While Belkin has long been at the forefront of Apple accessories, offering everything from keyboard cases to baby monitors, it somehow left the audio arena unexplored. That ends today with the introduction of the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater. Behind that mouthful of a product name is essentially a portable speaker dock for the iPad housed inside a protective case, which seems a lot more reasonable than Bang & Olufsen's pricey speaker "wedge." The Thunderstorm's front-facing speaker system boasts full-range drivers and integrated air channels for "immersive sound" and "deeper bass." All the internals are powered by Audifi, a mobile audio engineering outfit that Belkin specifically hired for the project. As for the cover, Belkin took a cue from Apple's own magnetic offering, but went a step further with the addition of multifold creases for different viewing angles.
We spent a few days with the Thunderstorm and so far we're impressed with the volume and depth from such slim speakers. Though we didn't have a chance to test it, Belkin is also offering a free iOS app to accompany the product -- it essentially lets you fine-tune the audio with presets for music, movies and games. However the Thunderstorm is not without a few annoyances: the case adds an unsettling amount of bulk to the iPad and it's currently only available with the now-ancient 30-pin connector (we're told a Lightning-equipped version is due in Q2 2013). If you're happy with the ole universal dock though, you can pick this up in the coming weeks from Belkin's online store, Amazon.com or the Apple Store for $200 a pop. In the mean time, you can get a closer look at it with the galleries after the break.
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Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater press photos
Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater hands-on
Update: Belkin has updated their PR, so we've amended the release below.
Bring your Content to Life with Belkin's Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater™ Portable, Premium Speaker Dock for iPad Provides Enhanced Audio Experience
Las Vegas – January 6, 2013 – Belkin today announced a new portable, full-range speaker dock system for the iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater. Designed to integrate seamlessly with the iPad, the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater enhances movies, music and games with advanced digital sound technology for a rich, powerful audio experience. The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater will be on display today from 4–7pm at CES Unveiled in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and during the 2013 International CES at Belkin's booth, South Hall #30651.
"The iPad is known for its brilliant, high-definition display that enhances the video quality of your favorite movies, shows and video games, but the audio quality sometimes doesn't match the visual experience," said Nate Kraft, director of product management at Belkin. "With the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater we are looking to provide the immersive, powerful audio experience missing in the iPad, so you can listen to your content the way it was meant to be heard."
Powered by mobile sound leader Audifi, the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater features high-efficiency, front-facing speakers that project cinematic-quality sound. Ported speakers and integrated air channels in the design allow optimal airflow so bass frequencies come alive. The free, downloadable Thunderstorm App provides extended control with customize soundscapes for music, movies and games so your content always sounds its best.
"Belkin tapped us to engineer the sound performance of the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater from the inside out and we're happy to see end results that deliver an immersive mobile audio experience," said Bruce Lancaster, general manager and vice president at Audifi. "Through the design of core circuits, sound processing, custom speakers and a surprisingly thin acoustic enclosure, Audifi engineered a level of sonic depth and precision that was, until now, impossible to achieve in mobile devices."
Designed to fit flush around an iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater connects directly through the iPad dock connector for a seamless, unified experience. A direct connection eliminates the possibility of dropping the connection to the speaker and provides optimal calibration for the audio sound effects. It also features a multifold cover for a variety of comfortable viewing angles and screen protection.
The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater will be available for both 30-pin connectors and the new Lightning connector.
Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater - $199.99
G3A1000 for 30-Pin, G3A2000 for Lightning
• Integrated, front-facing, landscape-oriented, stereo speakers
• Ported speakers for rich bass and depth
• Low-distortion, high-efficiency amplifier
• Magnetically attached folding soft cover with multiple stand configurations
• MFi Certified
• G3A1000 with 30-pin docking interface is compatible with iPad 2 and iPad 3rd
• G3A2000 with Lightning connector is compatible with iPad 4th generation
• Pass-through access for iPad rear camera, headset jack, microphone, speaker,
charging, lock switch, volume control, and mute/rotation lock toggle
The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater with 30-pin connector will be available at Belkin.com, Amazon.com and the Apple Store in January in the U.S. Additional retailers and countries will be available soon. A version for the Lightning connector will be available in the spring. The Thunderstorm App is coming soon to the App Store.