At this year's CES in Las Vegas, Belkin showed off its latest product: an iPad case. In a world where gigabit wireless is on the horizon, this doesn't seem like the most daring or logical move for the well-respected networking company. But in a briefing a few weeks before the announcement, representatives from the company told me that Belkin is branching out and trying to create a “connected atmosphere” and a “connected experience” around mobile devices. Plus, this iPad case is different—it comes with an integrated 2.1 sound system made by Belkin and its partner Audifi.
The Thunderstorm Handheld Theater, which currently only accommodates the iPad 2 and the third generation iPad, isn't exactly cheap: at $200, it costs about half of what you'd pay for an entry-level iPad 2. But I've found the Thunderstorm to be a very good mobile audio system—as long as you want to broadcast to the whole room.
Extra baggage or gravitas?
The Thunderstorm adds much more heft to the normally svelte iPad: it turns your 9.5” × 7.3” × 0.34” tablet into a chunky 10.1” × 9” × 0.8”. It also adds an extra 1.4 pounds onto the roughly 1.3 pounds of a second and third generation iPad. All this extra bulk comes in the form of strong matte black plastic. A 1.2” × 9.9” silver speaker grating resides on the left side of the iPad (if you're holding it vertically). There's also a 0.4” × 1.5” matte black grille on the bottom side of the case through which the iPad's own integrated speaker can be heard if you don't have the Thunderstorm attached properly or you've turned if off for some reason.