|Cases Designed To Protect|
If you've done any shopping for a tablet lately, you’ve probably realized that they are not one-size-fits-all devices. While one person may use his tablet for business meetings and presentations, another may use it for watching movies and playing games. Some people prefer a smaller, 7-inch model while others want a larger 10-inch screen. Then there’s the choice of OS with Apple’s iOS, Android, and Windows all competing for a slice of the pie. Regardless of how you use your tablet, though, there are plenty of tablet accessories that can add to the enjoyment and functionality of your device.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular and useful accessories you can buy for your tablet. Some of these accessories are universal so even if you upgrade tablets later on, you’ll still be able to use them without having to re-invest in something new. Things like cases and a few other accessories are generally specific to a particular model, but many of the most popular designs are available for a number of different tablet models.
Probably one of the most obvious accessories people think of when it comes to tablet accessories is a case to protect the device from whatever life has to offer—drops, spills, scratches, and other hazards. Tablet cases come in all shapes and sizes and have a number of different features.
Kensington KeyCover Hard Shell iPad Keyboard (K39785)
If you’re looking for something that can add protection to your iPad while also adding utility, the Kensington KeyCover Hard Shell iPad Keyboard is a good option. You can snap an iPad 2, 3rd generation iPad, or 4th generation iPad into this case to protect the screen and corners of the tablet. While snapped in the shell, your iPad’s ports and volume controls are still accessible. One thing to note: when snapping the iPad into this case, you’ll want to make sure to orient the tablet so you can still access the ports—the tablet will snap in either way, but will be much harder to remove if you snap it in the wrong way. When the tablet is snapped into the shell, it holds the iPad very securely.
When you’re ready to work, remove the iPad and rest it on the pop up stand to use the keyboard. The stand will hold your iPad in either landscape or portrait mode. This keyboard connects with your iPad wirelessly through Bluetooth. The KeyCover Hard Shell iPad Keyboard has rubber feet to keep the shell from sliding on a desk.
The keyboard is very comfortable to use and features scissor keys that are optimized for a touch typist. Above the number keys, you’ll notice this keyboard supports various commands including media playback controls and volume options. Kensington says the rechargeable battery in the KeyCover Hard Shell iPad Keyboard should last for 200 days of standby time or 120 hours of working time.
Kensington KeyFolio Expert Folio & Keyboard
For someone who swaps tablets regularly or wants a universal case and keyboard, the Kensington KeyFolio Expert Folio & Keyboard is a great option. This case is compatible with basically any tablet, regardless of whether it’s running Android, Windows, or iOS. Tablets with a 10-inch screen or similar will work best, though there’s nothing that would stop you from using this keyboard with a smaller tablet other than the fact that there will be extra room inside the case.
The KeyFolio Expert Folio & Keyboard wraps around your tablet and stays closed using magnets. The cover has predefined spots that flex, kind of similar to the iPad smart covers. In fact, the KeyFolio Expert Folio & Keyboard can prop your tablet in much the same way as an iPad smart cover with a triangular stand behind the tablet. Other positions are supported as well.
To keep your tablet secure, there’s a multi-suction grip pad that supports landscape and portrait viewing. This suction works very well to hold the tablet in place. In fact, the tablet didn’t even move when we closed the folio and put it in our bag—the grip pad held the tablet perfectly.
The keyboard is very comfortable to use. You’ll notice this keyboard is designed with Android and Windows in mind—after examining the keyboard a bit, you’ll find a Home key as well as a Windows key. These keys work well for their intended use. We also had no problem using the keyboard with an iPad.
According to Kensington, the rechargeable battery found in the KeyFolio Expert Folio & Keyboard should last for a working time of 80 hours or up to 60 days in standby mode. You can recharge the battery using the included microUSB cable.
Poetic offers a number of different cases designed to fit specific tablets. The company’s Revolution line offers more protection than many cases on the market today, making it ideal for users who are rough on their devices. We took a hands-on look at the Poetic Revolution for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. This case features a hard plastic shell for protection as well as a silicone textured exterior that makes it easy to grip the tablet. The Revolution also includes a touch-sensitive water-resistant screen guard. Although the case adds a bit more bulk to your tablet than other ultra-slim cases on the market, we feel the added protection this case offers is worth the trade-off in size.
