Belkin is a name that most tech enthusiasts should recognize–they make quality accessories for a variety of mobile devices, from iPods and iPads to eReaders and laptops. Today I’m reviewing three different iPad cases from Belkin, so you can choose the right case for your needs.
Grip Swell ($39.99)
The Grip Swell is a silicone sleeve with a few extra details that take it to the head of the class. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the material is supple and flexible, but retains its shape. That means it’s very easy to insert and remove your iPad, but it is thick enough to resist any sort of stretching or tearing.
All of the major buttons and controls are perfectly accessible, though some of them, such as the power and volume buttons, are covered. The headphone jack and microphone at the top, the orientation/mute switch on the right, and the charge/sync port and speaker on the bottom are all left uncovered. I like this design decision, because the case is very protective without going for totally extreme protection like the Otterbox Defender case I reviewed here a while ago.
The back of the case is what gives the Grip Swell its name. The black and white pattern is certainly swell and adds a bit of personality to the iPad, but it also has a purpose. The black areas are slightly raised, while the white areas are recessed. That very slight pattern makes the iPad much easier to grip and much less likely to fall out of your hand.
Aside from the Otterbox Defender, which I use on a daily basis, the Grip Swell is my favorite iPad case. I can’t use it every day because I like to just toss stuff in my backpack and run, but it’s perfect for when I’m using the iPad at home. It isn’t strictly necessary when I’m sitting on the couch, but it does provide several benefits: it’s easy to get on and off, has a very low profile, feels good in the hand (the metal back of the iPad is cold!), and provides a moderate amount of protection. Plus it looks pretty cool. What more could you want?
Grip Vue ($39.99)
This case is similar in style to the Grip Swell reviewed above, but is very different in materials. Where the Grip Swell is soft and flexible, the Grip Vue is made of a much stiffer, plastic-y sort of material. It is very slick on the outside, and rather shiny as well.
It has an extremely low profile design, with minimal borders around the edges that measure a quarter of an inch. It doesn’t cover the home button on the front of the device. I suspect this is due to how stiff the Vue is, and this is an attempt to make it easier to put on an iPad.
It follows the same port design as the Grip Swell, which means that the headphone jack, microphone, orientation lock/mute switch, speaker, and charge/sync port are all left uncovered. The power and volume buttons are all covered, with slight ridges that you can push with your finger.
If you’re looking for something a little different, and don’t plan on taking your case on and off on a regular basis, the Grip Vue might be the case for you. It is very difficult to put on and take off, but it fits like a glove and makes a statement–especially if you can find the blue color that is no longer offered on Belkin’s web site. It is also available in purple, black, and clear.
Vue Sleeve ($39.99)
If you prefer to keep your iPad naked, and would rather use a slip case to protect it when you’re on the road, take a closer look at the Vue Sleeve. Made of neoprene with a zipper closure, the Vue Sleeve is soft and cushiony, with extra thick padding on the front. That’s smart thinking, because it offers better protection for the vulnerable screen of the iPad and also makes sure that any small objects you put in the storage pocket on the front also won’t damage the screen.
The storage pocket is quite large, but very flat. The front panel is made of soft plastic in a cool wave design that is attractive, but also lets you get a view of what is inside. Since it isn’t gusseted, you’ll want to put only very small, flat items inside, like earbud headphones, your charge/sync cable, cash, credit cards, etc. It will stretch a bit to accomodate what you put inside, but if you try to stick anything too thick in there it will look unsightly and might make the case more difficult to carry.
The iPad compartment is designed to fit the tablet exactly. The first few times you use it may be something of a struggle, at least until the neoprene loosens up a bit. You can use it with another case inside, if you have something extremely tight on the iPad, such as the Grip Vue. It will require a bit of extra work to get the zipper closed, but that is a good option for those who want to leave a thin skin-style case on the iPad at all times and use the Vue Sleeve as extra protection only during transport. It’s also important to note that there is extra padding all around the zipper attachment on both sides of the case, so the edge and corners of the iPad are protected from the zipper itself.
The Vue Sleeve is well constructed of good materials, with a good amount of padding. It isn’t overly thick or rigid, but it gets the job done and looks nice doing it. The fit is tight enough that you may have to work a bit to get the zipper closed at first, but it will loosen up over time. The Vue Sleeve provides very good protection for your iPad with a minimum of bulk. It is currently available in purple and black.