Vaja Omnisky / Palm V series Case Review

Product Requirements:
Device:
Palm V/Vx and Omnisky modem

I first received the Vaja case from The
Gadgeteer at work, and immediately removed it from the packaging. My coworkers
crowded around to see what I had recieved. Having the most toys at my job tends
to make people gravitate towards my desk, even to the point of me arriving to
find open boxes on my desk, because they couldn’t wait for me to arrive to see
what I received. Anyway…

I opened the case up, and felt the leather. This case is made in Argentina.
It’s made of very strong stitching all around. The case felt substantially
“stiff”, especially where one would expect it to be stiff, right
around the screen. The inside is made of a light brown colored almost-suede
feeling leather. It’s much smoother and softer underneath than it is on the
outside of the case.

When I opened the top flap, I noticed that there was an embossed portion in
the leather, which contained some Graffiti shortcuts. It has the full
non-alphanumeric character set we all forget anyway. (“What’s that
stroke for the British Pound again?”
) It was crisp and clear, but after
two weeks of use, we’ll see if it retains that same form. I gave the leather a
few twists, a few squeezes around the sides to see if it had the nice familiar
leathery feel that it should. It was definately a well-made case, and very thick
in the right places.

In the front of the opened case are two pieces of magnet on the flap, and two
complimentary pieces of metal under the case body itself, which provides a bit
of closing and alignment and holding power for the case. You can see these in
the second and third pictures below on the right.

Click on pictures for a larger and more detailed view…



I grabbed my fully charged PalmVx and my
Minstrel (Novatel) CDPD modem (also fully charged), and sat down to test the
case. The first thing I did was slip the Minstrel into the case without the Palm
attached. It made an audible “click!” sound when I seated it firmly. I
later found out that this was the case bottom itself snapping over the
“bottom lip” of the Minstrel. Successive insertions and removals
seemed to deaden the noise. I assume the leather was breaking in a bit more.
When you slide the Palm + Minstrel into the Vaja case, and push it to the bottom
to seat it, you definately feel the unit “click” into place in the
case, it’s very noticable and satisfying.

I clicked the PalmVx and the Minstrel together, and slipped them into the
case. The initial fit was a bit tight, but it fit in perfectly with no
side-to-side slop. I didn’t have to fight or fuss with any of the flaps or
corners. Very well done!

(addendum: I’ve been using the case daily for more than a month, and it has
not even “deadened” with regard to insertion/removal of the Palm +
Minstrel at all. It still feels new.)


There’s a nice notched cutout in the top left
side of the case, when the flap is down, which allows you to extend the antenna,
and also to extract the stylus (assuming you keep it on the left [antenna] side
as I do, weird ambidextrous person I am). The only quirk with this hole is that
there isn’t one on the other side (the “passenger” side of the Palm if
you’re facing the screen), where most right-handers would normally keep the
stylus docked. You have to open the flap to get to the stylus on the right side.
This isn’t a huge problem since in order to use that stylus on the Palm
in question, the flap has to be open anyway. This leads me to quirk number two:

If you are using the unit in receive mode (antenna up, case closed) such as
retrieving a large amount of web pages or email, the antenna has to be lowered
in order to open or close the flap. In my case, that dropped my connection more
than one time. Over time, as the leather loosened up, I was able to
“twist” the coverflap to the right, around the antenna to open or
close it around the extended antenna. This is not a design flaw in my opinion,
but it makes it a bit difficult to use if you are a heavy user of the Minstrel
like myself.


In the flap on the top of the case are two
curved incisions for credit-card sized cards, such as a license, or ATM card,
etc. I tried to use these for about a week, until I noticed that my screen
underneath was actually getting scratched by the exposed ends of the credit
cards held inside. The underside of the flap is a bit “padded” inside
(due to the thickness of the leather in the flap proper, though it’s great
padding for the screen). What this does though, is angle the card ends right
into the screen underneath. I couldn’t get a good picture of this angle, but you
can see the slots in the “Flap Open” picture on the right below. An
ideal way to solve this would have been to include a very small “tuck”
of the soft leather insides around the bend of the cover flap which would cover
this top edge of the cards, but not take away from the aesthetics of the case.

In use, the Vaja case is comfortable to hold,
and well padded. When I was in a local pub, I was using it to check email and
pull down my news, and I was bumped by a local drunk, causing me to drop my Palm
and case, and it fell, bounced off the corner of the table, and hit the floor.
It all went into slow motion, as my skin went cold with terror. I picked up the
case, and it didn’t even drop the connection. I dusted it over, flipped it over
to check that it wasn’t overly scuffed, and kept checking my mail. It actually
protected the Palm, the connection, and didn’t appear to damage the case.

In the picture below, you can see the little light window which allows you to
see the activity lights on the Novatel unit itself. The window is covered with a
small piece of sewn-in clear plastic (hard to see in the picture, but you can
see it better here. After
about 5 weeks of use, this window got a little scuffed up as you can see in the
picture, but was still very usable. The plastic in this window is very flexible,
and malleable, so it bends with the case. When it got colder outside, I didn’t
notice if the plastic would crack or not, but it appeared to maintain it’s
flexible properties. I believe if it was well below freezing, it would probably
harden up a bit, but I don’t think you could flex it enough to crack or rip it.

There are some well-placed notches in the case for the power button, the
sync-actuator button (center of the Novatel modem at the bottom), for the
activity lights window, and for the stylus and antenna access points. Each of
these is clearly sewn around, using the same quality as the straight stitching
in the rest of the case.

The version of the case I was reviewing did not have a belt clip, but other
Vaja cases do have a clip. This case could have done well to include one. One of
the other things I’ve heard people mention about their cases is the ability to
sync inside the case proper, but this is not an option for several reasons: 1.
The case bottom is sewn in such a way that prohibits it sitting in the cradle,
and 2… the serial port is sitting in the Novatel modem. Other cases from this
manufacturer do indeed have the ability to sync in the case, however.

One thing I’m sort of on-the-fence about though, was a hole in the front for
beaming. On one hand, you have to have the flap open to initiate the beam of
data, but on the other hand, if you use IR to hotsync exclusively (as I do),
syncing for 30+ minutes with the case bent over in the open position tends to be
a bit prohibitive. In this case, I’d prefer a cutout of the same size and
quality as the center sync hole in the case at the front of the case for
beaming/syncing over IR.

Overall, this is not just a good case, it’s
an incredible case. I would highly recommend it to anyone who uses a
Minstrel/Novatel modem on their PalmV or PalmVx, and who carries their Palm with
them almost everywhere. I was actually able to put the case in my pants pocket
without that “shoebox-in-pocket” feeling some other cases have given
me. It has a few quirks, but after several weeks of use, you’ll learn to ignore
them, and use the case productively.

Price: $67.90 – You can get the case from Vaja Cases.

Available in:

  • Leather
    • black all-weather leather w/black leather
    • maroon all-weather leather w/maroon leather
  • Ostrich
    • cognac w/dark tan leather
    • black w/black leather

Pros:
Very good construction, well sewn and protected thorughout. All cutouts
and edges cared for
Padding and protection for your Palm and Novatel is well considered all
around. Saved my PalmVx from an RMA
Fits well in pocket, hand, shirt, and is not overly noticable weight

Cons:
No notching on the right side of the flip cover for stylus extraction
No belt clip (on test unit, however they may be available)
No beaming cutout
Credit card slots improperly cared for/located
A bit pricey…

I also wanted to thank The Gadgeteer for letting me have the opportunity
to review this case. Many infinite thanks, Julie!

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