Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Some of the things that I review have a higher "cool" factor than others. Readership is huge when there is a gun review. Readership is pretty good when I review a knife, backpack, hydration system, etc. When I review boots? Maybe it's not so high. Still, all of today's contemporary warriors have use for equipment that protects or supports them in the operational environment, and there are so many different kinds of environments that the equipment necessary is wide and varied. One of the things growing more common in the operational environment is computers. Those computers have to be transported safely, protected. When they are needed they have to be accessible and functioning. This week's review is of a laptop carrying case made by OtterBox. It may not have a high "cool" factor, but it could potentially be a very important piece of equipment.
OtterBox, as a company, is well known for making protective cases for a variety of portable devices such as iPods, PDAs, Palms, and computers. The OtterBox for laptops come in three models to fit three sizes of laptop:
- Model 7020: up to 13-inch screens
- Model 7030: up to 15-inch screens
- Model 7040: up to 17-inch screens
The main part of the OtterBox laptop case is made from durable impact-resistant plastic. It's essentially built to take a beating and protect the electronics inside. Although I wasn't willing to test my OtterBox with my laptop inside by standing on it, OtterBox claims that the case will take it. I stood on the OtterBox with it empty and didn't see any compression that I felt would be detrimental to a laptop inside of it.
The handle is rubber coated and provides a comfortable secure grip while carrying the box. A shoulder strap is also included so you can slip it over a shoulder, or a shoulder and your head to have a more secure sling. The latches that secure the box shut are pretty substantial and also are rubber coated to provide easier opening when wet. "Wet" begs the question: how well does the case protect your computer in rain, puddles, etc?
The OtterBox laptop case is waterproof. To test this I closed it, latched it and locked it (without my laptop inside). I then submerged it into a tub full of water. I pushed it down to the bottom (not easy to do because of the amount of air inside) and held it there for a minute or two. When I pulled it out I dried off the outside with a towel to make sure that no water got in as I opened it. If there was moisture inside I wanted it to be from the submersion--not from dripping when I opened it. When I did open it I could find no signs of leakage or moisture.
The inside of the box is coated with Velcro, which provides for easy attachment points to keep your computer or other electronics from sliding around, but it also creates a softer surface for your computer to sit on. At the rear of the box is a rubber plug. If you remove or open the plug you can run cables and power cords through it and thereby use your computer without having to take it out of the case. Bear in mind that if you pull that plug out or open, the case is no longer waterproof. While this may seem common sense, we all know folks who wouldn't think about it and then get upset when their computer was ruined by the water flowing into the back of the case.
To help hold your laptop more securely inside there are a series of adjustable rubber bumpers that you can move around and place by way of the Velcro. With the bumpers placed to snug your laptop in place there is also an internal strap you can wrap over your computer to further hold it into place. This prevents it from bouncing around against the inside of the lid while in transport.
Now, since we all know the value of electronics that we store and transport in such cases, the matter of warranty becomes of utmost importance. OtterBox provides an unconditional lifetime guarantee. That means that no matter what you do to the case, OtterBox will replace it. That said, they DO NOT warranty whatever was inside the case. So, don't think that you can put your old not-quite-working-right laptop into the OtterBox, drive over it with your car and then get a replacement box with computer. You'll only get a new OtterBox.
With a manufacturer's suggested retail price (depending on model) running between $150 and $190, this seems a good investment to protect your computer or other electronics.
As I said at the beginning... it may not be the coolest product to test, and it may seem geeky to use. But if it saves your computer, how uncool can it be?