MobileDemand xCase for Microsoft Surface 3 [Review]
Microsoft's Surface 3 and Surface Pro 4 are among the best tablets for enterprise use. A full-blown version of Windows, light and sturdy build, adjustable kickstand, good battery life and optional keyboard enables them to work equally well at the desk and on the go. In harsher conditions, however, some extra protection is required.
For use in the field, MobileDemand has introduced a rugged case, called xCase. It promises "unparalleled durability and superior protection" for Surface 3 and Surface Pro 4. Offered in two versions, basic and premium, I have tested the latter in a Surface 3 trim -- here are my impressions.
The Premium version of xCase is the one which offers the most protective features, adding things like a Type Cover loop, port protection, hand strap and handle. It is also the most expensive of the two.
The premium xCase for Surface 3 comes in at $109.95, as opposed to $74.95 for the basic version. If you need xCase for Surface Pro 4, the price goes up to $124.95 and $89.95, respectively. I recommend getting the premium version, as you will make use of most of its added features on a daily basis.
The premium version, unlike the basic variant, also gives you a kickstand of its own. The Surface kickstand is masked by the case. All the buttons and ports can be accessed as usual though, and so can the keyboard connector. You can attach a Type Cover as easily as before. Worth noting is that the SIM tray and microSD slots are also not accessible with the case on, but I suspect these will not be accessed on a frequent basis anyway.
For carrying, there is a briefcase handle at the top of the case. To help with grip, there's a thick layer of rubber on it. It suits the case nicely, and it feels just as well made.
On the back of xCase there is a hand strap. This comes into play when you want to hold the Surface device in one hand. You will not want to do that all day though, as the case with the tablet feels heavy. You can get used to the weight, but it is something worth pointing out.
If you have a Surface Pen there is a holder for it on the left side of xCase. To make sure you don't lose it, there is a strap, linked to the case, that you can connect it to.
The case is designed so that you can you can hold it with one hand and remove the Surface Pen easily when you need to do so. In a pinch you could even type on the keyboard with the other hand, though this is not going to be something that you will want to do often.
Speaking of the keyboard, when a Type Cover is attached you can hold it in place using two small loops. They go over the rubber pads on the opposite side, and prevent it from moving around when, for instance, carrying the device using the briefcase handle.
The hand strap, like the briefcase handle, can be removed if you want. At a desk this comes in handy because it lets you extend the built-in kickstand that comes with xCase Premium much further.
MobileDemand also offers a car mount, which lets you store your Surface device in a safe place while driving.
MobileDemand says that xCase meets the MIL-STD-810 standard, and that it can survive a four-foot drop. Although I have not had the chance to test those claims, xCase certainly has what it takes to protect your Surface.
On each corner of the case there are thick rubber pads. The pads are part of a rubber gasket that sits between the Surface tablet and the plastic layer on the outside of xCase. It also goes around the display, to keep dust from getting inside.
The rubber layer, in conjunction with the corner pads, will help minimize the forces transmitted in the case of an impact and reduce the chances of cracking the screen. They will also protect the case, and the device, from scratches in case you bump it against a wall or some other object.
To protect the tablet from sharper objects, there is plastic layer on the back of the case that extends to the sides -- with the exception of the bottom of the case, which is exposed so you can connect a Type Cover keyboard.
The rubber gasket goes over the volume and power buttons, while the connectors on the side of your Surface 3 or Surface Pro 4 each have individual rubber covers. The covers take a bit of getting used to, when putting them back on, but they prevent dust (and water spills) from getting in -- another benefit of the premium version.
Now that we've gotten the features and protection aspects out of the way, let's talk a bit about usability. This case should keep the tablet safe, but it should also allow folks to use the tablet as it has been designed. How well does it work in this regard?
Overall, it works very well. It is well thought out, so normally you shouldn't have any issues using your Surface device just like you would without xCase installed. My only gripe is that the case adds a bit of weight, which makes one-handed operation a bit harder than usual. That is to be expected though, and I suspect the people who will use it on a daily basis will get used to the weight in time.
I have tested xCase with Surface 3 at a desk, and it works very well there too. The kickstand on the back works great -- assuming you unhook the two straps that hold the hand strap at the bottom to allow for a longer range of movement -- and typing on the keyboard feels just fine.
Overall, users should have no major problems with it. The only issue that I've encountered is with the Type Cover loops. They do not feel as durable as the rest of the package. One of the loops gave up at the end of my test; the other held up fine. MobileDemand says that you'll be able to purchase packs of 10, with a pack costing $11.95; the loops are not covered under warranty.
Should You Buy It?
If you are looking at deploying Surface 3 and/or Surface Pro 4 to workers in your company, you should definitely consider it. It adds a nice level of protection and, knowing how versatile it is, it also feels reasonably priced. The product carries a one-year warranty.