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Zero Z5 Aluminim Case ReviewReturn to News Page

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Zero Z5 Case
Zero Z5 Aluminum Case Review
(Shown w/removable carry strap attached)
Published: 11/23/2001

Pros: Well constructed, gasket sealed, decent lock, reputation for quality, light weight. Better protection than cheap aluminum cases and far better than any soft case. (Air gap and foam padding between exterior shell and interior, plus raised foam buttons on inside surface. Zero notes 30" drop tests with no damage, although I am not going to verify that personally). Good o-ring seal to prevent moisture getting inside the case. (If you travel you'll surely get caught in a few rain storms so this protects not only the powerbook but also the case interior from water damage.)

Cons: Resetting lock combination number can be frustrating. Can't store as many accessories as some soft cases. Expensive compared to 'cheap' aluminium cases, although much lower priced than Dr.Bott alum PB G4 case.

Wish List: If the Z5 was about 1" or so thicker it would allow more accessories to be stored inside without adding significantly to overall bulk. I also wish there was a foam filler/pad (or velcro retainer) to fill the gap between the edge of the PB G4 and the inside edge of the case, although most drop shocks would be in the other axis. (And I can easily make a pad out of spare foam rubber.) A protective sleeve for the PB G4 would be nice.


Introduction: Although I really like my Kensington backpack case (which can carry a huge amount of accessories), after a friend had a costly disaster from dropping his on a sidewalk (destroying a PB G4), I decided that a hard-shell case was worth considering for added protection against accidents. (2001 has been my most unlucky year to say the least.) At first I was tempted by the cheap aluminum cases sold in a local Staples store ($39.xx to $59.xx) - but on closer examination, they really offered little padding and the cheaper case had literally no room for other than the PB G4 itself. These cases were also cheaply made and I felt that they would not really allow the powerbook to survive undamaged even from a drop at arms length to a hard surface. I also was not confident that the interior would be sealed should it be exposed to rain, etc. My experience is that in the long run, I've never regretted biting the bullet and buying quality vs. trying to cut corners. (I can't count the number of times I've bought inferior products which were a waste of money.)

I had seen the very expensive (appx $400) DrBott PB G4 case, but that was totally out of my price range. Zero's Z5 however was what I considered a middle-ground on price, with good protection and a very well respected name as far as quality. I was not disappointed in this regard after seeing the actual product.

One accessory I also recommend (for all notebooks) is a mat/protective cover over the keyboard to prevent key contact against the LCD screen (which can leave marks or oils from the keys on the LCD screen). I'd especially recommend this acccessory for use with a case like this. Although the downward pressure is likely minimal, the tension you use on the velcro retainer strap in the case may make it more likely that the keys may contact the LCD screen. (See this previous article on LCD screen protectors.)

Z5 Case Dimensions/Storage Features:

  • External: 13 x 18 x 4 in. (33 x 45.7 x 10.2 cm)
  • Internal: 10.6 X 15.6 X3 in. (26.9 x 39.6 x 7.6 cm)
  • Two 17" Expandable file pockets
  • Seven additional pockets for disk storage, PDA, calculator, business cards, pens

Here's a photo of the case interior, showing the retaining strap, shoulder strap and the expanding pockets for storage.

Zero Z5 Case Open

Note the generous padding around the inside edge, as well as the raised 'buttons' that the PowerBook rests on that add extra protection from shock damage.


The case arrives in a box that is well packaged to prevent damage in transit. (The box also notes the features of the Z5 case. See the photos of the box exterior below.)

Zero Z5 box open


The next two photos show pictures of the front and back of the Z5 box. The back side of the box shows illustrations of how well the Zero case is constructed, including a diagram of the shell to interior design that helps protect the contents from damage from a drop to a hard surface. (I've added an arrow pointing to this diagram in the lower left corner.)

Zero Z5 box back


Zero Z5 box front


Early this year I bought a USB bus-powered Canon N-656U scanner as I liked the fact it required no AC adapter and was very thin and light. (This makes it easy to take with me when I visit relatives, etc. that have old family photos that I want to scan into the Powerbook.) I was able to fit both the scanner and the PB G4 in the case, although there was no space left over for the AC adapter (even the new PB G4 square one). It might have been possible to wrap the square adapter in a thin foam sheet and stand it edgewise next to the PB G4, but I did not want to try this.

