By: Steve Gingras (email@example.com)
April 10, 2003
Like any new proud Tungsten T owner, I want to protect my investment...and data. Unfortunately, the clear plastic "cover" that ships with the TT is about as functional as the cardboard box that the unit shipped in. Clearly, Palm was just providing the absolute minimum in hopes of selling high-margin accessories...and I am just the sucker to buy them.
Many vendors have cases on the market for the TT and we are sure to see many more in the near future. Unfortunately, many of these cases do not lend themselves to effective utilization of the TT's unique collapsible design. A good TT case should allow the user to extend the TT with ease without removing it from the case as well as provide access to the TT's controls and ports. Also, while many exciting third-party designs are available, most are not available in you local store...so trying one out on a trial basis is rather difficult without committing to the purchase. Thus, I decided to try out Palm's TT cases given their relatively wide availability in my local computer and office supply stores. I also assumed that the Palm cases would provide unparalleled functional design given the designers' unique and advanced access to the TT prototypes. Did these assumptions prove correct? Well, yes and no.
Palm currently sells three cases for the Tungsten T. During the past week, I have had the opportunity to try all three and own two. The following is a short review of each based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary.
Palm Tungsten T Scuba Sleeve Case ($29.95 USD)
The Scuba Sleeve case was my first choice. This case just looked cool and the description implied that it was pretty rugged...and that's what I need. My last Palm (a IIIx) lasted nearly four years in large part due to its bullet proof case – a Rubber Bumper model from Fellowes. Unfortunately, that case was rather large and, if you are anything like me, the TT's form factor helped sell you on the unit. Thus, I started looking for a rugged case that mated well with the TT. The Scuba Sleeve was candidate number one.
So how bullet proof is the Scuba? Well, let's just say that I was ready to fire a couple bullets into it after using it for a day.
The case consists of a lightweight internal metal structure covered with a black rubber-like finish. It's not actually rubber. It's softer and more pleasing to the touch. Palm refers to the material as a "scuba-finish surface"...if that means anything to you. I suppose that the surface does feel somewhat like a dive suit, but please avoid the obvious temptation if you go with this one
The case description states that the case is a "sleeve." Here, the definition of sleeve means that the case is open on the top and bottom – not that the TT slides in. The case is hinged. Unfortunately, the case design does not seem to allow ambidextrous use. The case opens to the left as you face the TT. Thus, southpaws need not apply. This one is designed for the vast, unwashed right-handed masses...as are all of the cases contained in this review. Being right-handed, I cannot comment on any associated difficulties. I did notice, however, that the case did not open far enough. I constantly felt like the case was in danger of closing while I was using it. The lid tends to only open comfortably to the point that it is pointing straight at the user...threatening to close at any moment. Time and usage (i.e., wear and tear), however, might mitigate this issue.
So how did I like the sleeve design? Well, open on the top and bottom should be a good thing. The Tungsten needs to slide open and closed and we need access to the universal connector, stylus, IR port, and SD Card slot. So how did the case fare in real world tests? Horribly. While the opening on the bottom did allow me to connect to my portable charge/synch cable, it provided no help at all to slide the TT open. This case is designed to allow the TT to slide out the bottom. This option sounds attractive since it should also allow you to place the unit in the cradle when extended. Unfortunately, sliding the Tungsten open in this case is nearly impossible unless you pry it open by placing your fingernails in the seam on the front of the TT and claw it open. Palm did not provide the same thoughtful cutout that they designed into the hard side case (reviewed below) to allow you to grip the unit. I struggled with this design flaw for a day before I boxed it back up and returned it. Not being able to open the TT with ease was just an absolute show stopper.
If I still haven't scared you away from the Scuba, then I'll also mention that the case provides ready access to the record button, microphone hole, and earphone connector on the side. Personally, however, I don't care if the Scuba design provides front, top, bottom, and side access. It could get my newspaper off of the front lawn and fetch my slippers and I would still hit it with a rolled up newspaper. Any case that prevents me from opening my TT has no value to me. Bad case! Baaaaaaaaaad case! Get off of my PDA and go sit in the corner!
