Dave Design Palm IIIc Aluminum Replacement Shell Review

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Product Requirements:
Palm IIIc (also available for the Palm III series
and TRGPro)

What is a Palm IIIc owner to do when he or she has every possible accessory
known to Gadgeteer for their favorite PDA? Every case, every stylus, etc? Of
course they consider the machined aluminum enclosure from Dave
. These custom made replacement shells come in Black, Silver, Grey and
Blue. The shell that I will review here is actually Red, and is available as a
custom order thru Dave. 

I want to say right from the start, that this isn’t something that your
typical Palm IIIc will buy. Why? Because it is too freaking expensive for us
average mortals. But, if you are a PDA maniac that also happens to have a lot of
cash, you had better read further because you’re going to want one of these

A lot of you might be asking yourself, why would I even want to switch out
the plastic casing of my IIIc with an aluminum casing. There are a couple
answers for this. Number 1, the Dave Design shell is cool! Number 2, the Dave
Design shell is really cool! Besides being cool, the only REAL benefit to it is
that since the case is metal, it isn’t going to be susceptible to cracks or
breakage like a plastic case is.

Here’s what you get when you buy a Dave Design machined aluminum enclosure
for the IIIc: The 2 shell halves with the application buttons installed,
illustrated detailed installation instructions, a Phillips screw driver, an
Allen wrench and 8 replacement Allen head screws (you get 4 extras).

daves iiic case2

Before getting started, you should be aware that switching shells will void
your warranty. But, if you save your original shell and screws, you shouldn’t
have any problems re-assembling them in case you need to have a repair. I don’t
see how the Palm techs could tell the difference.

Installation is a snap. From start to finish it probably only takes about
15mins maximum to switch out the shells.

daves iiic case1

The first thing that you want to do is backup or hotsync your IIIc. I didn’t
lose any data during this procedure, but it’s always a good idea to backup your
PDA when you’re going to be doing ‘surgery’ on it. Using the provided Phillips
screw driver, you unscrew the four screws on the back of the IIIc and lay them
aside. You won’t be needing them for the replacement shell.

Once the screws are out, you unsnap the top shell from the bottom shell.
Next, you’ll be needing two pieces from your original case. The IR port window
and the charger LED light pipe. Both of these are easily removable from the
plastic shell. 

You then put these pieces into the new aluminum shell. The IR window goes in
the bottom shell and the IR window in the top. I had no trouble at all with the
IR shell, but had quite a bit of trouble with the LED light pipe. 

daves iiic case11

This clear piece of plastic has a very weird shape and didn’t want to cooperate
with me. After several minutes and after uttering a few choice words, I was able
to finally get it to stay in place.

At this point, you pick up the guts of your Palm IIIc and lay them in the top
shell. The most important part of this step is verifying that the little hotsync
circuit board is pressed onto the two metal posts on the shell. You can then
take the bottom shell and snap it on to the top shell. If all goes correctly,
the fit will be perfect with no gaps in the seams. Using the Allen wrench, you
can then screw in the 4 replacement screws, and you’re done!

daves iiic case4 daves iiic case6

The result is a smooth, cool to the touch, very solid, non-flexing,
non-creaking case. The case is just gorgeous and feels wonderful in your hand.
There are no rough or sharp edges at all. The seams where the top and bottom
shells meet match perfectly and have no gaps. The anodized finish looks great
and seems to be resistant to scratches.

daves iiic case7 daves iiic case8

daves iiic case9 daves iiic case10

For the most part, the aluminum case looks identical to the original plastic
case. There are a couple differences though. The back of the case has the Dave
Design logo and case number stamped into it. The other bigger difference is with
the power and application buttons. Instead of  being plastic, they are also
metal. And instead of being molded, they are perfectly flat and sit flush with
the case. The up / down scroll buttons however are more rounded and stick up
slightly from the case. 

daves iiic case3 daves iiic case5

The buttons are quite a bit larger making them easier to press. They also
have the same tactile feedback that the original plastic buttons had. At first,
I didn’t quite like them. They looked slightly crude to me. But, after having
reviewed the case for awhile now, I think they are growing on me. 

The only problem that I’ve run into with the buttons is that the power button
seems almost overly sensitive. I have to barely touch it to get it to
toggle the power to the PDA.

This case like the original can accommodate snap-on modems, flip covers,
styli and other accessories just fine. It also fits perfectly in the hotsync
cradle. It will work just like the original case. Speaking of flip covers,
unfortunately there isn’t a matching metal version available at this time.

Most of you might be thinking that the case being metal has to make the IIIc
weigh more. Well, actually, it only adds about 1oz to the weight bringing the
total to 7.8oz (250g).

