Slick Mobile Gadgets for Tablets
We've scoured a multitude of tablet accessories--headsets, speakers, protective sheaths, auxiliary power, extra storage, and more--to find the best ones to complement your tablet--regardless of its manufacturer or operating system. Click on for images of our favorite accessories, all of them designed to help your tablet live up to its potential.
PhoneSuit Primo Power Core
Most tablets--including the ever-popular Apple iPad 2--require more juice than a PC USB port can output. This is why the iPad required a 10-watt charger instead of the standard wall charger that came with the iPhone. And it's why most Android tablets we've tested require proprietary chargers. Enter PhoneSuit's Primo Power Core. This $100 block feels a bit larger and heavier than an old Apple iPod Classic; but it has enough power inside to power up a smartphone four or five times, or to a tablet once or twice. The 8200mAh battery pack supports high-speed 2.1-amp/10-watt charging for speedy charges, has three glowing blue lights to show how much juice is left, and includes a power switch so you can conserve the battery pack's power when it's not in use. You can plug in a device directly via USB cable, or use one of the eight included power tips to charge specific devices.
Aliph Jawbone Jambox
The Aliph Jawbone Jambox ($199) truly jams: This Bluetooth speaker system connects to a PC or phone, and delivers pleasing sound and functional speakerphone capabilities that are far better than what most portable devices can achieve. The classy Jambox measures 5.9 inches long by 2.2 inches high by 1.6 inches deep, weighs just 1.5 pounds, and is available in four colors (staid black, bright blue, vivid red, and silver gray). The Jambox's stylish wraparound grille varies in design depending on the color; all versions have rubberized top and bottom plates. The Jambox pairs smoothly with Bluetooth. Slide the power switch to its farthest point off-center, and the device will announce that it's in pairing mode; once the two are successfully paired, the Jambox announces that, too. The Jambox already supports A2DPk, and it will support Multipoint for pairing with multiple devices. In our tests, the Jambox produced pleasing, full-bodied audio. Some tracks sounded a tad bright in spots, but overall we encountered better midtones and bass than with the built-in speakers on a phone or tablet.
AirStash Wireless Flash Drive
The opposite of the bulky Seagate GoFlex Satellite, Wearable's AirStash ($100) provides wireless storage in a lightweight, easy-to-pocket package. You bring your own SDHC flash card, pop it into the compact device, and stream your data wirelessly via 802.11b/g. Alternatively, you can plug the AirStash directly into a USB port and use it as a standard flash drive. With a wireless connection, you access your files via the Web browser, unless you're on Apple's iOS; on iOS devices, you can download an app to simplify the task of accessing supported file types.
Wacom Bamboo Stylus and Just Mobile AluPen
Touchscreens are great, but sometimes your activity is better-suited to old-fashioned pen input. That's where these styluses come in. Both the $30 Wacom Bamboo Stylus (top) and the $35 Just Mobile AluPen Stylus are designed to simplify handwriting, annotating, and drawing on a capacitive touchscreen such as those found on the Apple iPad and most Android tablets.Both have a soft rubber tip at the edge, which the screen detects as if the stylus were your finger. The Wacom stylus is thick enough to feel ergonomic, but not so bulky that you can't take advantage of its clip. The AluPen has a thicker, heavier design and lacks the soft-rubberized texture of the Wacom, but it may actually feel even more comfortable than the Wacom in hand.
Verizon Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
Verizon gives you choices for a mobile hotspot, but we like the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot. LTE hotspots are fast--truly 10 times faster than 3G hotspots--and they deliver a much bigger pool of bandwidth to the devices that will connect to them. In our speed tests, the 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot delivered impressive speeds that were marginally faster overall than the competition's. Priced at $100 with a two-year contract (data service starts at $50 for 5GB or $80 for 10GB), this compact model edged the competition in battery life, too, eking out 3hours, 26 minutes in our tests.
