits usefulness for some.

Style: 6. Smooth and simple equates to kind of dull.

Value: 8. Less money than the Rhinoskin for similar protection.

Overall: 7. A pretty tough case and a pretty good value.

Web Site: www.notestation.com/aximx3.htm, $22

 

 

 

DSI PDA case

 

 

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