Although this case is very cool, the cost is going to make it prohibitive to
most people. Why is it so expensive? Mostly because of the precision manufacturing techniques
Dave Design uses in the production of each case. There are 11 parts which are each milled out of solid 6061-T6 aluminum, and about 3 hours of total production time
is required for each case. That said, if you have the cash and want your IIIc to
be different than the next guys, then this will definitely do the job.

I had the chance to ask Dave of Dave Design some questions concerning this

Julie: What is your day job?
Dave: This is it. I used to do industrial design consulting and machine product prototypes for several bay area design firms. The Palm idea
came about in 1998, when a friend got a Palm III. We had been talking about making some sort of machined product, and were looking
at things like cell phones and pagers. Once I realized what an incredibly cool device the Palm was, it seemed like a perfect candidate
for a metal case.

Julie: Is this your first stab at a Palm accessory?
Dave: Yes.

Julie: How long did it take from start to finish to create these shells?
Dave: The first Palm III shell took about 6 months of part time effort to create the first prototype. About a dozen or so prototypes were
built to arrive at the final design. The Palm IIIc took less time, about 3 months, but was a full time commitment.

Julie: What is your everyday PDA?
Dave: I’ve used a Palm IIIx, TRGPro, IIIc, and just recently, I’m carrying around
a Handspring Visor Platinum with a prototype machined enclosure.

Julie: How do you handle when other people have problems with the shell fit?
Dave: There have been surprisingly few problems, but our policy is simply that the case must work and the customer must be completely happy, or we’ll take
it back and issue a refund, no questions asked. I’ve yet to have a customer exercise this option after about 500 cases (approximately 150
Julie: Do you have plans to make matching flip covers?
Dave: We’ve been working on and off with several potential flip cover designs, but
creating something elegant and functional out of metal has proven quite a challenge. We didn’t want to simply copy the stock cover.

Julie: Any other accessories for the future?
Dave: Certainly a flip cover would be high on the list, other PDA cases, perhaps
some of the Pocket PC products like the Ipaq. The RIM Blackberry is also an intriguing potential device.

Price: $225 (2-4 week delivery time)
30 day satisfaction guarantee and a limited lifetime warranty which covers
defects in material and workmanship for the lifetime of the case, no matter who the owner is. This warranty does not cover damage, misuse, modification or daily wear and tear. 


Custom metal case
Won’t crack
Looks great

Sensitive power button
No matching flip cover available


Product Information

Manufacturer:Dave Design
  • Custom metal case
  • Won't crack
  • Looks great
  • Expensive
  • Sensitive power button
  • No matching flip cover available
  • Expensive

6 thoughts on “Dave Design Palm IIIc Aluminum Replacement Shell Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. > The book-style case is unusual in that the Palm rests on
    > the left side of the case rather than the right side.

    I can see why they chose this orientation 🙂

    Traditional Chinese books have the similar orientation (book cover opening to the right side; reading Chinese words from top to bottom and from right to left).

    Also, I know Zire71 does not have a jog-dial. But for a Sony CLIE, this design allows users to use jog-dial.

  3. What other cases are made specifically for the Z71 so far? I haven’t seen many and am holding out hope for a good Vaja case…


  4. Dustpup:

    E&B makes a new Zire 71 custom case which I haven’t tried (yet):

    Vaja only has a pouch for the Zire at this point, so that’s out (for me).

    Palm makes a slim leather case for the Zire / ZIre 71 as well. It’s OK, but like the other Palm-branded cases, it’s not especially nice or rugged and uses the-much dreaded sticky velcro to hold the Palm in the case 🙂

    Hope that helps!

  5. Oooh, thanks. The EB case is news to me. I’ll probably at least wait to see what the Vaja case looks like though. They told me that they are working on one specifically for the Z71 and will e-mail me when it’s out. I don’t want the ‘pouch’ either. 😛

    Anyone know of plans to review the EB case for the Z71?

    OK, how about replacement stylii for the Z71 – any of those out there yet either? This is the unfortunate downside of purchasing a new model.

    Thanks again!

    – Wes

  6. That’s great news on a a future custom Vaja case for the Zire 71. Keep us posted when you hear. I’ve had a few Vaja cases in the past and they’re *really* nicely made.

    I can’t speak for an E&B case review (haven’t seen any yet). Hopefully Julie and Judie can get their hands on one 🙂

    Yes, replacement Zire 71 styli are also appearing.

    I just bought a chrome PDA Panache Zire 71 custom stylus a week and a half ago. Like it very much (have had 3 or 4 other PDA Panache styli for other PDAs).


    Not really cheap at $17 plus shipping, but a nice, well made stylus regardless.


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