PDA Case Review Roundup: Cases for the Palm
Tungsten T3: PDAir, Surplus PDA, Proporta and Sena Posted December 2003 by Tanker Bob, updated
The Palm Tungsten|T3 hit the market just over
two months ago, and cases for it have become more available.
As usual, the flip cover accompanying the T3 provides minimal
protection, leaving a wide-open opportunity to third-party
vendors. In this first cut at available cases, we look at
three quality leather offerings and one metal hard case.
As a size reference, remember that the T3 comes in at 4.3” x
3” x 0.66” and 5.5 oz .
PDAir makes quality cases for a number of devices.
This example we received provides an early option for T3
owners and fits the T3 very well. It holds the device with
a plastic retainer at the sides and locates it in the case
with two plastic stubs that fit in the corresponding holes
in the back of the T3. The stubs and retainer are part of
one piece of hard plastic that provides some stiffness to
the back of the case. These combine to hold the T3 securely
in place, even with the case open.
The flip case consists of quality, smooth black
leather on the exterior and soft black suede on the inside
where the back of the T3 touches the case. A single, even
row of contrasting white stitching holds it all together
with an attractive touch. It would be at home in executive
as well as informal settings. Opposite the PDA, the case
provides two pockets for SD cards, two slots for credit cards,
and a slide-in photo holder. A magnetic clasp holds all this
securely together when closed. With the T3 firmly inside,
this case's size suits it better to a briefcase or purse
than a pocket at 4.75 x 3 x 1.4 (not including clasp) inches.
It over doubles the T3's thickness. On the other hand, all
that padding provides excellent protection for the front/top/bottom
of the PDA.
Although the leather of the case doesn't protect
the T3 from the sides, the plastic retaining arms offer some
protection there. Open or closed, the case provides easy
access to the headphone jack, microphone, and voice recorder
button. Since the open case folds at the top, the T3 slides
open at the bottom without impediment. In fact, since the
retainers are on the side, no part of the case when open
interferes with the operation of the PDA except for the reset
pin. The T3 must be removed from the case to access the reset
pin on its back. With the slider open, you can even put the
T3 into its cradle for charging and syncing while still in
the case, sitting just a bit forward in the cradle.
The PDAir Leather Flip Case provides more than
just quality protection for your T3, adding the convenience
of SD card, credit card, and photo carry. Formerly Dr. Palm,
PDAir has recently expanded to accommodate their growing
business. You can buy this case for a very reasonable $32
Surplus PDA markets a wide variety of PDA accessories,
including cases. They provided two entries for this round-up,
both sharing similar characteristics. At 4.6 x 3.8 x 1.1
inches, its small size fit pretty well in my front pants
pocket and even my shirt pocket, but did bulge a bit in my
shirt. As you can see from the illustration, this case is
barely larger than the T3 itself, with only the stitched
edging providing additional length and width. It directly
exposes no portion of the T3 to damage, and the stitched
edging would take the brunt of any impact that might damage
The zip case consists of quality black, fine
grain leather held together by black stitching. It retains
the T3 using the same plastic clips and stubs as the PDAir
case. In fact, all the leather cases used this arrangement.
The zipper uses tiny teeth and operates smoothly. A nice
leather pull actuates the zipper, which did not mar my T3
in a week's heavy use.
Like most T3 cases, this one opens to the right
and permits unfettered access to all the T3's slider and
controls. It even sports a tiny hole in the back so that
the T3 can be reset while securely in the case--one of only
two cases in this review to do so. With the slider open,
the T3 fits in the cradle, sitting slightly forward, for
charging and Hotsync. Once in the zipper case, there's no
reason to remove the T3 again except to read the serial number
off the back. With the case zipped closed all the way, however,
you won't be able to listen to MP3s. The user can work around
this by zipping the case partially closed or by working the
headset cord around the T3 to come out at the small zipper
The zipper case's timeless styling provides
a look that's at home in the boardroom as well as the Internet
cafe. Two slots for SD cards perch opposite the PDA at the
bottom part of the case. It also has a small pouch running
down the length inside the spine with a small hole at the
top to hold an extra stylus.
Zipper Case provides excellent protection from drop damage
while offering clean styling and useful amenities. It can
be had for just $29.90 from SurplusPDA's web site.
SurplusPDA's Side-close Leather Case shares
many of the fine characteristics as its Leather Zipper Case.
