Handheld and Desktop Devices: Buying Guide for Small Plastic Enclosures

man holding portable hard drive

Most of us rely on our handheld and desktop devices all day, every day. But we often don’t give a thought to the electronics enclosures that hold them together and protect their parts from the outside world.

If you’re designing a handheld or desktop device, however, you’ve probably realized that there’s a lot more to enclosure selection than most people realize. You’ll have to consider a multitude of factors and balance the many needs of your average user. These challenges can make it tough to choose the one that best meets your needs.

At Polycase, we’ve developed our product lines through meticulous research and years of experience. So, it’s only right that we share some of that expertise with our customers! If you’re looking for the right small plastic electronics enclosure for your handheld or desktop application, read on to learn about what Polycase can offer you.

Considering Your Application

The first step to finding the right enclosure is to carefully consider how the end user will use your device. Consider the following questions carefully:

  • Will the device typically be used outdoors, indoors or both?
  • Is it critically important that the device survive potential exposure to open flame?
  • Does the device’s intended use require a specific form factor, such as a device that will be held in a person’s hand or sit on a desk?
  • Does the device need to conform to a specific aesthetic?
  • Does the device need to conform to specific rating standards such as NEMA ratings, IP ratings or UL-94 flame ratings?

These key considerations will help guide you to selecting the correct Polycase enclosure. Of course, there are likely other factors for your specific application in play as well, so make sure that you’ve consulted with any members of your design team with relevant knowledge before proceeding.


The next step is to decide which materials your enclosure should be made from. Each type of plastic has its own advantages and drawbacks you’ll need to factor into your analysis. Polycase has two plastic options for small enclosures available, and each has its place:

  • ABS plastic is a versatile option that comes molded in a variety of forms. It’s among the most cost-effective enclosure materials and typically comes in an aesthetically pleasing black or bone color. It usually has some heat resistance, but is not well-suited for devices that will potentially need to survive exposure to open flame. It’s also heavier than other options such as polycarbonate.
  • Polycarbonate is an all-around excellent option that offers a balance of price and performance. It’s also aesthetically attractive and resistant to a variety of common hazards such as impacts, moderate heat and UV. However, it’s typically more expensive than ABS plastic. Many of our polycarbonate models, while not designed specifically for desktop or handheld applications, are still suitable for use in them.

Form Factor

Your enclosure application may also need a specific form factor to fulfill its functions. Common form factor needs include:

 Polycase AG-43 in Black

Polycase AG-43 in Black


Selecting an electronics enclosure with the features you need is another key step in making the right choice. Polycase offers a wide range of features on our electronics enclosures. Some that you might need include:

  • Devices designed for outdoor functions will likely need weatherproof performance. Look for device enclosures with a NEMA 4 or IP66 rating or above, such as any of our extensive waterproof enclosure line.
  • Some devices may require removable end caps for quick and easy modification. Take a look at our AG series of desktop enclosures if this is on your needs list.
  • If you’re designing something that needs electrical prongs, such as a wall unit for an electronics charger, our plug-in enclosures are specially built for this purpose.
  • For devices that need machined cutouts, we offer customized CNC machining at an affordable price and with quick turnarounds.

Polycase XR-44P in Black

Polycase XR-44P in Black

No one type of enclosure is right for every application, so Polycase makes it easy to choose from our industry-leading selection! For more information on our full selection of handheld and desktop device enclosures, call us at 1-800-248-1233, get a free quote online or request a sample.