Torture Testing - The big case test - Part 3

Torture Testing - The big case test - Part 3

Summary: OK, after all that testing it's time to draw a few conclusions about just how robust the protective cases are.

TOPICS: Hardware, PCs

This is Part 3 in a 3 part series of posts --> Post 1 | Post 2

Conclusions and closing thoughts

OK, time to draw a few conclusions.  Overall, I've been impressed with how much abuse some of these cases can take, and some seem capable of absorbing and shrugging off extreme levels of abuse. 

Let's start with the Storm Case iM2050.  Everything about this case is designed with robustness in mind - the latches, the durable plastic, the strong hinges, the secure seals, the foam that can be easily cut to provide a custom fit for your gear.  I wouldn't go as far as to call it bombproof (because I don't have a bomb to hand ... :-), but it's as close to indestructible as cases go.  I've not seen a case able to take so much abuse without showing any signs of failure.

Personal note: We've had first-hand experience of just how much abuse Storm cases can take before - one of ours (an iM2100) was in a traffic collision a few years ago which resulted in the case being crushed between a door and a bulkhead (so much so that an imprint of the case could be seen on the outer skin or the door).  Inside this case was a fair bit of photographic and electronic equipment.  When I saw the vehicle and how the case was embedded inside it I didn't hold out much hope for it or the contents, however, when I managed to free it, both the case and contents were fine - and the case is still in active duty.  We look at the battle scars as medals of honor.

I'm also impressed with the Seahorse SX 300.  Even though this case leaked water in the rain test, this case is both compact and very strong.  It doesn't feel as robust as the Storm Case iM2050 (the plastic shell of the Storm Case feels soft and rubbery while the Seahorse feels harder and more brittle, also the stainless steel fittings and the strong latches on the Storm Case feel more robust) but in reality it still offers a very secure shell for your electronic gear.  One critique of the Seahorse is the foam.  Personally, I'd feel happier if it came with two layers of thick foam and a thicker bottom layer.

Next -->

The Storm Case iM2370 is a different animal to the other Storm Case and the Seahorse.  This case is an attaché-style case designed to protect notebook PCs.  This means that it's bigger than the other case and this increase in size seems to make it more prone to crushing.  In the crush test the case deformed a lot, so much so that if there was a notebook inside the case at the time it would have been trashed.  This deformation also meant that the waterproof seal was compromised.  The issue here I think is that the larger the case gets the heavier they get, but because this case is designed to be carried some weight has been shaved off, and this means that overall it's not as robust as the iM2050.

The Otterbox 3510 is again a different species of case.  This case is more of a caddy than a full-blown case due to its smaller size and lack of a handle.  In early testing it performed admirably - in the drag test its lightweight construction meant that the abrasion it suffered was minimal, while during the crush test it seemed totally at home underneath a 3,900 lbs vehicle.  It also survived a single drop test, although the latches did pop open, which meant that anything inside the case would have been unprotected - not good.  During the second drop test (the drop test with the egg) the hinge gave way during impact and the lid broke off.  This sadly meant that testing of the Otterbox had to come to an end.  Overall, I'd like to see more robust latches on the Otterbox, and perhaps strengthening around the hinge area.

Finally, the Peli i1010.  Overall I think that the design of this case is interesting but I really didn't like the way that the latches gave way during the drag test and both drop tests.  A robust outer shell of a case is no good if the case pops open during an incident and exposes whatever's being protected. 

As you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun testing all these cases.  It was interesting to see just how much abuse they can take, especially since we regularly use Storm Cases, Otterboxes and Peli cases to protect our electronic and photographic gear when on the road and in the outdoors. 

Here are direct links to the gallery of images for the individual cases:

And here are the drop test videos:

This is Part 3 in a 3 part series of posts --> Post 1 | Post 2 

In closing I'd like to thank all the companies involved for sending products for testing.  And my wife Kathie for letting me use her car to drive over her iPod and iPAQ – oh and for doing the filming and photography at the bottom of the cliff!

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Feedback?  What did we miss?

Topics: Hardware, PCs

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  • Torture Testing ... the next phase

    OK, you've seen the torture testing so far, but I thouhgt I'd let you into the final phase - what does it really take to break these cases? I have some ideas, but if you have something you'd like to see tried, let me know ...


