A week or so ago we reviewed OtterBox’s waterproof iPod Cases so the extreme geek with an active lifestyle could kayak or even swim while listening to their favorite tunes. What about if the extreme geek needs access to their PDA around sand, water and other harsh elements? OtterBox again comes to mind with their line of four PDA cases. Read the entire review to see if my PDA phoned drowned or survived the tests…
OtterBox has several product lines such as the previously reviewed iPod cases, standard OtterBoxes, Cigar Caddies, Tablet PC Case, Rugged Laptop Case, GPS Case, Zippo Cargo Case and PDA Cases. The PDA Case product line includes four different cases including the 1900 ($99.95), the 1910 for HP 6500 ($129.95), the 2600 ($49.95) and the 3600 ($99.95). The most versatile and smallest of the cases is the 1900. The OtterBox 1910 specifically supports the HP 6500 and 6900 and allows for use of all the functions of the phone while in the case. The lowest price OtterBox case for PDAs is the 2600 while the 3600 PDA case is larger allowing more space for most attachments including portals for printers, GPS and other cable connections. You can see if the 2600 and 3600 fit your PDA by checking out the fitting guide. The Geeks tested the OtterBox 1900 PDA Case and we used a Treo 600 as the PDA test subject.
The OtterBox 1900 measures a slightly bulky 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 2.2″, but this is the smallest waterproof PDA case on the market that we know of. The case looks and feels like plastic but is durable enough to support the weight of a fully grown (perhaps too fully grown!) man. On the front towards the right side of the case there is an external stylus holder, just make sure you pull the stylus out before you place your PDA in the case or you will have issues retrieving the stylus. On the back of the case, an adjustable neoprene hand strap is included allowing you to easily and securely hold the case and PDA in one hand.
The case actually has three separate parts to it held together by heavy latches that are really tight when closed but easy to unlatch. The latches are quite substantial but definitely easy to use. When latched, you know the PDA is safe.
One of the nice features about the 1900 is the expandability provided by the various POD kits. Some available POD kits include short and tall GPS PODs, a Serial POD and a medium sized POD to fit various different cards that could be used in PDAs. The POD system makes up the top piece of the case. The POD kits are interchangeable and locked into place by latches on the left and right. With the included POD, you have access to plug in a headphone or headset which would allow me to continue to use my Treo 600 as a phone in harsh conditions limiting damage from water or sand to just the headset and not the much more expensive device. Also, the top of the case can easily be removed for access to the various memory slots located on the top side of most PDAs.
The front and back of the case basically slide apart after the latches in the back are unlatched. The back is where the strap is located. The front of the case has a flip-up hard screen cover which, when flipped up, provides access to a flexible interactive screen membrane. I say interactive because the screen membrane allows full access to the front of the PDA including the ability to press buttons and use the stylus or finger to click on icons on the PDA display. While the entire front of the Treo could be used including the touchscreen and buttons, there was no way to interact with the side or top buttons which include power and volume. The bottom of the case has an rubber access port that you can take out for quick access to the PDA connection.
The inside of the 1900 can hold devices up to 5.56″ x 3.5″ x .93 including (but not limited to) the PDAs listed in the 1900 fitting guide. We tested the 1900 using a Treo 600 as the PDA test subject. The Treo is not listed in the fitting guide but fit perfectly including the antenna on the Treo. A Velcro strap lined with non-scratching neoprene holds the PDA in place and helps keep the PDA pressed up against the screen membrane allowing for great contact from outside of the case with the PDA’s touchscreen.
To test the 1900 we decided to see if we could drown the Treo 600 in the sink as well as having the faucet run directly on the screen membrane while trying to use the screen at the same time. As mentioned above, the Treo 600 fit perfectly in the case and the neoprene Velcro strap help the screen fit tight against the screen membrane. After filling up the sink, I dropped the 1900 case with the test PDA in. Everything floats and after a few minutes I checked to make sure that no water leaked in. The inside of the case and the Treo were dry.
I suited the Treo up again with the OtterBox 1900 and turned on the faucet. While the case was partially submerged I placed the screen membrane directly in the path of the falling water and with finger and stylus I was able to successfully use the PDA’s screen. The only issue again was not being able to access the side and top buttons, but I was able to do everything else on the Treo. While the faucet was turned on full blast I also tested every joint to verify that the joints could handle some running water and again, there was no leakage.
The final test after drying the unit off was for me to stand on the OtterBox 1900 Case. I’ll admit I strategically placed my feet so I was not standing directly on the hard cover screen protector which protects the 1900’s soft screen membrane. Regardless, the OtterBox 1900 held up to my heftiness.
As mentioned above the only issue with the OtterBox 1900 is that I cannot use the side or top buttons on the PDA when it’s secured in the case. Because of the size and some of the limited functionality, the OtterBox 1900 is more for a niche market of PDA users that have active lifestyles around water, sand and dirt or need to use their PDAs in more extreme conditions than an office building. For instance, I could easily see using the OtterBox 1900 in either Afghanistan or Iraq, or while camping out or even for protection at the pool or beech but not for everyday use around home.
If these conditions match your need, the OtterBox 1900 is a good buy at $99.95 and OtterBox even offers an unconditional lifetime guarantee on this and all of their waterproof plastic boxes.
The OtterBox 1900 can be purchased directly from OtterBox or from Amazon.COM (for $49.99!).
While needing to use your PDA underwater may never happen, the ability to use your PDA in hard conditions is. While there are hardened PDAs that could support the various military, research, etcâ€¦ applications, you can use any PDA with the various OtterBoxes, such as the 1900, saving money and having a PDA that can easily be used in normal conditions.
The only issue I had with the OtterBox 1900 was the ability to access buttons and switches on the sides and top of the PDA. While the screen membrane gives full access to pressing buttons and the touchscreen, there is no way to access other areas of the PDA.
The case definitely is waterproof, dirt-proof and dust-proof. Also, the screen membrane is a great feature allowing you to use the front of the PDA while in hardened conditions. The PODs for GPS, Serial connections and various other uses are definitely a plus as well.
Underwater the OtterBox 1900 worked like a charm. The downside was that only the front of the PDA could be accessed.
The case withstood not only water but the pressures of being under the Chief Gizmateerâ€™s feet. You canâ€™t get much better than that!
At $99.95 the PDA case is definitely not cheap, but if you work in hard conditions the OtterBox 1900 is the insurance youâ€™ll want to buy.
OtterBoxâ€™s 1900 passed all of our tests including being submerged in water while we continued to use the PDA as well as being stood on. Overall the 1900 case is a very good value and ultimately works provided you need it.