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Protecting your Handheld PC

Clinton Fitch | Chief Reviews Editor
19 July 2002

Like most Handheld PC owners, my Jornada 720 goes with me everywhere. It is used in airports and airplanes, in the car, outside, inside… well, you get the idea. Rarely do I go anywhere without it.

With this use, especially in elements that are where most computers do not venture, I've always been concerned about protecting my investment. Obviously the first step was purchasing a good carrying case for my 720. There are many available and they range in price from $40-70. I personally chose the HP designed case more for its professional looks than anything else. It is not as padded as a Rhino Skin case but does offer more business function such as a business card holder, a small snap-close storage pocket and a stylus storage loop. The HP case is $69.99 from the HP Shopping website.

The Rhino Skin 3000 is another well designed case although not as stylish as its HP counterpart. The 3000 has storage pockets, both mesh and zipper, inside and on the outside of the case, allowing for far more storage than the HP case. Handheld PCs are held securely in place with elastic straps inside the case, preventing them from "bumping" around inside it. Additionally the case is padded a bit more than the HP case. The Rhino Skin 3000 is considerably less expensive at $39.95 and can be purchased from their website.

The Rhino Skin 3000 case for Handheld PCs

While cases are good for storage and protection when the HPC is not in use, they do little to protect it while it is in use. The two biggest areas that Handheld PCs are damaged are the two most obvious: Touch screens and keyboards. Touch screens take the most abuse as users tap the screens too hard or drag their styluses across the screens instead of tapping. Further, many users use styluses with worn edge, which can easily scratch the touch screens and make them difficult to use.

All users should inspect their styluses on a regular basis, making sure the tip is smooth and free of rough edges. New stylus can be purchased from every Handheld PC manufacture or many writing instrument companies also produce styluses. If your stylus is rough on the tip, quit using it and purchase a replacement.

Another aid in keeping touch screens in good operational condition is a screen protector. These thin plastic films have been available for Pocket PCs for several years now but only recently have been readily available for HPC owners. Expansys' screen protectors for Jornada 720s and Mobile Pro 790s are excellent, providing a smooth and noticeably soft touch surface without hindering operation. Further, the protectors are held in place by a slightly sticky substance on the back of the protector. This material leaves no film or residue when the protectors are removed on the screen itself. Expansys ships 10 protectors for $24.00 and they can be purchased from their website.

The Expansys Screen Protector for Handheld PCs

For keyboard protection, Image 911 produces the Keyboard Skin. Originally designed for emergency personnel in the field, these 7-mil thick plastic overlays fit snuggly to the Jornada 720 or Mobile Pro 790s keyboard and are held in place with thin strips of adhesive. The skin itself does not hinder use of the keyboard and I found after only a couple of days of use that it was not noticeable to the touch.

The initial install of the skin was a bit tricky in that lining up the small keys of the 720s keyboard was a challenge. However, once in place (after several removals with no less adhesive sticking strength), it stayed in place with little to no space or gap between it and the physical keyboard. The Keyboard Skin is $14.95 from Image911 and is available for order from their website.

The Image911 Keyboard Skin fits tightly on the Jornada 720s keyboard

While none of the things mentioned above are necessary, they combination of them provide levels of protection that can extend the life of your Handheld PC. Together they are around $100, far less than a touch screen replacement or something similar.

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