We really like the kickstands and loop hole found on the Revolution cases. When you flip the case over, you’ll see two kick-out stands that enable multiple viewing angles. There’s also a loop hole so you can attach the case to your clothing or backpack using a carabineer. After using the main kickstand multiple times, we noticed it didn’t always sit flush with the back of the case when not in use. It seemed to catch due to the detail of the Poetic logo that’s cut out of it. It wasn’t a huge issue to us but users may want to be aware of it.
During use, we had no issues with the touch-sensitive water-resistant screen guard – the tablet functioned as well as if the guard wasn’t even there. All of the ports on our Nexus 7 tablet were protected by the Revolution yet still accessible by removing the flexible covers. Poetic currently offers the Revolution for the Kindle Fire HD 7, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy S 4, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.
If a traditional case isn’t your thing and you want something super slim that will protect your tablet, there are a number of protective films that will do the job well. When you’re using the tablet in the kitchen, consider a stand to protect it from spills and accidents.
BodyGuardzScreenGuardz HD line which is designed to help reduce glare. In addition to protecting your device’s screen, this ultra-slim PET film is also designed to help reduce fingerprints.
ScreenGuardz HD are custom designed to fit each device perfectly. BodyGuardz offers this line for many different devices. After buying a BodyGuardz product, you’ll have the option to register for the company’s ADVANTAGE Program which is designed to provide low-cost replacements in case you somehow ruin the protector. For the iPad ScreenGuardz HD we tested, the price for a replacement was reduced to $6.95 with shipping & handling included. This program also offers a 20% discount for future purchases.
When you open the package, you'll see the ScreenGuardz HD comes with two thin film protectors – one on each side of the ScreenGuardz HD. Installation of the ScreenGuardz HD was relatively simple and didn't require the use of a liquid like some screen protectors we've seen. We cleaned our device's screen, removed the first protective film (it's labeled), and then positioned the protector over our tablet's screen.
We then used the enclosed card and screen cleaner cloth to smooth out all air bubbles. After we were satisfied with the results, we went to remove the top or second, protective film. When removing this second film, the ScreenGuardz HD lifted up off of our tablet and a few air bubbles resulted. We were able to remove most of the air bubbles and reapply the ScreenGuardz HD with only a few air bubbles remaining. In terms of fit, you can definitely tell the ScreenGuardz HD is designed specifically for each device since it has the proper cutouts and size.
When applied, you can definitely tell a difference between the device without ScreenGuardz HD and a device with ScreenGuardz HD. The ScreenGuardz HD does exactly what it's designed to do—it significantly reduces glare on the tablet and also works to reduce fingerprints that would otherwise collect on the screen.
The Original Kitchen iPad Rack
Tablets are great for entertainment, playing games, and staying connected with friends, but many of us also use our tablets in the kitchen to look up recipes and watch a video or listen to music while cooking. The Original Kitchen iPad Rack keeps your tablet off the counter and holds it at a comfortable viewing angle while you’re preparing food.
Although its name suggests using it with an iPad, the Original Kitchen iPad Rack works with any tablet, and most can be held in either portrait or landscape mode. The Original Kitchen iPad Rack has a very simple design but in this case, simple is a very good thing.
The Original Kitchen iPad Rack comes in two pieces: the L-shaped mounting bracket and a shelf which easily removes and can be stored when not in use. The L-shaped mounting bracket is made of two acrylic pieces that are glued together. The shelf is a single piece of shaped acrylic.
Installation of the Original Kitchen iPad Rack requires three simple screws which are included in the box. We installed the rack in a matter of minutes—the most time consuming part of the installation was debating where in the kitchen to put it! The instructions say you could also use 2-sided tape or Velcro, but that seems a bit more risky to us. Once the mounting bracket is attached to your cabinet, the removable shelf easily snaps into place.
The shelf has a 1-inch ledge which holds the tablet in place. Because the tablet rests on this shelf, you can use the Original Kitchen iPad Rack along with any case you might already have installed on the tablet. Many of the other kitchen stands and shelves we looked at required the user to remove the case before using the stand, so we appreciate that the Original Kitchen iPad Rack doesn’t require this extra hassle.
Tablets are great for watching movies, listening to music, and other forms of entertainment. In order to fully enjoy any of these experiences though, you may want something more than the standard speakers that are found in most tablets. We’ve rounded up a few great audio accessories that provide a crystal clear sound you’ll appreciate.
