The PDA is located in the case by turning it upside down and shuffling it about on the screensaver until it fits correctly. The base of the case including the foam inserts is then is closed and the two latches are clipped into place. When the latches are clamped shut the unit is ready to be used.
Heavy Armor by Otter
The Heavy Armor is designed to protect your PDA in a variety of adverse environments whilst still allowing you to operate it in a normal manner.
The case has a number of foam inserts to ensure that the PDA fits snuggly and is held securely.
The range of PDAs that fit the case is impressive: iPaqs 3600, 3700, 3800, 3900, and 5450 with and without expansion sleeves; Palm m100, m105, m125, m500, m505, V, Vx, III, IIIc, IIIe; Casio E-125, EM500, BE-300, E200; Visor Edge, Deluxe, Neo, Prism, Platinum, Pro; Sony Clie S320, 610, 710, 760, 415; HP Jornada 520, 540, 560. Despite the large range of compatible devices I only have an iPaq 3870 so this is what I tested it with.
The front of the case has a screen saver which is made of a flexible clear plastic type of material fitting in the main case using a silicon gasket. Not only does this protect the PDA screen, but it also cushions the PDA in the case. The screen saver has been designed to allow you to operate the buttons and the touch screen without having to open the case, thus protecting the PDA at all times. There is even a place saved for your stylus (as shown to the right).
A second silicon gasket runs around a recess in the case which when shut forms a water and airtight seal. In the picture to the left the gasket can be seen as the grey band on the left hand side. Click on the picture for a full size image.
On the Armor case I was given there was a elasticated neoprene hand strap. When I first saw this I thought it was a bit gimmicky however out in the field it was extremely useful.
Click on picture for full sized image
Click on picture for full sized image
The Armor will take a PDA with an expansion sleeve, but it will not fit either the NavMan Sleeve, or the Co-Pilot/Emtac sleeve as these both have aerials which are too large for the case. It will not accept a CF flash GPS device either.
OK that is the technical parts sorted the main questions are what is it like to use, and does it live up to the advertising hype? Is it useable? Is it really as tough and resistant as claimed?
Well the first day of our weekend saw us in typical British weather: horizontal rain. We went out for a 3.5 mile walk over about 2 hours in the pouring rain. The PDA stayed completely dry. Not a single drop managed to penetrate the case, which is more than can be said for our waterproof jackets.
The screen was readable, after the water had been swept away. This was where the hand strap was really useful, as it was cold as well as wet and you always had a confident feel when holding it.
The next day we went up Fairfield on the Fairfield Loop. The weather was even worse that day, it didn't rain as much but we were subjected to low and freezing cloud and mists. Walking along a ridge we were constantly battered by gale force winds. My poor dog started out black and white, but by the time we got to the summit he was completely white covered in frost. The picture to the right gives a good impression of the conditions we endured 50 foot visibility and a virtual white-out. We are martyrs just to test the gear for you guys!! And I do this for fun???
Once again the case worked perfectly. With the hand grip it also gave me a little protection.
Now was the time to really test some of the claims. The case was certainly up to everything we had thrown at it so far, so it was time to get inventive. I really wanted to test it's waterproofness. We had a stream running through the garden of the cottage we were staying at so one night I submerged the Armor in the stream. I had a bit of trouble as it is capable of floating with a PDA inside. I had to seriously weigh it down. Eighteen hours later I plucked it out again and after drying the outside I found the inside completely dry. Needless to say I didn't leave my iPaq in there!!
I also tried doing some drop tests (again without the iPaq) and once again the case stood up to the beating I was giving it. My only concern was if it should fall onto an uneven surface like rocks screen face down. That is really the only vulnerable part of the case, and you have to accept that if you want to be able to operate your PDA.
So any downsides? Apart from the potential vulnerability noted above the only other issue I found was that when tapping the screen near the bottom of the display (typically where a lot of applications have their menus) this would activate the rocker button on the iPaq. The first couple of times this happened I thought the application had gone mad, then I worked it out.
The real pity for most GPS users is that you are restricted to using this case with an Emtac/Socket bluetooth GPS device as the case will not accommodate the other sleeves or CF receivers. It would be possible to modify the case to allow a cable entry for users with traditional handheld GPS devices, but then this would compromise the integrity of the case. For this reason the Armor gets a rating of 90%.