How-To Geek

Ask The Readers: How Do You Protect Your Gear?

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Electronic gear is not cheap to replace–from iPads to new smartphones to laptops, most of us go out of our way to protect our gear from harm. This week we want to hear about your favorite tricks, tools, and add-ons for keeping your screens scratch free and your gear intact.

Image courtesy of iBallz.

Whether you made yourself a laptop sleeve out of a padded shipping envelope or you bought a bullet proof case from a custom shop, we want to hear all about the protective gear and accompanying tricks you use. How do you keep your smartphone screen safe from scratches? What do you use to make sure the TSA doesn’t crush your MacBook Air?

Sound off in the comments with your tips, tricks, and product recommendations. Check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/15/12

Comments (19)

  1. TechGeek01

    I either buy or have cases for everything. Simple and cheap.

  2. Steven

    Three words:

    Ought, Turb, Ox.

  3. Grant

    Well, I bought the ultra-durable phone (Motorola Defy) that is scratch resistant, drop resistant, and water resistant, then I put a screen protector on it, and put it in an Otter Box like case. Now all that happens is that the screen cover gets scratched. I know I shouldn’t need one since it is Gorilla Glass, but I am a big chicken.

    So: Buy the durable thing with the Gorilla Glass, and protect every way you can anyway.

  4. 99er

    My iPhone has an Otterbox Defender case which is really durable and strong, only downside is I cannot dock it on my stereo with it in it’s case. A dock extender would resolve that issue, but finding one is another thing.

    My ASUS Eee-Pad Transformer has a pretty durable screen. Durable, but not shatter proof. I bought the keyboard dock for that model which provides screen protections considering it sits together like a laptop. I also have a neoprene case which I use when I take the device on trips.

  5. gbweller

    For my Asus TF101 tablet…I use a Zagg or similar skin for all surfaces other than the screen (Zagg skins for the screen diminish the picture quality too much IMO), a screen protector to safeguard against screen damage (even though it’s Gorilla Glass it can still be scratched-just look at the windows in your car!), and a leather case for when I use it docked with the keyboard. Still looking for just the right thing to put it in when I use it un-docked. On my phone I only use the Zagg on the non-screen areas. I practice a lot of care when handling it but the Zagg makes it easier to grip. When I put it in my pocket I always face the screen inward toward my leg to prevent blunt force trauma to the screen. I’ve had it more than a year and it looks like new!

  6. Huisie

    I went on a round-the-world trip a few years ago and bought a Crumpler backpack, as I wanted something that offered protection and waterproofing. It was way more than I was used to paying for a backpack, but I hoped the investment would be worth it.
    Got stuck in a Johannesburg thunderstorm, a tropical monsoon downpour a time or two and got generally very bashed around.
    None of my electronics (laptop, camera, phone, external drive, etc) got wet or damaged – no moisture got into the bag.
    It has been Cape-to-Cairo since and I’ve gone over the handlebars several times over the years when cycling in London (as you do) without any of my gear ever getting damaged.
    The bag looks hardly used and still holds its shape and is still watertight.
    These days, quality of manufacture (gorilla glass, et al) means I don’t bother with screen prrotectors or cases for my phone anymore. The camera on my Galaxy S2 means my camera never comes out the box anymore, either.

  7. TheFu

    Cheap case, if the device didn’t come with it.

    Bought a USB keyboard/folio case for an Android tablet for $30. Get protection AND a nearly full sized keyboard for travel. No more taking a netbook/laptop on flights. Of course, a good-enough chroot Linux install is mandatory for this to work – android is too limiting still.

    Huisie mentioned being caught in the rain – that’s why you carry garbage bags with you – to cover your luggage/backpack. A $0.99 poncho works wonders too. I take a few heavy duty plastic trash compactor bags. Those DO NOT RIP. The cheap garbage bags are great for snow skiing in the rain too.

    A Motorola v195 has been working 6+ yrs now and I’ve never had a case for it. I can’t see swapping a 7+ day battery for a > 1 day smartphone.

    PnS camera just gets throw into a daypack when on travel next to the phone. No special protection. It looks a little worse for wear, but not so bad that it doesn’t take very nice photos still. Over 10K photos from around the world on that little camera. I bought a camera protector, but it was too bulky for use. Wanna buy it?

  8. Radie

    I am gonna go in a different direction the those posted above. While not a way to prevent scratches.. I use a program called “Prey” on my laptop. If it is ever stolen, then I can activate the program from a website so that the next time it connects online it allows me to take photos of the thief as well as a few other things to possibly even assist in getting your rig back.

  9. Kris

    To protect my 360 controllers I say no COD for you!!!!!

  10. LadyFitzgerald

    The only LCD screen I worry about is the one on my small purse camera (Canon SX130 IS). I don’t have room for a case in my purse so I use a screen protector to protect it. Based on the scratches I get on the protectors, it’s a good thing I use them.

