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SmarterCases Review

by Tim Drenk
Posted 3/1/02

A case for your handheld computer is a must if you want to protect your investment. A hard case offers more protection than leather or soft cases and usually looks very industrial. SmarterCases has a nice balance between the protection of a hard case and the look of a soft case.

Smarter CasesLaridian offers the Smarter Leather Case in several different colors with a small Christian fish logo in the lower corner. If you want a different style, SmarterCase has a wide variety of styles available. Although the fish design is only available through Laridian.

The leather covers a steel clamshell case. The hinge allows the case to open flat which allows easy access to both sides of the case. The case is secured closed by a leather tap that snaps to the front of the case. I generally prefer cases with zippers because it allows me to put a piece of paper or business card in the case without fear of losing it. I can't do this with most cases with snaps. The SmarterCase is different. Because of the clamshell design, the contents are entirely enclosed. With the snap fastened, nothing can fall out. Because of this, this is one of the few snap cases I like. Plus this case is faster to open than a zippered case. The inside of the case is lined with black velour which protects the handheld from being scratched. The SmarterCase is fairly heavy but that's expected because of the steel case. Although, as I've gotten use to carrying the SmarterCase, I don't notice the weight. The case should protect a handheld from the every day knocks and hits, as well as if it's sat on or even stood on and if it's dropped from 3 or 4 feet (based on the limited padding on the inside, I'm not sure if the handheld would survive if dropped from higher than that).

The SmarterCase

There are two different case designs, the original SmarterCase and a M Series Case. The original case measures 6.1" by 4.1" by 1.2" which is large enough to hold most handheld devices but too big for most pockets. My iPaq, without the sleeve, and all my Palm OS handhelds easily fit inside. The handheld is secured by Velcro. I don't like to put Velcro on the iPaq because it interferes with using sleeves, though I don't mind Velcro on other handhelds. The Velcro tabs to attach to the handheld are small, but still hold the handheld secure. Of course, you can always add more Velcro to back of the handheld if you want.

On the right side of the case is a slit that holds a small pad of paper and a small elastic loop that functions stylus holder. Because of the clamshell design, I have to pull the handheld off of the Velcro to access the stylus in the silo. Using the stylus holder solves this problem which can hold the standard stylus to a full size stylus. With a bigger handheld, like the iPaq, a full size stylus does hit the side of the handheld when the case is closed.

The cost of these cases is really amazing considering what you get. The original cases are just $20. Most hard cases are over $40 and even soft leather cases are $20 or more.

The M Series Case

The M Series case is designed for the Palm m500 and V series handhelds. This case measures 5" by 3.5" by 1.2". There is no Velcro to hold the Palm, instead the Palm is held by snug fit. At first, I was a little worried by this. But because the case is lined with velour and it's deep enough, the Palm is fairly secure. I was able to hold the case open upside down and shake it little without the Palm falling out. So for normal use, I can open the case without worrying that the Palm will fall out.

On the other side of the case is there are four storage slots to hold Secure Digital/MultiMedia Cards. In the center of the slots, there is a spot with an elastic loop to hold a small stylus. The storage slots hold the cards by a snug fit. There are couple of problems using this for these cards. In order to get the cards to stay in, I have to push harder than I want to get the card in all the way. I suppose the slots will loosen a little with use, but than will the slot be too loose to hold the card? I hope not. Another problem is the cards will pop loose if the case is flexed at all. The cards will also pop loose if a small amount of pressure is applied to the outside of the case. This means I have to be careful every time I open the case because there could be a card floating loose. An easy fix for this problem is to have a elastic loop over each slot, similar to the one holding the stylus.

Another nice feature of the M Series case is it's easily used by left handers. Simply flipping the case around, so the leather flap is on the left, allows left handed writers to place their Palm on the left and use the storage slots on the the right. I think people who are left handed will appreciate this feature.

Palm m500 and V Series users will notice the bulk of the case more than other users. If you are use to carrying just the device, carrying this case will feel really bulky since it is over twice as thick as a m500 or V Series device. You will have to decide if the protection is worth the bulk and weight of the case.

Like the original SmarterCase, the price of the M Series cases make them a very good value. For $19, you get a simple yet functional leather covered steel case. It's a good deal.

Conclusion

Overall, I like the SmarterCases. Even though the case uses a snap fastener, the contents of the case are total enclosed because of the clamshell design. The SmarterCase provides good protection without sacrificing style. The added protection, however, comes at a price, the case is heavier and a little bulkier than soft leather cases. The pad of paper is a nice convenience as is the SD Card storage slots (assuming something is done about the cards popping out). If you are looking for the smallest case possible, this is not it. If you are looking for good protection without spending a lot, this case is a good choice.



The SmarterCase
Price: $20

Pros:
-Inexpensive
-Leather covering
-Good protection
-Holds a full size stylus
-Fits just about every handheld
Cons:
-Heavy
-Uses Velcro (a minus for some people)


The M Series SmarterCase
Price: $19

Pros:
-Inexpensive
-Leather covering
-Good protection
-Doesn't use Velcro
-Provides CD Card slots
-Ambidextrous
Cons:
-Heavy
-Cards sometimes pop out of slots
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