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PDA Case Review Roundup: Cases for the Palm Tungsten T3: PDAir, Surplus PDA, Proporta and Sena
Posted December 2003 by Tanker Bob, updated Summer 2004

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 .


Flip Leather Case from PDAir

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 at Brando.










Leather Zipper Case from Surplus PDA

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 PDA.

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 closing gap.

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.

SurplusPDA's Leather 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.


Side-close Leather Case by Surplus PDA

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 case.

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.


Aluminum Case from Proporta

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.

Proporta's Aluminum Case, which sells for $38, fits the T3 like a glove, provides good protection, and looks great.


Aluminum Hard Case from PDAir

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.






Two-tone Leather Case from Sena Cases

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 it attractive.

Sena T3 Leather Case without Belt Clip Option: $39.99

Sena T3 Leather Case with Belt Clip Option: $44.99

You can purchase these cases at




Sena case
Sena case





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