    My ebook reader has a slightly recessed screen and I’m just careful how I take it in and out of my purse (again, no room for a case). I tried a screen protector but there was too much glare. When not using the ebook reader while it is out of my purse, I set it face down to keep dust, etc. off the screen. So far, no scratches.

    I use my cell phone so infrequently, I just don’t worry about it. It’s a flip phone so the screen is protected when I’m not using it (I will never own a non-flip phone).

    My big camera has an articulating flip out LCD screen. When not actually using the camera, I keep the screen folded face in so it won’t get scratched. After a couple of years or so, no scratches.

    Most important is how I clean the screens. I gently brush off dust using a soft brush or blow it off with a camera lens squeeze bulb (or both). Stubborn specks and smears I remove using a liquid LCD cleaner (gels smear), spraying it on a corner of a microfiber cloth, then gently rubbing the screen with the wet corner and drying with the dry portion. I keep a small spray bottle of LCD cleaner, a soft brush, a squeeze bulb, and a microfiber cloth in a plastic pouch in my purse.

  11. Hisa

    Well, first, you just have to be careful. I have a friend who spends some serious cash for the expensive cases, bags, etc. And her stuff still gets broken because she isn’t careful. And expensive screen protector and case won’t save your iPad if you drop it then step on it because you are being inattentive.

    I choose to buy something within what I consider a reasonable price, say $20 to $50 for a case or screen protector, if anything at all. For my iPad 2, yeah, a screen protector and a case, but I didn’t spend more than $50 on the two together. For my Android phone, I simply put it in a jacket pocket and choose to remain conscientious of what I am doing when it is in my pocket. My laptop has a bag. My very old iPod somehow still works despite my uncareful behavior with it.

    But basically, I just *try* to be careful. Accidents happen. I don’t get an expensive phone without an equipment protection plan with my carrier, Sprint. I’ve never used it, but it is nice to know it is there. I do drop things periodically, iPad included, but even with inexpensive screen protectors and cases, everything just always seems to keep on working. :)

  12. GammonMaster

    Griffen Survivor cases for both my iPad 2 and my 4s. Has built in screen protector, rubberized all in closing case. Heavy rubber and it feels as if I could throw it off a mountain and it would not get a scratch. In real life, I have dropped it and all it did was bounce a bit. Works excellent for iPad as the plastic screen cover works perfect for touch and scrolling as well as for the 4s. I see no difference from the actual screen image!

    These cases do add weight but also a heavy rubber grip feel that is great for that hard to kill, I can’t drop it, rugged feel. These cases are also very water resistant which is death to Apple products. The cases cost me around $50 and I never have to worry about replacing screen covers etc. Nothing else will ever protect my Apple toys…

  13. Michael Kemp

    If you’re rich, nuy a RhinoBook (STARTING around $1,800), otherwise a $120 SLAPPA case should do it (for laptops anyway…)

  14. fc528e

    FOr every electronic device: TLC. Since I resell most of my things, I try to keep them in as pristine condition as possible. If it’s anything portable (cell phone, laptop, gaming device) I almost always have a dedicated body case, screen protector, and oftentimes a carrying/protective sleeve/bag on top of the body case. A bit over the top, but it preserves value and keeps devices shiny!

  15. picobrew

    I haven’t see IvySkin mentions – but have one on my new Iphone 4s.
    Not as bulky as a otterbox.
    does come with glass protector glass.

  16. picobrew

    I want this too – but am not interested in sending off my phone for a few days!

  17. ptvolkmar

    I don’t use a case for phone. I treat my phone like it’s a $500.00 toy. I take care of it. If you rely on a case to save your ass, it will let you down. I started with a DroidX and a simple silicon case, I hated it. 2 years later I up graded to the DroidX2, ( I don’t rush into technology changes, and I’m waiting for all the 4G hype to subside) Still no case. Yes I have dropped my phone, the first Droid had some scratches but life is risky. In 2 years everything will have Gorilla glass. It will be worth the wait.

  18. Peter

    A bit vintage-tech but the ‘hard case’/’flight case’ approach seems underused for hi-tech devices. I simulate this my travelling with my laptop in a hard leather-covered attache case – it fits snugly in a kind of document pouch inside. I think it’d take a tumble down a flight of stairs and come out ok ;o) Can’t whack a hard case…

  19. Steven Chorkley

    I have a screen protector on my iPad, a plastic clear sheet around the back. (It covers the gap between the case and the screen). My case is a cheap eBay case that is fixed (seriously it took me two hours to put it on) and then I have a Smart Cover that matches the cases colour.

    There isn’t a bit of the iPad exposed. I use the Smart Cover so that I can have a stand and I can take it off and use the iPad for games and other things. I find this setup very convenient and easy.

    I haven’t got a case on my phone because it is a crapy Nokia x6!

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