Review – Nutshell Leather Case for the HP TC4200 Tablet PC

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Nutshell Leather Case for the HP TC4200 Tablet PC

By: Darin Gray

This may be an uncommon approach to providing an “objective” review, but I think it important for you to know the mindset of the reviewer. I rarely have used a product where I didn’t think there was room for improvement. One of the guy’s at work has gone so far as to label me a “glass is half broken kind of guy”. I tell him I can’t help it if everyone else is so much less perfect then I. I expected the Nutshell case to be no different; you’ll have to read on to find out.


The Basics

The overall design of the Nutshell case is very good. The case is designed to be used exclusively with the HP Travel battery so users who don’t already own one or are planning on getting one can stop reading here. Initially I thought that this was a serious tactical error on the part of Nutshell. I couldn’t figure out why they would want to limit their market. Then it came to me clear as day. This isn’t just any tote; this is a Gucci among a sea of knockoffs (no I don’t know anything about handbags, although my daughter does). They are hitting their target market square on the nose, high-end business men/women who need all day computing in style.


The Case



The case is made with a thin layer of sturdy plastic covered with a very good grade of leather. The outside appearance is one of good quality, solid workmanship, and a simple but elegant design. The flip top cover closes with two snaps securely. There is also an “upside down” snap on the top cover that matches with a snap on the bottom to secure the flip top when using the tablet.



The tablet is inserted through the “back hatch” which then closes behind it and seals with a Velcro closure. This is also the bottom of the case when you have the included shoulder strap on. I confess to a certain bit of reluctance to putting the life of my laptop in the hands of a Velcro closure, but in all of my shake testing (over a bed, I’m no fool…) I couldn’t get the Velcro to let loose. Still, if Nutshell wanted to include some form of clasp in the middle or a couple of snaps I wouldn’t object.



Once the tablet is inserted into the case and the Velcro sealed the fit is perfect. As far as I could tell there was no movement of the laptop in the case at all.



This is the right side view of the case. As you can see the microphone, headphone, USB, pen, and secure digital card slot are all exposed fully. While the PCMCIA card is exposed it is obscured to the point where it can’t be removed while in the case. Further, any PCMCIA card that extends beyond the edge of the tablet will not work.



The left side of case exposes the heat exchanger, power switch and speaker. I do have a bit of a gripe here. The TC4200 has three USB ports only one that the case exposes. Now in fairness, rarely do I use more then one USB port while not at my desk anyway, but the one USB port they chose to expose is the one facing toward the user while in tablet mode. This means that if I put in a USB key while writing it’s jabbing into my side. Having one on either side would have been nice.

Heat appears to be no problem. I used the machine straight for 5-6 hours checking heat periodically using Notebook Hardware Control as well as the good old fashioned hand test and it appears to operate within a couple of degrees of the tablet outside the case.


The rear of the case only exposes the power adapter opening. At first I was a bit dismayed that the other connectors on the tablet weren’t exposed. However after using the case two things occurred. I realized I rarely (never) use those connectors, and if I did I would likely be using the tablet on a desk, such as connecting to a monitor, and having it in the case would be less then optimal anyway. The only feature I did miss having was the rocker switch on the side of the tablet. There is quite a distance between the rear of the case and the tablet so even if Nutshell were to create an opening I’m not sure access would really be that easy. Still, for reading that rocker switch was great.


The case strap I consider to be one of the weaknesses of the case. While it is certainly functional, the nylon strapping in my opinion just detracts from the overall beauty of the case. I really think a leather wrap would add a great deal. Further, I couldn’t get the strap to be short enough to use as a handle, which would also be a great addition.


As you can see the case beautifully accentuates the TC4200. Nutshell has thoughtfully exposed the pen touch buttons on the top of the tablet so that no functionality is lost. While we are on the top view there are a couple of problems that do however diminish from the case. The first is the lack of a hole where the pen release button is on the tablet. This means lifting the edge of the case every time you want to eject the pen. I am certain that Nutshell will correct this oversight in future revisions. The second is that the right edge extends a bit too far for my tastes. When using things like the scrollbar a right-handed user will have to place the pen in a near vertical position. This too could be easily corrected by removing a quarter of an inch or so from the right hand edge. The left (even when using my left hand), top, and bottom edges all seemed fine.


Summary

Overall, I really like the case. The thing that impressed me most is that the wedge shape of the case actually made the tablet more flat when used in my arm. It was also easier to hold. That said, since you must use the travel battery it also adds about a pound. Finally, the addition of a small pouch on the back to hold a few sheets of paper would be great. I do everything on my tablet. Even hardcopies I scan in so I don’t have to carry paper. However, there is rarely a meeting I attend where I don’t get a page or two to walk away with. I have solved the issue by stuffing a manila folder inside the case, however this is less then ideal.

The case also protects your tablet fairly well. Certainly it will prevent scratches on the tablet surface and protects the screen very well. In my drop tests the case never came open and no damage occurred to the tablet. However, I only dropped it on to a bed and a carpeted floor from about two feet. For short drops and general protection this case will be fine. However, if you’re looking to run over it with your car or do 6-foot drops onto concrete regularly you may want to look elsewhere.


Pros:


 Outstanding build quality
 Soft leather
 Excellent style
 Comfortable shape

Cons:

 Missing pen release hole
 Unattractive shoulder strap
 Relatively high price ($168.00)


Note: We want to thank Darin Gray for this outstanding review on this upscale Tablet PC case. For purchase information and more visit the Nutshell website.


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