PDAir Custom Leather PDA Flip Case for Palm and Pocket PC

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, February 2005, send e-mail
Available from: PDAir, go to the web site
Requires: PDA
MSRP: £19.95 (around US$37.00)

In a mad rush to employ only high-tech in every aspect of our lives, some of us make the mistake of buying certain products made of synthetics. That's not to say that synthetics are bad. Far from it in fact, because the myriad applications for plastics of every description enable designs, products and supporting technologies which help make the contemporary world go 'round. Every so often though, you just have to rely on traditional natural materials for the best sort of results. PDA cases are a case in point. I mean, what material can be used to protect a PDA year after year, looking better and better as the material breaks in and ages? Forget about silicone which can tear and pick up stains which can't be removed. Forget about the various stitched nylons and foamed plastics which develop seam tears, broken zippers, frayed fibers, stains which can't be cleaned and punctures which can't be repaired. Sometimes, good old leather really is the best choice. Thank you cows and pigs.

We used three PDAir leather PDA cases for the Sony TH55, Palm Zire 72 and the Dell Axim X50v/624. Each case is designed to allow access to all external ports for stylus, Memory Sticks, SD cards, headphone jacks, control buttons and sync connectors. While none of the cases allows for synchronization in a cradle unless you remove the device first, sync via cable works just fine while the PDA is in the case. The basic PDAir case design is the same for each model: heavy gauge, leather covered bottom clamps, hidden nylon top & back retainer clips inside a top grain leather case body with business and SD card storage slots, inside ID flap, and a magnetic snap closure tab.

We compared the PDAir cases to competing flip models from Bellagio for the same PDAs. While both companies produce excellent quality cases, a couple of functional flaws in the Bellagio models had us looking more favorably at the PDAir stuff. For example, the Memory Stick door on the Sony TH55 is covered by a thick snap tab closure on the Bellagio case and it's almost impossible to unsnap it without physically removing the PDA from the case, which completely defeats the purpose of providing snap tab access to the door. The PDAir case does not cover the Memory Stick door, making it easy to open and close in order to change sticks (for multiple backup generations, different sets of music files, different sets of photos, etc., etc.). The Bellagio TH55 case rides half an inch higher on the belt clip than the PDAir, placing the Bellagio pivot point almost dead center which prevents the PDA from riding vertically.

In use, all three PDAir cases served their primary purposes well: a) protect the PDA screen, controls and camera lens from damage, b) allow direct access to controls and functions, c) provide enough padding to prevent damage from minor drops and related mishaps, and d) provide an attractive and clean looking case which can be used in any normal environment. My main PDA, the (slightly) aging and orphaned Sony TH55 has fared very well in the PDAir case. Less bulky than the Bellagio model, the PDAir case also rides less obtrusively on my belt and is certainly less noticeable under jackets, overshirts and so on. This is good because while I confess my membership in Geeks Anonymous, I really don't always have to look like the poster boy.

My PDA is an essential part of my work life and private life. It contains everything I need to do business, communicate with friends and associates, perform calculations of every kind, browse the web, pick up e-mail, track appointments, store contacts, kill time (play games), take quick photos, etc. My typical work day starts at about 6:45 AM and doesn't really end some days until 7 or 8 PM. I'm busy and I need what I need at hand, not stuffed in a file drawer somewhere especially when I'm at different offices, in meetings or on the road. I also carry a steno pad or notepaper pad for meetings. No paper daytimer though; those days are long gone. To accommodate all of this, the PDA is on and off the belt clip 20-30 times every day. I'm constantly in and out of Palm Address Book, DateBk5, Converter, AvantGo, Farkle, Acid Solitaire, Yahtzee, Calc, SplashID and SplashPhoto. The PDAir case has worked flawlessly. Snaps, tabs, retainers and grips position and effectively lock the PDA in the case without shifting or any requirement for readjustment. QED.

The Dell Axim X50v/624 and PalmOne Zire 72 fared just as well. From the standpoint of pure hardware usability, we really like the Zire 72 and it would be the perfect Palm OS PDA if it included WiFi instead of the (for us) almost useless and somewhat unreliable Bluetooth. The Dell X50v/624 is one of the best Pocket PC PDAs on the market except for the fact that it doesn't have a built-in digital camera which is kind of a serious omission. I use the camera on the TH55 at least once a week. In all three situations, the PDAir cases almost 'disappeared' during use. They didn't get in the way, they didn't draw any unusual attention and they fully protected each of the PDAs. This is good. QED again.

Cons: The Sony TH55 case seemed to require a bit more accustomization time because we were in the habit of releasing it a certain way from it's old Bellagio belt clip/case and that particular grip tended to cause button presses with the PDAir case. That meant the PDA was already on, often in the wrong screen, after we released the belt clip and flipped open the case. Occasionally, my fingers activated a hardware button when replacing the PDAir on the belt clip which also meant the PDA turned on and remained on for the default period. It took a few days for me to adjust my grip.

Pros: Beautifully grained leather, perfectly dyed, with clean, even stitching on all seams and surfaces. Cleans lines; not a lot of bulk. Magnetic snap closure is easy to use without having to visually position it. Excellent construction with good clearance for the rear-mounted PDA cameras on the TH55 and Zire 72. Well designed grips and locking tabs hold PDA securely in place. It's a very good choice. Recommended.

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