Dave Mycroft tests the Hummer of PDA protective cases in the harsh environment of the UK outdoors, then parks a car on it... Did it survive?
Otterbox Armo 1900 PDA Case
Weight: 320 grammes
Waterproof, dustproof, impact resistant, expandable
protection for most recent PDAs, Universal fit for newer
smaller form-factor PDAs. Flexible, fully sealed interactive
screen membrane. Quick access to CF and SD slots through the
top of the case. Quick access to PDA connection through the
bottom of the case. Adjustable neoprene handstrap. External
stylus holder. Flip-up hard screen cover. Headphone/headset
access. Easy open compound latch system. Gore membrane vent.
Reliable protection in the worst of Bristish weather.
Bulky and quite expensive.
A PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) is an expensive
piece of kit, but with the latest models featuring built in GPS and
mobile phone capabilities they're becoming more widespread in the
outdoor environment. And, with digital mapping software, can be an
invaluable navigational tool.
Like most electronic devices though, they don't get on too well in
wet weather. The Otterbox 1900 is designed to keep your PDA safe from
water, dust and accidental damage from impacts like dropping it onto
rocks, while still allowing you to use it effectively.
The 1900 is designed to fit the latest models of the
popular iPaq PDAs, and is ideal for the smaller format models like
the 2210 series. The PDA is secured inside the box by a Velcro
covered neoprene strap. Once in lace you simply lock down the outer
case and your PDA is safe from accidental damage. An outer, "flip-up"
lid gives access to a replaceable thin membrane that makes contact
with the touch screen of the PDA, allowing normal use in even the
most torrential downpour while protecting it from water getting
The Otterbox uses a "Pod" system of attachment for both the top
and bottom to allow access to important features of your PDA while
still providing full protection. Pods are available for covering the
important CF/CS Card slots that allow memory expansion or add-on
hardware. Also available are Pods for scanner attachments and, on the
base, to allow charging or serial cable attachments. The whole system
is kept at constant pressure irrespective of altitude or depth
underwater by a Gore™ membrane vent.
The case itself is manufactured from glass reinforced
polycarbonate and is strong enough that you can accidentally park
your car with its wheels on it without causing damage. A
thermoplastic rubber moulding along the outer edges increases the
impact resistance while simultaneously giving the user a good grip.
Additional carrying features include a neoprene hand strap and a belt
mount (available at extra cost).
We tested the 1900 on a wet, snowy, weekend on
Tryfan where the weather threw everything it had at us. The PDA was
easily accessible through the flip up lid, with near normal
operation. The external stylus holder kept the stylus secure while
not in use but made it available when needed, and the internal
membrane worked well in allowing access to the touch screen. All the
buttons were easily accessible through the membrane. As part of the
test the unit was dropped down Milestone Gully, bouncing from rock to
rock in its 100ft descent - all without any visible marks to the case
or damage to the PDA.
The only downside to the Otterbox was its size. The unit is
necessarily bulky to provide the level of protection demanded, but as
a result feels large and slightly unwieldy in the hand. The neoprene
hand strap kept the box securely attached to the hand in use, even
he Otterbox isn't cheap, but there again neither is a PDA. For your
£80 you do get a system that allows you to use your PDA pretty
much anywhere without worrying about sand, grit, dust, water or
accidental impact from dropping &endash; and it's a lot cheaper than
buying a replacement PDA.
With a modern PDA and the 1900 you can now safely use the advanced
features of digital mapping programs in the field, like on-screen OS
maps with your exact location highlighted, in safety. At the extreme
end of use the system is presently being used along with Contact 3
software to transmit live video, audio, text and GPS defined position
from high altitude expeditions in the Himalayas
You wouldn't want to spend your day with the bulky box attached to
your hand throughout, but in practise how many people would carry
their GPS in their hand constantly through a walk? At last you can
now safely put your PDA in the top pocket of your rucksack without
worrying about how wet it gets or if it gets banged occasionally
during scrambling/climbing. When you need your PDA you can then take
it out of your pack and use it, whatever the environment.
Finally, while the Velez may be light for Paramo, it's certainly
no lightweight in comparison to other options on the market, so if
weight is a major issue for you, look elsewhere.
Available in the UK from Rugged Peak: e-mail
or phone 0870 4431661
Know more or want to?
Pushed for time: A
safe, secure storage solution for your PDA which protects it
from water, grit, sand, dust and impact. Quite bulky and
expensive, but reliable and flexible in use.
If you'd like to add your own experiences of this product check
out our user review system and post your opinions to the world. If
you have questions you can mail
us direct, ask
Richard Gear or try a posting to our gear