Modern gadgets are pretty robust and can brush off the occasional knock, the odd splash of water and a sprinkling of dust, but if you regularly take your precious gadgets into the outdoors you might feel compelled to protect your investment by spending some more money on a protective case.
Once you've decided to spend some cash there's no shortage of companies willing to take your money in exchange for a case. Not only that, there's a myriad of sizes, colors and types to choose from.
But just how good are these cases and are they worth the money? And I don't mean how good they are at withstanding a small knock or a few drops of water - I'm interested in seeing just how much harsh abuse these kind of protective cases can take. Before we look at the tests, it's time to introduce the victims, erm, I mean, the test subjects.
We'll be testing five different cases:
- Storm Case iM2370 This case is designed to protect notebooks. It's described as waterproof and dustproof. Packed with all sorts of cool features such as soft, double-layer handles, two press and pull latches and strong hinges. This case is made of HPX resin. Ext: 20.0" x 14.7" x 5.8" Int: 18.2" x 12.1" x 5.2" Price: Approx $112. Link.
- Storm Case iM2050 This is a more compact version of the iM2370. It's described as waterproof and dustproof. Packed with all sorts of cool features such as soft, double-layer handles, two press and pull latches and strong hinges. This is a very nice case indeed and I had a few moments when I felt like taking it on one side and not putting it through the torture testing ... but those moments passed! This case is made of HPX resin. Ext: 11.8" x 9.8" x 4.7" Int: 9.5" x 7.5" x 4.25" Price: Approx $38. Link.
- Otterbox 3510 Described by Otter Products as waterproof, crushproof and airtight. Pre-cubed foam makes cutting it to fit items easy. Ext: 8.813" x 5.175" x 4.179" Int: 7.884" x 3.973" x 3.644" Price: $28.45 (foam kit is an extra $19.60). Link.
- Seahorse SX 300 Seahorse cases satisfy Mil-Spec and IP Standards 67 (IP67 means the case is dustproof and waterproof for immersion down to between 15cm and 1m). Additionally, the SX series is described as flame retardant. Ext: 10.80" x 9.85" x 4.50" Int: 9.59" x 7.42" x 3.98" Price: $35.95 (foam kit is an extra $6). Link.
- Peli i1010 The Peli i1010 is the smallest case we have for testing. It's described as being waterproof, crushproof and dustproof. It's specifically designed to protect iPods (the full-size, nano and shuffle) and it has an external headphone jack. The latch is also described as "easy open." Int: 4.37" x 2.87" x 1.68" Price: Around $20 Link.
OK, those are the cases. Now let's introduce the tests. But before I do, a few words about the tests. These tests aren't scientific (when you see what we were doing to the cases, you'll see why). Rather than being scientific, they're meant to represent extreme conditions that the cases might be exposed to. Another point worth noting is that we only had one case of each model to test, so once a case was trashed, it was out of the running.
OK, the tests:
- Drag test This is where we take each of the cases in turn and attach them to the back of a vehicle and drag the case over asphalt for a distance of roughly 300 yards. This will test the abrasion and knock resistance of the cases, along with the security of the latches.
- Crush test Here we'll be parking the rear wheel of a Land Rover Freelander TD4 on top of each of the cases in turn. The Freelander has a kerb weight of 3,900 lbs. This will test the crush resistance of the cases, along with giving up an opportunity to see how each case deforms under pressure.
- Drop test Take each case and chuck it off a 75 foot cliff and let it crash onto rough shingle (I told you this wasn't going to be rocket science). This will allow us to test how impact resistant the cases are, as well as giving us a chance to see how the latches perform under pressure.
- Drop test + egg Same test as before but this time with an egg place inside protected by the supplied foam. Will the egg survive? This once again tests impact resistance and how good the foam is at reducing shock impact.
- Rain test The cases are exposed to heavy simulated rain for 1 hour to test water resistance (roughly the rate of fall was 2 - 3 inches per hour). This tests whether the cases remain waterproof after abuse.
- Handle test The cases are filled with 20 or 35 lbs (depending on size) and dropped 4 foot at which point the fall is arrested by the handle. Test was repeated five times for each case. This tests the robustness of the handle as well as how secure the latches and hinges are.
- Fire test Since the Seahorse SX 300 claims to be flame retardant, we need to check out what this means in the real world to the end user. To test these claims we'll see whether the Seahorse can survive a small gasoline fire and exposure to the flame from a blowtorch.