RhinoSkin Treo 700 Aluminum Case ReviewBy: Kris Keilhack
April 20, 2007
While recently attending a sporting event I nearly lost my Treo 700p for good. I had a tray of nachos in hand and tried to answer a call when the Treo went flying out of my SmartPhoneExperts pouch case and slid across the floor before hitting a concrete column. The 700p fortunately survived unscathed but that event made me realize the pouch case’s lack of security, combined with its growing decrepitude from heavy daily usage, made a new Treo case a necessity.
Being one of those moments where I felt the need for immediate, retail-priced gratification, I stopped by the local Franklin Covey, Office Depot and CompUSA stores the next day to see what was available for purchase locally.
I had previously tried the Rhinoskin case last year but returned it after a few days because I wanted to try a leather flip case. I thought I might as well give it another shot as I had thoroughly enjoyed similarly styled Rhinoskin models in years past for my Palm T3/T5/TX handhelds.
I purchased this Rhinoskin case in silver at the local CompUSA for $29.99. Similar models are available for $34.95 with free shipping at www.saunders-usa.com (Rhinoskin is the mobile electronic case division of Saunders Manufacturing). A pink anodized version that’s not quite my style is also available for a low $19.95 with free shipping. A variety of nice product shots are available on the product's page as well.
On a separate but curious note, Rhinoskin/Saunders may be getting out of the Palm case business. I did not notice any models on their website designed to fit the popular new Treo 680/750 formfactor. The Treo 700, Z22, and Palm T5/TX remain their most recently released case styles.
The case came in the usual Rhinoskin burgundy and silver blister packaging. Thankfully it was easy to open and I didn’t risk slicing, dicing, or otherwise piercing my skin when trying to get the case out of its packaging. In addition to the case itself, one of the nifty Rhinoskin removable post and belt clip thingies was in the package along with a free Stuffbak lost and found service decal.
While I appreciate the extra “stuff”, I’m a no-frills kind of guy. I popped my Treo 700p into the case and dropped it into my pocket. Nevertheless, while not very useful for me personally, I thought the extras in the package were a nice extra touch and could be handy for Treo users who like to tote their devices on a belt and/or worry about losing their devices while traveling. The Rhinoskin packaging is overall quite professional and perfectly suited for impulsive, retail-oriented purchases.
Exterior Design & Construction
I was very pleased to find that the high standards of my previous Rhinoskin aluminum cases continued to this newest design. The case seems quite well-constructed and the aluminum is sleek and smooth. I was surprised to find the case a bit heavier than my old T3 & T5 aluminum cases. The clear polycarbonate window is possibly the case’s single best feature. It offers fantastic screen protection with none of the installation woes or cloudiness inherent with traditional screen protector sheets. After several weeks of daily usage and travel, my case’s screen remains nearly flawless. It’s even a pleasure to read e-books on my Treo while it’s in the case.
More good news came in the form of the “fit” of the case in my hand. This case exudes of security and solidity when held in the hand. The little rubber bumpers on each side of the case make for a fantastic worry-free grip on what could be a very slick surface when coming into contact with sweaty hands on a hot summer day. I did find the case easier and more comfortable to handle when wielding it in PDA mode than when holding it up to my ear for phone usage. In fact, one-handed Treo usage is vastly easier on this device than anything involving typing. This brings me to my first complaint…
Due to the case’s inherent design requirements, its attachment points hang precariously over the Q,A,P, and backspace buttons on the Treo’s keyboard. This makes typing a chore at best and nearly impossible for the fat-fingered. This was the first but unfortunately not the last disappointment I encountered after living with the case for just a few hours.
Another distressing aspect of the case concerned a lapse in the usually solid Rhinoskin quality control. The thin metal rail residing inside the hinge that holds the two halves of the case in place constantly slides out. I have had to remember to press the rail back in every two to three days with a key or small screwdriver. I’d like to chalk this up to a manufacturing aberration or faulty unit but I had this problem one of my old Rhinoskin PDA cases as well. Prospective purchasers should definitely take note to be on the lookout for this problem.
Continuing to the inside of the case brings a generous amount of thin neoprene lining. This serves to protect the Treo and give the interior compartment some amount of shock absorption. Unfortunately, time was not kind to this delicate trim and it began to separate from the metal in the thinnest interior area (right under the screen above the d-pad). I also noticed some minor crumpling of the lining in the rear section next to the stylus silo opening. I seldom take my Treo out of this case so this is not attributable to frequent removal and reinsertion.
The Treo 755p launch is approaching and the Treo 680 and 750 have been on the market for months. If Rhinoskin and Saunders are going to continue their Palm and Treo case line, greater attention will have to be paid not only to quality control but to basic design.
- Great quality construction with smooth aluminum finish
- Available in two different colors (silver & pink)
- Relatively lightweight compared to other hardcases
- Offers much more protection than pouch or skin cases, especially for screen protection
- Reasonably priced and wide retail availability at CompUSA
- Difficult to type on keyboard when in case
- Uncomfortable for anything but short calls during on-ear phone usage
- Can be difficult to remove the stylus under certain conditions
- Does not allow usage of larger Treo batteries
- Renders a Seidio replacement battery door reset button useless
- Questionable assembly quality on the case cover hinge and interior neoprene lining
I have to admit feeling quite let down by this particular Rhinoskin hard case variant. The earlier T5/TX case I had was nearly perfect in every way. While I realize that the shorter, fatter and more button-crowded design of the Treo influences (and impedes) many case design considerations, I still felt that a bit more care could have been taken to streamline this case and improve its overall durability. The wobbly front panel hinge and damaged neoprene lining worries me greatly and I’ve only had the case for less than a month!
I was hoping that this case would strike the perfect balance between the ultra-portability of the flimsy SPE pouch case and my bulky but indestructible Palm Treo hard case. Unfortunately, in this “case” (pun intended) I feel like I will be purchasing a replacement Treo enclosure in a few months’ time. I can handle middling aesthetics and added weight or bulk if the relative merits of a case are up to par. This particular case unfortunately just does not leave me reassured that its non-aluminum components are going to hold up over the long haul.
My Rating: 2.5 / 5