    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • Pelikan? Anvil?

      I'd like to see how a decent sized Pelikan case compared to the Storm. The little bitty iPod case obviously was not in the same class as the others, but Pelikan has a top reputation.

      Likewise I wonder how an Anvil case with it's aluminum, plywood and plastic construction would have held up. Seems like Anvil is the standard for taking PA gear on the road. . . IIRC they used to make portable cases for computers which reached into the realm of small mainframes. . . They make several grades, including a series of military grade cases, which looks like they just might be bomb proof. . . Bomb-resistant, anyway.
  • too much concern about safety!

    When you play with fire and chuck stuff off cliffs what fun is there without some element of danger?
    You also forgot about explosions. You could have rally had some fun with this test.
    Or also launched them with a trebuchet?
    For the next torture rest be sure to include one of these, OK?
    • I agree

      I lose so many laptops because they don't hold up when I launch them with trebuchets. Worse yet, when I call the manufacturer, they point out the fine print in the warranty. How was I supposed to know launching it 500 feet would void the warranty? nobody really reads that stuff, do they?
      Thanks for the test report. It's good info.
    • Explosions eh ...

      hmmm ... ;-)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Why the bigger cases deform more.

    I haven't looked at them to compare thickness of the walls, but I suspect they deform more for the same reason it's easier to break a long stick than a short one of the same thickness & strength: leverage.

    When the tire is in the center of the case it's pushing down there while the adjacent walls of the case are holding the top side up at the edges. The bigger the case the farther the point of force will be from the supported edges and the greater mechanical advantage the force has. This can be compensated for by making the walls thicker or adding corrigations & bends to lend bracing.
    • Pressure distribution

      This is a matter of the distribution of pressure across the surface area of the case. The smaller the case, the more likely that the tire would be touching more of, if not all of, the surface, which allows the case to maintain it's shape. In the instance of the larger cases, the weight of the truck was focused on the areas that the tire was touching, and those parts which were not were not under any pressure at all, and the result is buckling. There are two ways to compensate for this - thicker plastic as you mentioned, but that answer can add alot of weight, or a different shape - you'll notice that the taller one held up better, this is because the sides are able to bear some of the weight so the top of the case didn't have to take it all on it's own, kind of like a load-bearing wall in your home.

      • Not quite...

        Taller sides have no bearing (so to speak) on whether the top will bend. In fact, all else being equal, taller sides will be more likely to buckle themselves. (Remember: we're talking about absolute dimensions, not proportion.)

        Also, given that it's the same tire, the weight distribution should be essentially identical on each case. It's just that that patch of force is located farther from the supported edges on the larger cases which gives it better leverage to deform the top. And I also mentioned shaping the faces to better resist crushing/bending. :)
    • I think ...

      ... that the issue with the iM2370 is that it's a notebook case and as such it has to be big but as light as possible so it can be carried. I'm pretty sure that Hardigg could strengthen the iM2370 by adding more ribbing aling the sides and top, but this would add additional weight.

      That's my guess ...
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Projectiles?

    How about submitting it to impaling to see how it stands up? A friend of mine lost a laptop in a car crash when a projectile pierced the soft case she was using. That could be a fun one to try out - I picture harpoon guns...perhaps "jousting"...

    Safety tip - electronic cases should at no time be used as a substitute for body armor...

    • Torture Testing

      Turn them over to Mythbusters... Then run for the hills.
    • Good idea

      That's a good idea .. cheers!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • About the safety notes ...

    ... I hope you all appreciate why I added the safety notes to the text ... I could have added a "don't try this at home" but it's not my place to say that!
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Great Tests! Real Wold-like

    Your test cases had a very BAD day.

    A poyload (computer/iPod) in each would have been interesting.

    An operational test of the payload after each test (turn it on and let it run up) would be real proof of a strong case.

    A cardboard box the same size and shape as a notebook/iPod could be a simulator. A crushed, wet, or scorched box would be a failure. A bag of sand in each box could simulate weight when needed.
    • Second the need for a payload.

      Having something inside would make the results more graphic and the test closer to real world.