iBallz iPad and Tablet Accessory Review

There are dozens of accessory and case makers in the world attempting to solve the problem of protecting your precious iPad or Android tablet from the pitfalls of modern life.

Some solve this by wrapping it in armor or gel or just mounting it to a stable surface, never to move.

Some solve this by wrapping the tablet in balls.

Friendly Integration, a small company out of San Francisco, offers up their iBallz protection system. It’s not quite a case but does promise protection from drops, even on the corners.

Can iBallz protect your precious iPad from peril? It will keep your tablet from actually hitting the floor, though I found that the floor isn’t the only danger to your device. Read on to find out how iBallz (and my tablet) fared when I put it to the test.

iBallz on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

iBallz Design

The system consists of four foam balls ballz attached to an adjustable elastic cord. Notches cut in the ballz slide snug over the corners of a tablet. Because they’re foam they can fit tablets of different thicknesses, not just the iPad 2. However, they won’t fit a thicker device like the ThinkPad Tablet or original Toshiba Thrive.

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The cord is adjustable so you can comfortably fit iBallz on tablets bigger than 10 inches on down to 7 inches or smaller. Unfortunately, due to this versatility you always have this extra length of cord hanging around. The maker provides a velcro bit at the end so you can tie it out of the way — a nice touch.

iBallz on a Nook Tablet

With iBallz users can hang the iPad or sit it up at a slight angle by tucking one of the ballz underneath for hands-free use. But the real selling point is the protective properties. The foam ballz are supposed to absorb impact and keep the tablet from actually touching a surface it drops on, thus reducing the chance for damage.

Depending on the tablet, iBallz may end up covering or partially obscuring a port or button. On the iPad it gets in the way of the headphone jack. On the Nook tablet it covers the top of the volume rocker. The Galaxy Tab’s buttons and ports are all safely out of the way.

Using iBallz

iBallz on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

I tested the iBallz on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Nook Tablet. The ballz fit on the Tab’s corners easily — no surprise since it’s about the same thickness as an iPad 2. The Nook Tablet proved more difficult since it’s thicker, but the foam squished to fit without much effort.

With the cord adjusted to the right tightness I felt the ballz were secure on both. Getting the ballz off the tablet when I was done with them took little effort and was very fast. Putting them on was a bit of a chore since you have to deal with the cord’s tension, but still only a few seconds.

I enjoyed the ability to hang the Galaxy Tab over my bed and next to my desk instead of finding a place for it on a nightstand or on the crowded surface of my work area. It stayed in place the entire time and the ballz didn’t slip or look in danger of falling off, even when I left the Tab hanging for 12 hours.

iBallz on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

I found the ballz a bit big for comfortable use on the Nook Tablet. The company also sells iBallz Minis for smaller gadgets, which is a better solution for the 7-inch range.

The ergonomic benefits aren’t as great as the makers tout. Having an extra bit of padding on the corners isn’t much more comfortable than just holding the Tab, but then the design is already very holdable. If you have a tablet with right angle corners the ballz may make holding it more comfortable.

iBallz on a Nook Tablet

Plus, having the ballz on the corners meant I needed to reach farther with my thumb to hit elements in my game or on the keyboard than I would normally. I found more equilibrium when reading eBooks, webpages, or stuff on Flipboard where only small motion is required.

iBallz Protection & Drop Test

How well will the iBallz protect your tablet? On the iPad I’ve seen the iBallz protect the tablet from drops as high at 6 feet (hitting on the corner) and tossed a length of four feet to land flat on a thin carpet on the CES show floor. I experimentally dropped the Galaxy Tab a few inches onto a wooden table and the tablet survived just fine.

However, when doing some drop tests with another tablet the results were less satisfactory. Since I still have a Grid10 lying around, I put the iBallz on that and dropped it from a height of 3.5 feet onto a thin carpet over a wooden floor. This was the result:

iBallz Grid10 Cracked Screen

I’d first dropped it from the same height onto the bare wooden floor with the glass facing up. However, that produced a really alarming sound. I moved to the carpet and dropped it face down and heard a crack. Sure enough, the display was ruined.

