Recently I was given the opportunity to review the new Active Armor case for the Handspring Visor. Designed and distributed by Blue Ideas, the Active Armor case for the Handspring Visor PDA is the first in a new line of protective cases for handheld computers.
When I was offered a look at the new case, I couldn't pass up the chance. As soon as I received the case from Dan, I couldn't wait to try it out. The case comes with very simple instructions on how to insert the Visor into the case and how to use the various features of the case, including how to alter the case to accommodate large and odd-shaped modules.
The Active Armor cases for the Handspring Visor.
When I first used the case, I found it fit tightly, but it is not too difficult to get the Visor into the case. From my personal experience, I would recommend removing any modules or the plastic Springboard cover while inserting the Visor. Remember to remove the stylus from the Visor's built-in holder before inserting the Visor into the Active Armor. If you don't, you will be unable to access the stylus once the Visor is inside the case. Make sure to slide the Visor into the case far enough to match up with the rubber buttons and the opening for the screen. Finally, place the stylus into one of the holders on the back of the Active Armor. Over time, this process becomes faster and easier.
Once the Visor is inside the Active Armor, it feels very solid. The Visor inside the Active Armor is only slightly larger than the Visor alone. The Active Armor is not quite as bulky as other similar rubber "bumper" type products. While everyone’s opinion will vary, I prefer the larger feel of the Visor in the Active Armor over the Visor alone. While a person with smaller hands may have a problem with the larger form factor, most people will find the shape of the case very comfortable.
After long use and many insertions and removals, the case stretches slightly, which makes insertion and removal easier. The bottoms of the stylus holders also become slightly loose, but neither of the styli have ever fallen out of their holders.
The Active Armor case fits perfectly in most hands.
After using the Active Armor for a while, I have grown to appreciate the little touches that make this case great. The hard plastic cover of the Active Armor provides lots of protection for the Visor's fragile screen. Although, the cover gets in the way sometimes; particularly when I a using my Magellan GPS Companion. However, this is not a problem: the cover can be removed in a few seconds, without even taking the Visor out of the case. Other features that come in handy include the opening for a hotsync cable, the opening in the side that allows the use of infrared, and the small loops in the bottom corners for a neck strap or carabineer. Blue Ideas plans to release an accessory pack within 30 days of release that utilize the small loops to secure the Visor. Until then, I recommend checking your local stores for a small carabineer if you are looking for a good way to secure the Active Armor to a convenient place. The accessory pack will also include a "see-thru" plastic hard cover and a neck strap. Finally, the Active Armor case does not muffle the Visor's internal speaker like virtually all other cases do. With the Active Armor you won't miss any important meetings because you didn't hear your alarm.
Another well thought out feature is the ambidextrous design. The case is equally easy to use in either your right or left hand. The dual stylus holders allow the user to place the stylus where it is most convenient and even carry an extra just in case. However, third party styli or even the Handspring Stylus Pen will not fit in these holders. Keep that in mind if you prefer a stylus other than the standard Handspring stylus.
Overall, the Active Armor is a great case, especially if you like to use your Visor in rough locations. The Active Armor also works very well with the Magellan GPS Companion module. I have used the Active Armor and GPS Companion together on many road trips and campouts, and I am very impressed. I wouldn't even attempt to use the Visor in the outdoors without the Active Armor. Even the urban jungle can be quite hazardous to a PDA user. The Active Armor is able to handle all the bumps and jars of daily life.
The Active Armor with the Magellan GPS Companion module.
In fact, since receiving the case, I have dropped the Visor many times. Many of these would have certainly broken the Visor if it wasn't for the Active Armor. While hard-shell cases made from aluminum and titanium will provide similar protection, they cost many times more than the Active Armor and cannot accommodate modules. The Active Armor is much cheaper than a single screen replacement and only a fraction of the cost of a hard-shell case. The peace of mind alone is worth the purchase price.
I have found only a few flaws in the Active Armor case. The main issue with the Active Armor is the lack of access to the hotsync connector. You cannot use the hotsync cradle or any type of keyboard while the Visor is inside the Active Armor. The Visor must be removed from the Active Armor to use a keyboard or cradle. The Visor must also be removed from the case to access the battery compartment or reset hole.
The Active Armor is compatible with the hotsync cable.
In addition, the Active Armor case makes the Visor a little too large to put in most pockets. Unless you have very large pockets, be prepared to carry the Visor elsewhere. I have found that attaching the Active Armor to a belt loop with a carabineer works quite well if you don't have a spare hand.
The Active Armor can be attached with a spring clip.
Finally, the Active Armor case likes to get dirty. For some reason the type of rubber the Active Armor case is made from is quite the dust magnet. The engineers at Blue Ideas have researched this problem extensively and have come up with a highly technical solution: soap and water! A good cleaning every once and a while will keep the Active Armor looking as good as new.
These few inconveniences are not nearly enough to make me reluctant to recommend the Active Armor. The Active Armor case provides protection on par with a hard shell case without sacrificing any accessibility or module compatibility like other products. Whether you want to use your Visor outdoors, in the urban jungle, with your favorite GPS module, or even if you just want the cool Batman-like look, the Active Armor is the case for you. With a suggested retail price of $29.99, the Active Armor is far cheaper than the cost of a single screen replacement. I wholeheartedly recommend the Active Armor to everyone who can spare the slight size increase.
The black version of the Active Armor will be available 4/25/2002 direct from Active Armor or Amazon.com. It will be available at major retail stores soon after. Suggested Retail Price: $29.99. The Translucent Active Armor designed for the Visor Deluxe and Neo and the Silver Active Armor designed for the Platinum and Pro should be available within a month after the release of the black version.
The Graphite Active Armor
The Translucent Active Armor
Ease of use:
Copyright 2002 by Steven Roos - All Rights Reserved