The quality black leather, simple, professional styling,
and extra features generally parallel the zipper case. It
shares the same plastic holding/positioning pieces, SD card
holders, extra stylus slot, and reset pin hole as the zipper
case. The magnetic closing clasp operates easily and holds
the case closed securely. At 4.4 x 3.5 x 1.4 inches, it comes
in slightly larger in width and thickness due to the clasp
flap. This case will protrude more in a pocket than the zipper
By its nature, the side-close case provides
no real protection for the top and bottom of the unit, and
only the plastic retaining and closing flap protect the side.
However, this arrangement does permit easy MP3 play while
closed in the case. Extending the slider on the T3 allows
the PDA to fit in the Hotsync cradle, leaning slightly forward.
At $29.90 from Surplus
PDA web site, the Side-close Leather Case provides
a quality offering in a very popular case format. Please
read the review of their zipper case (above) to catch all
their common details.
Proporta sells quite a number of popular PDA
cases, including aluminum hard cases. These hard cases have
proven a favorite for the solid protection they provide to
their contents. This case adds to that distinguished lineage.
The shell consists of aircraft-grade aluminum.
Its solidity easily thwarted my attempts to activate buttons
and bend the front into the screen. Although the Tungsten
navigator has worn its impression into the neoprene inside
the cover, none of the button functions could be activate
by pushing hard on the case. The surface has an attractive,
titanium-colored matte finish that resists fingerprints and
scratching. The case exterior looks brand new after a week's
hard use. The case is lined with a thin layer of black neoprene
to protect the T3. The combination looks great and the neoprene
has a soft feel that will baby your PDA. Unfortunately, the
trim strip that circumscribes the T3 tore one side of the
neoprene off down to the metal on one side of the bottom
of the test case. I took great care when inserting the T3
the first time and didn't think that the case was too tight,
just appropriately snug. The case still holds the PDA firmly
with the missing neoprene, but that corner of the case no
longer has any padding to protect the T3 on impact. We contacted
Proporta and they stated that they were aware of the problem
and working with the manufacturer on a solution. Proporta
stands behind a no-questions-asked guarantee, and they have
already replaced some users' cases that experience the same
problem. A snap-type latch firmly holds the case closed.
This case holds the T3 firmly by the sides
of its slider and two plastic-covered spring clips that fit
in the two slots in the PDA's back. The PDA slides in from
the top and seats securely against a bottom metal strap.
When closed, a lip at the top of the front panel of the case
also holds the T3 and prevents its sliding up. With the case
open, the T3 can be opened by pulling it up rather than down,
which is a bit counter-intuitive. Cutouts expose the audio
plug, microphone, voice memo button, and speaker. In fact,
there's no discernable difference in the alarm volume in
and out of the case. The IR port, SD card slot, stylus, and
bottom connector are also exposed with the case closed. Despite
these exposures, if the case dropped with the PDA in it,
the aluminum would take the brunt of the landing from any
angle on a flat surface, with the neoprene absorbing a lot
of the shock.
The user must remove the T3 from the case for
charging and HotSyncing in the cradle. Some charge/sync cables
will attach to the T3 in the case, but they cannot have the
stabilizing back piece that most cables possess. The handheld
cannot be reset in the case.
Aside from the lining, the case construction
seems high quality. The edges are rounded with no sharp edges,
and the conformal bends have smooth radii. The case conforms
well to the T3, and at 4.45 x 3.3 x 0.87 inches adds the
least girth to the handheld. This has been one of the traditional
strong points of hard cases, and this offering upholds that
standard well. At 2.6 ounces, the case doesn't add much to
the weight, either. I found it to ride well in my shirt and
pants pockets. Proporta provides two SD card holders inside
the cover opposite the PDA, and comes with a metal, screw-in
stud and plastic belt clip for those so inclined. The small
bump on the case back that provides the mounting point for
the belt clip stud is small and unobtrusive--not noticeable
even in your shirt pocket.
We received a new case after completing the
earlier portion of this roundup. It made enough of a splash
to add it to the roundup. Rather than taking their cues from
other cases, PDAir started from scratch with this one. They
produced a real winner!
The case consists of an aluminum structure
with neoprene lining. The shell conforms to the general shape
of the T3 extremely well. It holds the T3 by the top portion
so that the slider opens down. The area holding the case
has about twice the neoprene thickness as the rest of the
case, offering considerable drop protection and avoiding
the tearing/wearing problem of the Proporta case lining.