RATING: 4.7 / 10
Palm Tungsten T Slim Leather Case ($29.95 USD)
Okay, so with my TT and repackaged Scuba Sleeve in hand, it's back to the local Office Depot to try another case. The next case that I tried was Palm's slim leather case. Fortunately, my local Office Depot manager was kind enough to open the packaging and let me try the case with my TT prior to purchasing. He slipped into the back room and returned with the chainsaw that was necessary to break through the plastic packaging. Apparently, Palm designed the packaging to ensure that each case will survive a nuclear holocaust. I only wish that the flimsy plastic cover that ships with the TT was designed this well.
After rescuing the slim leather case from its 20 mil thick plastic tomb, we dropped in my TT. The case uses a side clip scheme similar to the flimso-plastico-cheapo bundled TT cover to hold the unit in. While not rock solid, the connection is adequate. Extending the unit while it is in this case is a breeze as is gaining access to front, top, and bottom mounted ports and controls.
When the case is open, the user has easy access to the face and all four sides of the TT. Access to the earphone jack, however, is not available when the case is closed. One interesting way around this limitation is to place the TT in the case upside down. This approach reverses the side on which the case opens and provides access to the jack even when the case is not open. This approach also has the unfortunate side effect, however, of inverting the business card holder on the inside of the front cover. Regardless of which orientation you choose, reports indicate that the case resting directly against the hard buttons on the TT's front face results in frequent inadvertent button pushes. While this design flaw is generally frustrating, it is maddening when those buttons control track skip and volume for your MP3 software.
So what was the final assessment? Back into your tiny plastic tomb leather man! The earphone jack wasn't the show stopper for me. Instead, I decided to leave this one on the shelf simply because I didn't like the overall form factor. The case resembles a small day planner. The cover stays closed with a leather tab that is fairly secure. Nevertheless, the case did not strike me as being able to provide much protection for my beloved (and abused) TT. I am sure that the case would do fine if your TT went from your desk to your inside suit pocket and back out to a meeting room table, but that's not me. I'm not in sales or marketing. I develop software and I do not wear a suit. Instead, my Palms tend to get thrown around quite a bit. Thrown into my laptop case...thrown into my backpack...thrown into my Jeep's glove compartment...you get the idea. I need the case to fight back. This leather portfolio just wasn't going to cut it for me. If you are in sales or marketing, however, this case might work very well for you. It has space inside the cover for your business cards and looks rather professional. Personally, however, carrying around a Barbie doll size day planner just isn't my speed. I travel with geeks and we need bullet proof. I need a case that I can throw into the pocket of my floor length-leather jacket on my way to go rescue Morpheus from the agents. Well, something that will at least survive the trip in my backpack while mountain biking. This one just isn't for me.
"Hey Mr. Manager, still got that chainsaw handy? I see one more case that I haven't tried yet."
RATING: 6.3 / 10
Palm Tungsten T Aluminum Hard Case ($39.95 USD)
The helpful folks at Office Depot next used a machete to open up the Kevlar packaging on the aluminum hard side case. While I wasn't excited with the case's appearance, I was running out of options. Not that the case is ugly, but it just isn't up to the TT design standard in my opinion. The color is all wrong for a TT case. It's a coated brushed aluminum similar to that of a Palm V/Vx. I'm not sure why they didn't choose an alloy color that more closely resembles the TT's own color. Thus, I ignored this one on the first trip to the store. After the Scuba Sleeve debacle, however, I was ready to be a little more open minded.
After bandaging our package-inflicted wounds, we dropped my TT into the hard case. My first thought was, "wow, nice fit." The TT fits snuggly and even locks into place using two tabs on the case that mate with two openings on the back of the TT (back, not the sides). I hadn't noticed the openings on the TT before, but I suppose this application is for what they were designed. Got to love an "all Palm" solution.