Notice that the crack radiates from one corner, right where one ball(z) is? The tablet never made contact with the floor, the crack happened due to pressure from iBallz.

iBallz Grid10 Cracked Screen

The back of the chassis has also begun to separate from the front.

Since I’ve seen for myself that the iPad survived worse, I can only speculate that the shape of the Grid10′s edges may have contributed to this, or even poor build quality. It’s not out of the question. Still, once I saw that, I became much more nervous about dropping anything else from that height with the iBallz on.

The Bottom Line

For $19.95, iBallz is a decent tablet accessory. I like the ability to hang my tablet on the wall, I like that I don’t have to be too worried about minor drops, and I like that it has the potential to make some tablets a little more comfortable to hold.

However, iBallz ability to protect from major drops is in question with me. I’m willing to engage in more testing to see if the Grid10 was a fluke, just not with my own gadgets.

  

Comments

  1. Tomas Antila says

    Did you just ruin a rare and one of a kind tablet? I do hope it’s possible to repair that Grid10.

  2. Anonymous says

    I’m sorry but this is not a ‘decent tablet accessory’.  It’s a piece of junk  and a joke.  You ruined a Grid 10 tablet that probably otherwise wouldn’t have been damaged and frankly those iballz are unsightly and could never make a tablet ‘more comfortable’ to hold.  They would just get in the way.   The company that makes these took a bad, laughable idea…and actually went ahead and produced them.  I’d laugh if I saw someone with these things on their tablet.

    • Girlonchip says

      I have iBallz on my iPad and frankly I couldn’t live without em. It’s saved my iPad from numerous drops and I use it to hang my iPad all around the house. It’s actually a really smart, useful design and I feel way less anxious about taking my iPad out with iBallz… Is there even a case that can protect the grid10? This and the comment above seems unnecessarily haterish!

  3. Andrea says

    Their site doesn’t claim to protect a Grid10 tablet, so I don’t know why you would expect it to?

  4. Minona says

    I have a Kindle Fire and have been considering getting some Iballz for it. I am glad to know that the Iballz come in a smaller size for 7 inch devices. My question is, does the smaller Iballz still have the same amount of protection as the larger Iballz? Anyone ??

  5. HorribleProduct says

    pfft – the iBallz accessory is absolutely unsightly and judging by these test results, not very effective. – you could also wrap your ipad in a foam block or a Haliburton case with a rectangle cut out. iBallz look ridiculous and completely destroy the sleek look of a tablet, even a tablet encased in a narrow silicone sleeve. who would buy one of these?

    I would expect something that looks so atrocious to provide complete and absolute protection. Horrible product.

    iBallz = crapulence.

  6. Kari says

    I’ve used iBallz for a month and love It! It’s easy to hold and much less cumbersome than my $60. leather case. People love the look of it, and three friends have now purchased it.

  7. Bernard Glassman says

    Two days after bringing home my iPad 4 I was sitting up late reading a Kindle book and, suddenly, was awakened by the sound of the iPad hitting the floor. Hairline crack along the top of the screen. Much blaming of self, because my previous iPad still had its iBallz on it, and never, in its entire life, had I dropped it. (The Kindle book is a Latin textbook, so I hope I may be forgiven for dozing off.) Transferred the iBallz immediately. Since then, I’ve fallen asleep and dropped it a couple of times onto a hardwood floor. The hairline crack did not lengthen, which is a Very Good Thing. Apple charges something like $250 to replace a screen, so a little ungainliness in the appearance of my iPad is more than OK by comparison. And while my iPad no longer slides into a manila envelope, (not that I ever carried it in a manila envelope), it fits just fine into a messenger bag.

    In summary, they work, They do block access to the earphone port, block the rear camera, and make it awkward to operate the power switch and volume rocker. I don’t care. Neither ugliness (a matter of taste in any event) nor the need to move them aside to use the various items along the edge, makes them anything less than very desirable.

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