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Monday, August 4, 2014

Belkin Universal Cover for 7-8-inch tablets review: A solid feel and snug fit for your midsize slate

The Good The Belkin Universal Cover for 7- to 8-inch tablets is lightweight with a sturdy build and comfortable feel. It securely fastens small and midsize slates, can be used as a stand, and features a flap on the rear for easy camera access.
The Bad The size works better for tablets larger than 7 inches and smudges on the exterior can be difficult to remove.
The Bottom Line The Belkin tablet case provides a firm fit and basic protection, but its design conforms better to midsize tablets than 7-inchers.
The Belkin universal tablet case for 7- to 8-inch tablet lives up to its name; it fit every one of the 7- and 8-inch slates we tried on it. With an unadorned exterior, a rear flap for easy access to the back camera, and front flap that can fold into a stand, its design is impressively simple and functional at once.
Starting at $40, its sturdy fit, stable build, comfortable feel, and transformable design make it an inexpensive investment for those looking for a simple, but solid tablet case. It might not be the most fashionable tablet cover out there, but it's an affordable way to protect your slate.

Design

Small slates adhere to different design principles than large ones because they're usually manufactured in a native portrait orientation. The Belkin case is meant to be primarily used in portrait orientation, however the front flap can be folded into a stand for landscape viewing or typing.
The outside is made of polyurethane and its texture is soft to the touch, almost like fake leather. It comes in a two-toned purple model that Prince would certainly approve of, and a gray and sky blue version, like our review unit.
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The stretchable corners fit snug on small and midsize slates.Xiomara Blanco/CNET
On the inside, the case is lined with a microfiber-like material that protects from scratches. The right side of the interior -- where the tablet sits -- features two thick plastic corners that stretch from the center, like bungee cords making half an "X," while a small, stationary border on the opposite edge helps stabilize the slate.
The back of the case is more reinforced than the front and houses a small flap on the upper left corner that can be lowered, like a dog-eared page in a book, for easy access to the rear camera. When pulled all the way down, magnets keep the flap from obstructing your photo.
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The case, like many before it, can also be used as a stand.Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Performance

I tried the case on a variety of 7- to 8-inch tablets, including the Asus Memo Pad 8LG G Pad 7Google Nexus 7Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.4Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7. The width of the two movable corners and the plastic edge-border fit every tablet and I had no irregular sizing issues -- it was a true universal fit for all. For kicks, I tried to fit a slightly larger tablet in the case -- the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 -- but it didn't fit.
The two movable plastic corners stretch around the left top and bottom corners of each tablet and firmly hold the slate inside of the case, similar to the way my arms engulf any puppy that crosses my path. Small 7-inch tablets leave about an inch of space between the front and back panel of the case, which I found to be an awkward fit -- yet still snug as a bug in a rug. To be sure, the case gets the job done for 7-inchers, however the small tablets look like a child wearing a t-shirt two sizes too big.
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You can see how the Google Nexus 7 doesn't take up all of the space in the case.Xiomara Blanco/CNET
With exception of the Kindle Fire HDX 7, the Belkin case does not obstruct access to the power and volume buttons on the top or right edge of the slates. The camera flap on the back also successfully exposed every rear camera -- even on the Galaxy Tab S, which has its 8-megapixel rear shooter in the center instead of the left corner.
For such a lightweight case, I was surprised by how sturdy and comfortable it felt. The solid build feels strong enough to help reduce any damage caused by a minor drop -- though I didn't fully torture test the case -- and the texture of the outside felt more comfortable than most plastic tablet cases I've felt. Unfortunately, some smudges take a little more elbow grease to remove.
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Those stretchy plastic corners are stronger than they look.Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Conclusion

The Belkin Universal Case for 7- to 8-inch tablets does a mighty fine job at attempting a one-size-fits-all design, but ultimately it works best for 8-inch slates. If you prefer a streamlined fit, 7-inch tablet owners should keep their options open for something smaller.
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