Zero Z5 with scanner and PB G4


Resetting the Combination Lock: My only real complaint with the Z5 case was setting the combination lock (from its default "000" setting). The Z5 includes a printed sheet that shows a diagram of the lever behind the case wall that has to be moved to reset the combination to your desired number. It notes that you should look at the inside of the case area behind the lock to see the position of the lock set lever, but that's not really possible. You cannot really see the lever easily from inside the case, and the small hole in the padding is too tiny to peer through (it's sized for a screwdriver, etc. used to move the lever). I was able to move the lever to the proper position and back - basically working "blind" however. The photo below is picture of the lock lever area after I moved the lever to the 'reset' position.

Zero Z5 lock setting

With the lever in this position, setting the combination dial to your desired number you then move the lever back to the original position. (Again basically "blind", but it only took a minute to do.)

Features of The Zero Z5 Case: (from Zero's web site info)

  • Heat-tempered aluminum shell: Starting with a single piece of aircraft-quality aluminum, every shell is pressed into shape using 440 tons of pressure and then heat-tempered to give it exceptional strength and rigidity at just 1/4th the weight of steel. And because aluminum effectively dissipates heat and cold, the casešs contents are kept from reaching temperature extremes no matter what the environment.

  • Interior Padding: Exceptionally thick, shock-absorbent padding provides your notebook with four times the protection of the most popular computer case, and during independent testing, notebooks have sustained falls up to 60" without damage. All of which means that no matter what goes on around it, the contents of your ZERO Halliburton Computer Case will travel more comfortably than you will.

  • Lock: Standard for every ZERO Halliburton Computer Case, a triple-digit combination lock allows you to set your own code for added security and privacy. Just donšt forget the number.

  • Neoprene Gasket: An innovative neoprene gasket means you wonšt have to sweat the little things--namely, dust and moisture. Just one more way ZERO Halliburton offers unrivaled protection of your valuables. [This is an O-Ring gastet around the case mating edge that seals the case when closed.]

  • Hinges: Not just another pretty face in the crowd, every aspect of a ZERO Halliburton Computer Case is designed to be functional and tough. For example, over 400 pounds are required to pull one of the hinges from a ZERO Halliburton Case

  • Carrying Strap: With its bullet-proof attachment system, anatomical shape and comfortable neoprene padding, the ZERO Halliburton Computer Case carrying strap is built for the long haul--without making it feel like one.

  • The Cyber Angel: (PC only software) Every ZERO Halliburton Computer Case includes an offer for a free copy of The Cyber Angel, an award-winning software program that protects confidential data and provides tracking for stolen computers.[Note - after 90 days of free service, there's a $49.95 fee for 9 months of continued monitoring.]


Pricing and Availability: The case used in this review was from Other World Computing, see their PowerBook Cases page for details and links to their info pages on the Sliver and Gunmetal Gray Z5 cases. Current price there is $219.95.

Other Zero case related links:




Other PowerBook Related Articles:

  • PowerBook G4/667 Performance and First Impressions: Includes performance tests with Photoshop 5.5, Quake3 (OS X), iMovie2, hard drive and other performance tests as well as comments on the new PowerBook G4/667 model. Also includes Photoshop and Quake3 comparisons of the PB G4/667 vs a Toshiba PIII 850mhz notebook running Windows XP.

  • PowerBook Screen Protectors Protective leather mats over the keyboard prevent LCD screen marks and transfer of oils from the keys appearing on the screen surface.

  • PowerBook G4 Hard Drive Upgrade Guide Photo illustrated guide to upgrading the hard drive in a PB G4. (The Systems page, PowerBook section has guides for the PB G3 firewire (lombard similar) and Wallstreet models also, as well as many other PB related articles. (There's a few iBook articles there also.) See the IDE articles page, hard drive section for direct links to the PB HD performance comparison pages and a guides to expansion bay drive build guides.

  • PB G4/400 Photoshop Performance Tests: I previously posted a page that compares PShop performance of the PB G4/400 to other Mac models and even a 1GHz Pentium III system.

  • PB G4/400 First Impressions: Article with my first impressions on the TiPB. It also includes tests with the original 10GB (IBM in my case) vs a 20GB IBM hard drive and some simple Airport range tests.

  • OS X on PB G4/400: My tests, tips and impressions on OS X running on a PB G4/400.

  • PB G4 Owner Comments: My original page on owner feedback, issues/tips and accessories.

See the Systems page for other site PowerBook reviews, articles and upgrade guides. There are also many PB and iBook reports in the Drive Compatibility Database. For wallstreet owners, there are reports on the Bluechip and Sonnet CPU upgrades in the Rate Your CPU Upgrade database, as well as my review and install guide of the Bluechip tested in my PB G3 Wallstreet. The Frequently Asked Questions also has a PowerBook and iBook section.

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