ArchiSnapper_Rugged_Case

The 6 Best Options for Protecting Your Tablet on Site Visits

Every architect knows how useful it is to have a tablet or mobile phone working on site. Mobile devices are indispensable for making notes, taking photographs, sending emails, viewing files stored in the cloud and a whole host of other uses.

So tablets are great for architects – no question there, but the problem is that building sites are not exactly a technology-friendly environment. As well as extreme weather conditions (heat, cold, rain, snow), there’s likely to be a lot of dust and dirt flying around and the chances of dropping your device while you’re half way up a ladder in the middle of a site inspection is also fairly high.

Tablets and smart phones are expensive pieces of kit and not exactly the sort of thing you want to be replacing every few months. Fear not – while you’re under a greater risk of damaging your hardware than people in other office-bound professions, there are a number of protection options available.

What to Look For in a Rugged Case

“Rugged” is the industry term for technology or protective casing that’s built to withstand potential damage in places that are outside normal use. Rugged tablets like the Xplore iX104C5 are available, but the selection is limited. Most architects therefore prefer to choose a tablet based on its technical specifications and protect it with an external case.

Ruggedness is measured with two main ratings: the Ingress Protection (IP) rating and the MIL-STD-810G rating.

IP rating is a measure of how well a device or casing withstands solid and liquid matter. Each device is given an IP rating consisting of two numbers: the first indicates protection against solids and the second against liquids. A tablet must have a rating of at least IP54 to be considered “fully rugged”.

The solid scale ranges from 0 (no protection) to 6 (totally sealed from dust) and the liquid scale ranges from 0 (no protection) to 8 (can be immersed under water for long periods of time).

The MIL-STD-810G rating tests a device in a number of environmental conditions such as high and low temperature, high humidity, high altitude, sand and dust etc. Only devices that conform to the standard are considered to be fully rugged.

A Look at the Best Rugged Cases for iPad

There are rugged cases available for all types of mobile devices but as the iPad is arguably the tablet of choice for most architects and has the widest variety of cases available, we will concentrate on iPad cases.

Griffin Survivor

The Griffin Survivor meets US military standards and will protect your iPad from rain, dirt, sand, vibration and shock or drop – all common environmental conditions that you’re likely to encounter when making site visits. It is constructed from a polycarbonate frame surrounded by shock-absorbing silicone.

Pros:

  • Built-in screen protector
  • Comes in a range of colors
  • Has hinged plugs for sealing ports and camera lens
  • Includes a stand

Cons:

  • Not completely waterproof
  • There are reports that the screen sometimes lets dust in
  • Can make some areas of the screen unresponsive

Price: $79.99

Gumdrop Drop Tech Case

The Gumdrop case is available for a number of different devices, including the iPad. It is made of thick silicone rubber with an internal plastic frame and includes a snap-on screen protector. This multiple-layer shock absorbing case is good for protecting against drops and falls, but it doesn’t offer plugs for all openings so it’s not as dust and water resistant as the Griffin.

Pros:

  • Includes screen and port covers
  • Screen protector frame is replaceable
  • Comes in a range of colors

Cons:

  • No cover for rear camera and speaker
  • Not very water resistant, particularly the back

Price: $59.95

Otterbox Defender

The Otterbox Defender consists of a number of layers made from different materials including polycarbonate, foam and silicone. Older versions of the Otterbox case did not include a built-in screen protector, but rather a separate self-adhesive screen protector. The latest version has a built-in screen protector. This case is thinner than some others so it’s perhaps not the best choice for architects who have a high probability of dropping their device on concrete.

Pros:

  • Attractive design in a range of colors
  • Includes silicone port covers
  • Has an integrated stand/cover

Cons:

  • Does not protect from dust well
  • Case is thin and offers less shock protection than other cases
  • Speaker grill is open to the elements
  • Screen protector is not integrated well into the case and interferes with screen use

Price: $89.95

G-Form Extreme Portfolio

Available in yellow or black, the Extreme Portfolio case is lightweight and water resistant. The front cover zips closed and can be folded behind the device and used as a stand. Unlike other cases, this case offers no screen protection when using your iPad, so it’s not the most practical for use on site.

Pros:

  • Yellow version has high visibility
  • Includes an internal pocket for documents
  • Water resistant

Cons:

  • No screen protector
  • IPad is only fully protected when case is zipped closed

Price: $89.99

Pelican i1075

The Pelican iPad case is constructed from molded polycarbonate and is watertight, airtight, dustproof and chemical and corrosion resistant when closed. It includes a pressure equalization valve, an easel for hands-free viewing and can be locked with a padlock, making it ideal for travel. There’s also a molded area to attach a keyboard and extra space for cables. This is a nice case for use in an office or on a train or plane but it offers very little protection when you want to use your iPad. It’s probably not the best choice for site visits.

Pros:

  • Airtight and watertight when closed
  • Space for keyboard and cables
  • Lockable
  • Good for travel
  • Can be used with iPad keyboard

Cons:

  • Minimal padding with little shock protection
  • No screen protector
  • Minimal protection when using iPad
  • Large and heavy

Price: $84.95

Overboard Waterproof Case

The Overboard iPad case is completely waterproof and will float if dropped in water. The iPad can be used while in the case, which is submersible to 16 feet. This case will also protect against dust and dirt as it is airtight, but offers no shock or drop protection so is not very practical for use on building sites.

Pros:

  • 100% waterproof
  • Floats in water
  • Easy to seal
  • Can be used with other devices

Cons:

  • No shock protection
  • Condensation can form inside the bag
  • Not as durable as other cases

Price: $59.95

Conclusion and Recommendations

Each of these cases has its own advantages and disadvantages and some work better in certain situations than others.

For most architects who will be using their iPad on site and need good protection against shocks and drops, dust and a little rain, the Griffin Survivor is probably the most effective and has the best reviews overall. While it’s not totally waterproof, this is not a necessity for most architects and it offers great protection for a reasonable price.

If you travel a lot and like to use your iPad as a laptop, the Pelican case is also worth considering. It will completely protect your iPad when closed and also acts as a handy stand and storage for keyboard and cables.