Kinivo ZX100 Mini Portable Speaker
Kinivo’s ZX100 is an ultra-compact speaker that fits in the palm of your hand. This speaker features an Expansive Resonator Construction Design to provide the best low frequency output from some a small driver.
The old saying that good things come in small packages definitely holds true with this speaker. Simply put, for the money, the ZX100 is impressive. During our tests, we felt the ZX100 had good frequency response, impressive lows for the size of the speaker, and expected good highs. In addition, the speaker was able to put out a surprising amount of sound. And even when cranked up to maximum volume, we didn’t notice any clipping.
This speaker features a rechargeable battery that Kinivo claims will last for up to 6 hours. There’s also a built-in audio cable that stores in the base of the speaker. And if one ZX100 doesn’t put out enough sound for your needs, you can connect multiple units together.
Because the ZX100 connects to your device via a standard 3.5mm headset jack, it’s compatible with virtually any tablet or smartphone on the market. In the box, you’ll find the speaker, a longer audio cable/USB charging cord, carrying pouch, and user manual. The ZX100 is available in a handful of different colors as well.
Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II
Bose has a reputation for creating high-quality speakers. The company lives up to its reputation with the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II. Simply put, the sound that comes from this relatively compact speaker is phenomenal. You’ll enjoy excellent mid and high sounds as you might expect. During our sound tests, lows performed far beyond our expectations, given the size of the speaker. At full power, we heard no clipping.
Output volume from the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II is excellent as well. We tested this speaker both inside and outdoors. When used inside, we were able to fill the room with excellent sound. Outside, we still enjoyed excellent sound quality and you could hear the speaker very well from 20-30 feet away in a large open outdoor space.
Connecting the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II to your tablet, phone, or other device is very easy using a Bluetooth connection. To initiate pairing, hold the Bluetooth button on the top panel of the speaker. The speaker can store up to six Bluetooth sources in memory.
The SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II has a rechargeable battery. We tested the unit on battery power and plugged in to the wall. When we unplugged the speaker, we experienced no interruption in output. According to Bose, the battery will last for up to 8 hours. There’s a status light on the front edge of the speaker that changes from green to yellow (60-99% power) to red (less than 60% power) to give you a sense of how much life remains on the battery. The SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II measures 5.1 x 9.6 x 1.9 inches and weighs less than 3 pounds.
The top of the unit houses the power, Bluetooth, and volume controls. You’ll also find an auxiliary button on the top of the unit and an auxiliary port on the back which lets you play music from other audio sources. The back of the unit also houses a microUSB port for software updates and the power port. A bi-fold cover protects the speaker when not in use and unfolds to act as a stand.
|Headphones & A Remote Control|
When you don’t want to share what you’re listening to with the rest of the world, you’ll want a good set of earphones. Many models also have an inline microphone and audio controls, so you can use the earphones as a headset for your smartphone as well as for your tablet.
Did you know you can also use your tablet as a master remote for your home theater system? Although some smartphones and tablets come with remote functionality built in, Logitech has a solution that gives your tablet even more, as we'll how you in just a bit.
Etymotic hf3 headset + earphones
Etymotic claims the hf3 headset + earphones are “The world’s most accurate noise-isolating headset + earphones under $200.” That’s quite the claim, but it’s one we feel the company lives up to. The sound quality of these headphones is very good, but what makes them stand out among the competition is the Awareness Pro application which you can download for your tablet or smartphone. A free version of the app is available, but we chose to upgrade to the Pro version to enjoy all of the features available.
With Awareness for Etymotic Pro, you get programmable noise isolation which lets you control how much outside noise is heard through the earphones. This is especially handy when you’re on an airplane and need to be able to hear instructions from the crew but don’t want to constantly hear the people chatting behind you. The app has a dB Noise Meter which helps you find the best settings to eliminate unnecessary outside noise while still hearing important announcements, the doorbell, or other important sounds. When the app senses the outside noise has exceeded the microphone threshold, it can automatically pause your music and amplify outside sound through the earbuds. The music will resume when the outside noise decreases below the threshold. Etymotic claims the hf3 headset + earphones can provide 35 dB - 42 dB of noise isolation.
The noise isolation functionality of the hf3 headset + earphones works great and the headphones themselves provide very clear audio with decent lows, mids, and highs. We didn’t hear any crackling or distorted sounds while listening to music or watching videos. The hf3 headset + earphones feature a Kevlar-reinforced cable for added durability.