The case uses a plastic locating plate glued to the inside
back with two small plastic studs matched to the slots in
the T3's back to precisely position the T3 in the case. This
all results in a superb fit and hold for the handheld in
the case, while permitting easy insertion and removal of
the PDA. The attractive aluminum shell sports a light metallic
hue with a matt finish and nice texture for gripping.
This case provides a host of useful features,
some enabled by the fact that it grips the T3 at its top.
The top of the case has cutouts for easy accessibility of
the power button, stylus, SD card slot, and IR port while
providing protection for these areas as well. The headset
jack, microphone, and voice recorder button have a cutout
on the left side. Because the top of the T3 says fixed in
the case, the side cutout doesn't move, making the voice
memo button always easy to press. The bottom of the front
cover lips around the bottom of the case, which when combined
with a slight extension of the back piece provides good protection
for the area around the Palm's universal connector, even
providing a cutout area to ease sliding the T3 open. That
also permits a reset hole in the back panel, which PDAir
kindly provided. They also put in an SD card holder on the
inside of the front panel.
Since the T3 slide opens
down in the case, the bottom of the T3 extends below the
case when fully opened. That means…you can Hotsync
the T3 in the cradle while it remains in the case! Other
nice touches are the raised area on the front panel to
avoid contacting the 5-way navigator and generous cutouts
for the speaker on the front. Unlike most of the cases
for the T3, this one hinges on the left like a book. It
closes with a sliding snap catch just like the Proporta.
Size comes in at 4.4 x 3.3 x 0.87 inches, the
same as the Proporta case, but feels a bit lighter. The aluminum
shell is at lea st as thick as the Proporta and the neoprene
definitely thicker in places, so the PDAir must use a lighter
alloy. It possesses excellent stiffness and stability, right
down to the precision tightness of the hinge.
The PDAir Aluminum Case sells for $29 at DSI and
$29.99 at domL.
If you're in the market for a T3 hard case that fits extremely
well, fully enables all the features on the T3 including
Hotsyncing in the cradle and resetting while securely in
the case, and looks sharp all the while, look no further
than the PDAir T3 Aluminum Case. I'm using it now as my primary
daily case, and there's no reason ever to remove it unless
I want to read my serial number.
Like many Sena cases, the Tungsten T3 leather case fits the
device like a glove. It sports a very slick design that gives
the PDA good protection yet adds very little bulk. You can
sync and extend the T3 while in the case, and you can choose
from 5 colors. Not bad for a $40 leather case!
The Sena case has one of the slimmest
designs in the round up. The case has a tightly fitted pocket
that wraps around the lower portion of the T3. The pocket
extends up to the bottom of the display, leaving the D-pad
and front 4 menu buttons exposed in a graceful oval shape
cutout. There are also cutouts around the button corners
of the T3 which make it easier to get the unit out of the
case. The universal serial connector on the T3 is also exposed,
and thanks to the thin leather, you can plug your T3 in the
sync cradle while it’s in
the case. There are two magnetic disks located on each front
side of the pocket inside the leather which hold the case shut.
While the pocket is made of very thin
leather to enable syncing when in the case, the rest of the
case adds rigid padding to provide better protection. There
is a large pocket built-into the cover where you can store
business cards and two SD card pockets for your storage cards.
The position of the magnetic closure gives the front cover
a slight tilt so that your cards won’t touch the screen
of your T3. A very nice touch!
The Sena T3 case is made of high quality
full grain leather. It comes in five color themes: Black, Black-Blue,
Black-Red, Red-Camel and Tan. The leather feels very soft and
smooth. We have the Black-Blue case and it has very finely
stitched leather. Both front and back covers (excluding the
bottom pocket area) have reasonably thick padding, so your
PDA is well protected. The side protection is provided only
by the bottom pocket which stops at the bottom of the display.
There is belt-clip option you can add on to the case which
adds additional $5 to the cost.
The Sena case is designed to give T3
users the freedom to use their PDA in the case at all times
even during syncing and soft reset. It’s very easy to slide the T3 open when
in the case as well. The two-tone five color schemes are attractive
and should suit a variety of tastes. The case provides good
protection yet adds very little bulk. The magnetic closure
makes it painless to open and close the case, and raises the
cover to prevent the SD cards stored in the cover from touching
the screen. All in all, the Sena T3 leather case is a well
designed case that’s doesn’t get in the way of
using the T3; yet it provides good protection while keeping
Sena T3 Leather Case without Belt Clip Option: $39.99
Sena T3 Leather Case with Belt Clip Option: $44.99