PDAs—it’s getting so you can’t go anywhere without them. They’re the latest addition to our Batman-like tool belts, hanging next to the pager, the cell phone, the big ring of keys, and the utility knife. They go with us to work and to play. So, if you’re going to invest in this kind of organization, you might as well look cool and protect your equipment at the same time, right?

Two companies, MarWare and RhinoSkin, were kind enough to send me some cases for evaluation. (Another company named Rhodiana didn’t think that I was cool enough to review its cases.) If your PDA has become as important to you as a parachute is to a skydiver (you can’t leave without it), then check out this case study.

Cases for business
Maybe you’re a high-flying business executive, or you want to look chic even on dress-down Friday, or you just want to clinch a promotion with a timely present to the CIO. If so, then think leather. Both RhinoSkin and MarWare make leather cases that are showy, sleek, and well designed. Both products are work through cases, and both use similar solutions—Velcro pieces that you attach to the back of your PDA. My only objections are that I don’t like to muck up the back of my case with Velcro and glue and I don’t want to add any width to my PDA. If you’re using a Palm V, you can avoid using Velcro, but you can still have a work through case by sliding its cover in a pocket. Figure A shows the RhinoSkin Executive Leather Case (brown) and the MarWare CEO case (black).
Work through case (wurk thru kās): A case that allows you to use your PDA without removing the device. You don’t have to work; you can play, as well.

Figure A
Here are MarWare’s CEO case (above) and RhinoSkin’s Executive Leather Case (below).

As you can see in Figure A, the MarWare CEO case is a little bulkier than RhinoSkin’s Executive Leather Case, but the CEO case is very practical. It has room for cards and a writing pad. Why do you need a pad and a pen when you have a PDA that you can write on? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to give notes to poor suckers who don’t have PDAs. Give them notes like this one: “Buy a PDA, you poor sucker, and stop making me use paper.”

RhinoSkin doesn’t clutter its case with dead trees. With the Executive Leather Case, this company opted for the “if you have a small PDA, why have a large case?” philosophy. Both models are top-notch, and either one will make the kind of impression that proclaims, “My Porsche is parked outside.” RhinoSkin sells its Executive Leather Case for $49.95. MarWare will put its CEO in your hands for $29.95 (Palm models).

For travelers: RhinoSkin cases
I’m not really into leather. Give me Cordura over cowhide any day. I like the outdoors, and I take my PDA along. I use it for taking notes, for storing travel directions, and for checking up on the weather. So, I need lots of room—room for carrying a clip-on WeatherGuide, a folding keyboard, extra batteries, and maybe even a modem and telephone cable for checking my e-mail at a pay phone or a motel by the trailhead. That’s why I’m partial to RhinoSkin’s RhinoPak cases, which are made out of Cordura nylon. I can vouch for these tough cases, having traveled through the Himalayas with one for 25 days.
Cordura (kor-dur-a): Some kind of nylon that you’ll find mentioned on camping gear labels, which say that it’s good, strong stuff.
Figure B contains a photo of the 1100, 2000, and 3000 RhinoPak models. All of them feature elastic bands—rather than Velcro—for attaching the device to the pack. Since the bands hold your PDA at the corners, you can use it as a work through case if you want. Sturdy mesh pockets hold business cards, batteries, or other stuff. The 1100 model is a small case for toting just your unit. It has a belt loop and a plastic stiffener. Throw it in your pack for $26.95.

Figure B
Clockwise from left: Here are RhinoPak’s 1100, 2000, and 3000 carrying case models.

Both the 2000 and 3000 RhinoPaks are serious cases. I travel with the 2000 ($39.95), which has all kinds of convenient pockets, flaps, and holders for storage, but it doesn’t become too bulky for packing. It fits in my briefcase, laptop bag, or backpack. RhinoSkin says that this pack will hold your PDA in the elastic. If you’re using a Palm, however, it’s really designed for a PDA with an attachment. I actually stow the folding keyboard there, and I tuck my Palm IIIx into the inner mesh pocket to keep it secure. If you need even more space, the 3000 ($49.95) would make a good choice. All three packs have high-quality metal zippers with loops, just like you see in the best camping gear. Unfortunately, RhinoSkin has discontinued the hunter green color, which was my favorite. Figure C shows my 2000 at work.

Figure C
This RhinoPak 2000 is fully loaded. Unfortunately, hunter green has been discontinued.

MarWare wears well
The SportSuit line of PDA cases from MarWare is colorful and unique. They’re made of Neoprene. Since “mar” refers to “marine,” it makes sense. Neoprene is a material that’s used in all sorts of outdoor applications, particularly in water sports. I can imagine wearing one of these cases while resting on a chaise lounge on the beach at Honolulu: A parrot perches on my shoulder, and Jimmy Buffet plays in the bar behind me. Ah, another piña colada, waiter.

Where was I? Oh, yes, at my computer in Louisville. The models are aptly named SportSuit ($22.95), SportSuit II ($24.95, fits larger PDAs), and SportSuit III (19.95). They appear in Figure D. They come in black with blue piping, yellow, blue, and red. The SportSuit III (as shown in Figure E) is a pouch that clips to your belt; the SportSuit and SportSuit II have belt loops, more pockets, and Velcro (which offers you a work through option). You don’t have to use the Velcro. Either way, these cases work fine. Note the top left case in Figure E: It’s a WinCE Suit, which is sized for larger devices ($29.95). These models also have D-rings for clipping to a backpack or for just looking sporty.
Neoprene (Nē-oh-prēn): The kind of synthetic rubber that scuba suits use.

Figure D
MarWare’s colorful line of cases conjures up images of sun, sand, and surf.

Figure E
Use the SportSuite III as a simple belt-pouch.

I like these cases because the 3mm Neoprene is durable, comfortable, and waterproof. If you don’t think that waterproofing is an important feature in a case, then you’ve spent too much time at your desk. Take a vacation. The cushiness of the neoprene inspires confidence as you toss it in your briefcase, overnight bag, or (preferably) backpack or beach bag. All of these cases come with plastic stiffeners that protect your PDA, but you might want to remove them. They stick out and ruin the sleek lines.

For more information
I’ve described only a small number of the cases that MarWare and RhinoSkin offer. Both companies have many more models. For example, RhinoSkin makes hard shell cases that protect your device against “high impact” computing, including one case that’s made out of titanium. You can buy these cases or learn more about them online. Visit MarWare and RhinoSkin. You can e-mail Rhodiana, too. Tell them to get a clue and send me some cases.

Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.

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