The hf3 headset + earphones come with a variety of ear pieces to provide a comfortable fit. During our tests, we were able to wear the earphones for extended periods of time without discomfort. A carrying case is also included in the box. You’ll also find ACCU-Filter user-replaceable filters in the box that help protect the balanced armature drivers from ear wax.
Etymotic offers a few models within the hf series that have similar features. The hf3 headset + earphones is designed for use with iOS devices, providing a 3-button inline remote with volume controls and a play/pause/end/send button. Etymotic also offers the hf2 and hf5 earphones which use the same drivers and provide identical sound quality as the hf3. The hf2 provides more universal compatibility with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile devices and features a single button in-line remote which acts as an end/send button for calls and play/pause for music. The hf2 will also work with Apple devices. For users who don’t require microphone capabilities, the hf5 earphones are a good option.
Logitech Harmony Smart Control
Logitech's Harmony line of universal remotes have attracted the attention of geeks for some time now. The company's latest edition to the line, known as the Harmony Smart Control, lets you use your tablet or smartphone as the remote. In the box, you'll find a Harmony Hub, remote control, IR mini blaster, USB cable, AC adapter, and some documentation. According to Logitech, Harmony is compatible with over 225,000 home theater devices.
The Harmony Hub works by turning Wi-Fi signals from your mobile device into IR and Bluetooth commands. As a result, you can control your home theater devices that are behind cabinets or walls. Technically, you don’t even have to be in the same room to control them. You can use up to four tablets or smartphones with the Harmony Hub. The Harmony Smart Control can control up to eight devices.
Although there isn't much documentation included with the Harmony Smart Control, the setup is pretty easy—you simply plug in the Harmony Hub, download the Harmony app to your tablet or smartphone, and then follow on-screen instructions to get everything setup. If you want more detailed instructions, they are available from Logitech's website.
You'll need Internet access, Wi-Fi, and a tablet or smartphone with Bluetooth in order to complete the set up process from your tablet. You can also set up the Harmony Smart Control on your computer. If you have a Harmony One remote or another Logitech remote that was set up using Logitech Harmony Remote Software, you can copy the settings from your previous remote to the Harmony Smart Control.
During setup, you'll have the option to configure various activities such as watching a movie, listening to music, playing a game console, and more. You can also create favorite channels for easy access. Once configured, you can swipe or tap your tablet's screen to control various settings such as volume, the channel, pause, play, and more.
If your tablet or phone isn't handy, the included simple remote control can step in and do the job letting you change channels, adjust the volume, and much more. The remote has a few keys for favorite activities which you can customize during setup.
During use, it's possible one of your devices might get out of sync with the hub and remote software. Thankfully, Logitech has an easy solution that even non-geeks should be able to figure out. For example, if the TV did not receive the signal to power on when you told it you wanted to watch TV, the Help menu can bring up controls that will get things working again. It's a pretty easy to understand process that will get you up and running quickly.
During our tests, the Harmony Hub, tablet app, smartphone app, and simple remote control functioned well. We had no problem switching between activities changing the volume or channel, and powering our home theater system on and off.
While all tablets have built-in storage, some tablets also let you expand the storage capacity with a memory card. Here’s a look at a couple options that will give you additional storage and the ability to share files with multiple devices.
Kingston MobileLite Wireless
Kingston’s MobileLite Wireless is a portable wireless storage device that can also serve as an emergency mobile charger. The MobileLite Wireless is compatible with both Apple and Android devices. Kingston plans to support Windows Phone, Windows PC, and Mac in the future.
Using the MobileLite Wireless, you can wirelessly stream movies, music, photos, and documents from USB flash drives and SD memory cards (or microSD cards with the included microSD to SD adapter) that are plugged into the device. It supports streaming and sharing data with up to three users simultaneously. Because the MobileLite Wireless allows simultaneous connections to a device and a router via Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to access files from the drive while also browsing the Internet over a Wi-Fi connection at the same time.
According to Kingston, the 1800mAh rechargeable Li-Polymer battery found in the MobileLite Wireless will last for up to five hours of continuous use as a wireless reader. As mentioned, the MobileLite Wireless can also serve as an emergency mobile charger, though with the 1800mAh battery, it’s definitely designed to be more of a backup option than to serve as a primary charger.