The major difference between this case and the Scuba is that the TT slides out of the top of this case. In fact, the bottom of the case isn't even open. The case features a thoughtful cutout on the top portion of the case back to allow you to grip the TT firmly and slide it open. This feature works very well. So well, in fact, that I boxed it up and brought it to the register to take home.
So how has it fared in day-to-day use? Better then horrible. In fact, it's pretty darn good. The case lid opens fully and locks in place when open or closed. The case opening on the top allows easy access to the stylus, IR port, and SD Card slot. Another opening on the side provides similar access to the record button, microphone hole, and earphone connector. The design of this opening also allows you to extend the TT without removing the headphones – a feature not offered by the popular Innopocket/Proporta/Rhinoskin alternative hard case. The TT slide action works well and the case is fairly rugged. The case also has two slots on the inside of the cover to hold your spare SD cards...a very nice touch, and also not offered by the Innopocket/Proporta/Rhinoskin case. So what's not to like? Well, besides the color, not much...except the complete inability to synch or charge the unit while it is in this case. The case features a spring device in the base to enable the rear-mounted tab locks to function. This design prevented Palm from providing an opening in which even a portable universal connector could fit. Fortunately, removing the TT from the case is a breeze.
All things considered, it's a pretty darn good case. It's functional and rugged. I also won't mind if it gets scratched because the finish isn't on the top of my list of favorite features. All in all, it's a keeper. The nice folks at Office Depot can now lock up the jaws of life.
RATING: 7.3 / 10
While many cases for the Tungsten T are on the market, the Palm-branded cases are likely to be the most plentiful in your local chain store. If you are like me and need immediate gratification, feel free to grab one to protect your new loved one. Just stay away from the Scuba Sleeve like the black plague wrapped in an Ebola virus crepe. The slim leather case is fine for executive types. The fit and finish is excellent for the price and the business card holder is a plus. The real winner in my opinion, however, is the aluminum hard side case. It's fairly rugged, allows easy extension of the TT, and provides access to all of the controls and ports except the universal connector...but hey, it's a clamshell, what did you expect? You might even consider the sealed bottom to just be an added measure of protection for your TT's delicate universal connector port.
If lack of access to the universal connector while your TT is in the case is a showstopper, then consider the Innopocket/Proporta/Rhinoskin hard case as an alternative. This case, which is sold under these three brands, offers some of the same features as the Palm-branded hard case but also provides access to the universal connector while the TT is in the case. While you cannot place the TT in the cradle while the unit is in this case, you can connect a portable charge/synch cable. The case is also somewhat slimmer than the Palm aluminum hard side case. Unfortunately, no case is perfect. Users of this case complain about sharp edges, poor lid clearance for the front of the TT, and the inability to extend the TT while the earphones are connected. The case is also not widely available so you will most likely need to mail order this one.
If Palm made a couple minor modifications to their cases, they would own most of this market. The Palm cases are available in most office supply and computer stores while their competition is primarily available via the web. Unfortunately (for Palm), the limitations of their cases have power users scouring the web for alternatives. Palm could stem the flow of this migration by just tweaking the existing designs. A simple cut out on the back of the Scuba Sleeve would make that case a winner. Change the finish on the hard side case and redesign the internal spring to allow access to the universal connector for a portable charge/synch cable and that case would also be nearly perfect. If Palm makes these changes, then I will be right back at my local Office Depot making another donation to my favorite charity. Until then, however, the market is still wide open for innovation. In the meantime, my TT will be safe in my Palm aluminum hard case bouncing around in my backpack. See you on the trail.
© 2003 Stephen Gingras
Article Comments(54 comments)
This article is no longer accepting new comments.
Click here for the full story discussion page...
- I got one -Tuckermaclain
- RE: Don't we have this already? -Tuckermaclain
- RE: Palm brand will return in 2018, with devices built by TCL -richf
- RE: Palm brand will return in 2018, with devices built by TCL -dmitrygr
- Palm phone on HDblog -palmato
- Palm PVG100 -hgoldner
- RE: Like Deja Vu -PacManFoo
- Like Deja Vu -T_W