Hands-On: Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater
We take a closer peek at the company's iPad case/speaker add-on accessory.
April 02, 2013 by Rachel Cericola

The iPad on its own is very cool, but the sound is just sort of hollow and maybe even a little tinny. The Thunderstorm gives it life—and yes, it actually turns the iPad into a little home theater. I got to test out a variety of musical genres, movie clips and even games. The system could really crank the iPad’s volume, all without getting distorted. Music was detailed and just really fun to crank up.

It’s important to note that some audio sounded better than others, but that’s just the nature of the web. A lot of YouTube clips won’t sound as good as the stuff from iTunes. Then again, if you do a little searching, you’ll find a lot of content to get the Thunderstorm rumbling. I checked out trailers from Iron Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as the melee of “Hero’s Duty” from Wreck It Ralph, the bank robbery from The Dark Knight, and the lobby shoot-‘em-up from The Matrix. Some of them, I had to actually turn down. They were really loud, but never distorted. Good luck getting that out of a stand-alone iPad or other add-on speakers at this price point, let alone ones that you can stuff into a backpack.

Another nice perk is that this system doesn’t technically have to be plugged in. The Thunderstorm has its own internal battery, which can power the iPad when you’re in a car, on a plane, or in the backyard.

Like most iOS devices, Belkin has a companion app for the Thunderstorm, simply called Thunder. Designed in conjunction Audifi, this free app allows you to tweak some of the sound that’s projecting from the Thunderstorm. Basically, it has three modes. Normal is designed for music and web content, Wide is made for movies, and Super Wide opens things up for the ultimate gaming experience. In all honestly, I found the best results with the Super Wide setting. Some of those aforementioned hollow-sounding tracks will probably do better on the Normal setting. For the most part, however, I liked rocking out with the wider setting.

The $200 price tag and the bulk that this device adds to your iPad may be an initial turnoff. However, you don’t want to shield yourself from this Thunderstorm. It’s a nifty little add-on that can rock your iPad at home and on the go. 

Belkin Thunderstorm Features

  • Ported speaker system.
  • Free Thunder app.
  • Multi-fold cover for different viewing angles.
  • $199.99 MSRP

See also:
Review: AudioXperts Entertainment Console
Bowers and Wilkins Launches Two New AirPlay systems
Review: Bowers and Wilkins A7 Portable Speaker

Or if you’re looking for a more serious audio solution, check out 3 Audiophile Systems for 3 Budgets

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

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