You can use the MobileLite Wireless to copy and transfer files between a USB flash drive and an SD card or to copy files to and from one of these storage drives to your tablet or smartphone. The MobileLite Wireless comes with a microSD to SD adapter as well as a USB to micro USB cable.
In order to use the MobileLite Wireless, you’ll want to download Kingston’s free app from the appropriate app store. Connecting to the MobileLite Wireless is the same as connecting to any other open Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, you can use the app to connect to the Internet through the MobileLite Wireless. The app can remember your preferred network and reconnect when you’re in range. While connected to the MobileLite Wireless, we had no problems playing a video clip while also surfing the Internet through the MobileLite Wireless.
Kingston Mobility Kit
Price varies depending on capacity, From $6.83 on Amazon
Kingston also sent us one of their 32GB Mobility Kits to use while testing the MobileLite Wireless. These kits are perfect for use with a tablet as well as with the MobileLite Wireless since the kit comes with a microSD card, SD adapter, and USB 2.0 card reader. When the microSD card is placed in the SD adapter, the card functions as a Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) card.
With this kit, you can put the microSD card in your tablet to transfer files (assuming your tablet has a microSD card slot), place it in the adapter and use it in your digital camera, or use the USB card reader with your desktop or laptop to transfer files to and from the card. By putting the microSD card in the SD adapter and plugging it in to the MobileLite Wireless, you can then share your files with multiple devices simultaneously.
Kingston’s Mobility Kits are available in capacities of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB and are sold separately from the MobileLite Wireless. The kits are available in two class ratings: Class 4 (4MB/s minimum data transfer rate) or Class 10 (10MB/s minimum data transfer rate).
Whether you’re on the go or at home, you’ll need to charge your tablet to keep it running untethered from an outlet. Here are a few options that will provide the juice you need.
Griffin Power Jolt Dual
Griffin Power Jolt Dual
Whether you’re at home or on the go, one thing is sure: if you’re using your tablet, you’ll inevitably need to charge it at some point. Griffin’s Power Jolt Dual lets you charge two devices at once via their included USB cables. The Power Jolt Dual also comes with a 30-pin iPad connector, but you can use any USB cable that you have to charge your tablet in the car using this charger.
The Power Jolt Dual provides 10 watts (5 volts DC at 2.1 amps) of charging power per plug. When charging, the white LED lights around the ports glow. The charger itself is relatively compact and appears well built.
Kensington AbsolutePower 2.1 with PowerWhiz (K39572)
Kensington AbsolutePower 2.1 with PowerWhiz (K39572)
Kensington’s AbsolutePower 2.1 with PowerWhiz promises to give your tablet the fastest charge available. Kensington’s PowerWhiz technology is designed to recognize your device and provide the fastest safe charge. In other words, if you connect a tablet that requires 2.1 Amps, the PowerWhiz will provide the appropriate power but if you connect a smartphone, the AbsolutePower 2.1 will detect that your phone requires a lower amperage and tune the charge cycle as necessary.
The AbsolutePower 2.1 features foldable blades which make this little charger great for traveling. The AbsolutePower 2.1 doesn’t come with any USB charging cables, however, so you'll have to remember to bring your own.
Cooper Wiring Devices Commercial Spec Grade Combination USB Charger - TR7745
Cooper Wiring Devices Commercial Spec Grade Combination USB Charger - TR7745
If you’re tired of hunting for a charger for your tablet and other devices, installing a few USB wall chargers around the house may eliminate some hassle. The TR7745 from Cooper Wiring Devices is a tamper resistant receptacle that prevents the insertion of foreign objects into the receptacle openings, thereby keeping your kids safe.
This outlet features two USB charging ports rated at 2.1A as well as two standard AC 125V outlets. The USB charging ports can charge most compatible electronic devices that charge via a 5V charger adapter. A LED indicator light lets a user know when a device is connected.
The outlet fits in a standard duplex receptacle. The TR7745 features an automatic grounding system, thermoplastic top and back-body, and zinc-plated steel mounting strap. Cooper Wiring Devices offers a number of similar outlets in various colors and with other Amp ratings.
The USB ports on the TR7745 are flush, making it easy to plug in virtually any USB cable. Installation of the outlet was as easy as installation of a standard outlet.
That’s Not All
That’s Not All