Belkin, a company primarily known for its cases and accessories, looks to enter the home audio game here at CES. The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater represents the company's first foray into mobile speakers, bringing high-quality audio to the Apple iPad.
The Thunderstorm focuses less on music and more on delivering a superior cinematic experience. Rather than a standalone speaker form factor, the Thunderstorm is more of a speaker dock and case hybrid. It looks like a shrunken-down soundbar built into a sturdy iPad case. The Thunderstorm fits flush around the iPad and comes in either Lightning port or 30-pin compatible models. The case also comes with a magnetic folding cover, much like Apple's own Smart Cover, to provide protection for the glass display and multiple angles for propping the tablet up. The front-facing speakers use integrated air channels to enhance bass response, while the free iOS app allows for soundscape customisation.
The Thunderstorm app provides extended controls for adjusting the stereo image, equiliser, and various other settings to get the sound just how you like it. There are a number of modes, including movie, game, and music, to fine tune the audio experience.
In a quick demo, the Thunderstorm provided full and surprisingly loud sound that was clearly audible even in a packed event centre. The speaker itself isn't too large or bulky, but the case does add some heft to the iPad. I also had a chance to see the Thunderstorm app in action, and the variable stereo image worked quite well. Overall, the Thunderstorm looks like a solid first entry from Belkin, and its stand feature coupled with the detailed and loud audio make it a nice option for people who use their iPads for watching movies.
Both the 30-pin and Lightning port models will be available for $200 (£125), with the former hitting retail shelves in January and the latter expected this spring.