Seagate GoFlex Satellite
The Seagate GoFlex Satellite hard drive takes the shackles off your tablet, freeing it to connect to lots of storage space without having to go through any pesky wires. It's the first hard drive of its kind, and it performs well: You can stream HD movies, pictures, music, and other files to up to five users--but it costs more than twice what you'd pay for an unconnected 500GB hard drive. Seagate has a rough-around-the-edges app for use with iPads and iPhones, but Android users have to go through the Web browser, for now. Unfortunately, though the hardware implementation is adequate, the software app struggles.
Iogear Multi-Link Bluetooth Keyboard With Touchpad
The $80 Iogear Multi-Link Bluetooth Keyboard With Touchpad isn't designed for portability so much as for usability across devices. It can work with up to six Bluetooth devices, in fact, including a tablet, a laptop, a phone, and a game console. And you can switch among them easily thanks to a convenient keyboard shortcut. The solid, sturdy keyboard has a built-in touchpad with mouse buttons, so it can work as well on your lap as on your desk.
Aliph Jawbone Era
When you're trying to answer a call, fumbling around as you put on your headset may seem inevitable. But the Aliph Jawbone Era ($130) aims to fix that: You can shake the Era twice to pick up a call when the headset isn't in your ear. This function works great. When a call comes in, you can see who's calling and then double-shake the Era before placing it in your ear. Quadruple-shake the unit to put it in pairing mode. The Era bundles a generous number of earbud covers and earhooks, increasing your likelihood of finding a solid fit. With or without the earloop, the Era felt snug and secure. Voices sounded up-close and clear, and the Era did a superb job of canceling background noise and warding off interference, even in a breezy area.
The biggest draw of the $50 earbud-oriented Jabra Clipper is its price. This is the least-expensive stereo Bluetooth headset we've ever tested. What's more, the Clipper's overall audio quality is in the same league, most of the time, with that of headphones that cost up to six times as much. The Clipper's smallest ear phone buds lodged in-ear with minimal maneuvering and provided a solid seal. As the product's name suggests, you wear the unit as a clip attached to the earbuds with a cord. Ideally, you'd wear the clip roughly halfway down your shirt.
Case Logic Waterproof iPad Sleeve
Headed to the beach or pool this summer? Find a waterproof case that lets you operate your tablet while protecting it from the elements. The Case Logic Water Resistant iPad Case IPADW-101 is the one product in this lineup that's specifically designed to fit the Apple iPad, but being that size means it can accommodate the iPad 2 or any of several other tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7-inch and the T-Mobile G-Slate. Case Logic says that it can hold devices measuring up to 9.7 by 7.6 by 0.6 inches. The case has double-seal closures that prevent water from entering, and a flap for additional protection. Beware: Though this sleeve will protect against splashes and sand, it is not intended for submersion.
Untrasone Zino Headphones
I’d been using these cans for a couple of years before I got my Galaxy Tab, but now these gunmetal-black, foldable, semi-open headphones are paired with my tablet full-time. Designed for MP3 players, the Zinos ($100) deliver a lot of sound from small amplifiers. And the sound is impressive--the definition of instruments in the recording is better than on any other portable cans I’ve heard. The highs are extremely crisp, and the midrange is nice and punchy. The Zinos deliver plenty of bass for my ear, too, but they don't exaggerate bass frequencies, as some listeners prefer. The phones hug you firmly flat over your ears without causing fatigue with extended listening. You’ll love these for watching movies and listening to music on your tablet.
Klipsch Image S4 Earphones
If you like the total sound immersion of in-ear earphones, you’ll be hard pressed to find better ones than the Klipsch Image S4s ($80). The phones fit right in your ear canal, shutting out almost all other sound. The sound is amazing: Deep, satisfying bass response, and high highs. In fact you have to watch your volume because the highs on some recordings can be painful at high volume. I usually don’t like in-canal phones, but the soft plastic earpieces mitigate that problem, and the sound made it totally worthwhile. These phones work well when plugged into your tablet on loud airplanes, too.