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While your iPad can be a productivity powerhouse, it’s also a hell of an entertainment center, especially if you’re on the go. Help it serve double duty if you have the right accessories.
Apple has really been pushing the iPad as a work and educational tool the last few years but its initial success was as an entertainment device. The early iPads weren’t great for doing any work harder than replying to emails, but they were perfect for watching Netflix or playing super addictive games like Tiny Wings. Now, iPads are actually good for getting real work done but, to be honest, they’re even better for having some fun.
While, sure, the iPad is great all by itself, if you really want to maximize your entertainment experience you need to do a little planning and accessorization.
There are hundreds of great entertainment apps on the iPad, and as long as your iPad has enough storage space, you can install as many as you like.
If you want to turn your iPad into a movie machine, Netflix and Hulu are a given, but also check out Amazon Prime Video and, if you’ve got your own movie collection, Plex. Plex requires a bit of set up, but it’s worth it. Once you’re done, you basically have your own private Netflix with all the content you could want.
Unlike a Kindle, an iPad, with its full color screen, is a killer way to read comics. The good news is that comic companies have embraced this; the bad news is it’s mostly using a subscription mode. Check out comiXology for a broad selection and Marvel Unlimited if you’re really just here for the Avengers. DC is yet to release their own digital comic subscription but it’s hopefully not too far off.
For bookworms, the best option is the Kindle app. iBooks is… fine, but the Kindle ecosystem is so mature that it’s impossible to beat.
Gamers have essentially unlimited options. The first iPad games were fun platformers and puzzlers, but now there’s a huge number of console quality games. There is even a full PC port—yes, an actual full port—of Civilisation VI.
A naked iPad isn’t actually that good as an entertainment system. They’re impossible to prop up and, if you bring them anywhere, likely to get scratched to bits. To solve these problems you need to either invest in a mount or a case.
While mounting your iPad above your bed can be fun, it’s never going to compete with a real TV. It’s an iPad’s portability that really makes them a killer entertainment setup; you can bring your movies, comics, and games everywhere you go, whether that means moving from your couch to bed or from Cleaveland to the Bay Area. This means you’re probably better off with a case and there are two we really like. One for reading and one for watching stuff.
The ProCase Leather Stand Folio is available for the iPad ($18.99), iPad Pro 10.5 ($14.99), and iPad Pro 12.9 ($21.99) (though we wouldn’t recommend reading for extended periods of time on that monster!) in a range of colors. It’s got a nice leather exterior and soft interior that not only protects your iPad, but feels great in your hands. Most importantly, you can fold over the back cover, tuck your finger in, and use it to hold your iPad in a somewhat natural reading position. It’s what I’ve been using with my Kindle for years. You can also position it at any of three different standing angles if you want to watch a movie.
KHOMO’s DUAL case is a really great, affordable, and simple case for the iPad ($14.95), iPad Pro 10.5 ($14.95), and iPad Pro 12.9 ($19.95) that will protect it front and back. It comes in a range of colors and its design mimics that of Apple’s own Smart Cover—just with added protection and a much better price.
For watching movies or binging shows, you can’t do much better. The case will prop your iPad up so you can view it comfortably whether you’re sitting up, lying down, or leaning over it.
One final thing worth noting is, if you plan on using your iPad to entertain (or distract) your children, there are kid specific cases out there that are designed to take all the abuse a toddler can throw. Check out our guide for our full list of picks.
There are a lot of mobile games that do well with the touch screen interface, but let’s face it: for serious gaming it’s not a lot of fun to be smashing your fingers all over the very screen you’re playing on. That’s where a good Bluetooth controller comes in very handy.
The Gamevice Controller Gamepad—available for the iPad, iPad Pro 10.5, and iPad Pro 12.9 for $99.95—basically turns your iPad into a Nintendo Switch, form factor wise, with controls mounted on either side of the screen. The position is comfortable, puts the action right between your hands, and removes the need for an additional stand to hold your iPad up while you game.
You get dual analog joysticks; A, B, X, Y, L1, L2, R1, and R2 buttons; and a D-Pad. For any game that’s compatible with a gamepad—and there are hundreds upon hundreds of Bluetooth controller compatible games—it’s a total, well, game changer. There are more than a few Bluetooth controllers on the market but all-in-one comfort you get with the Gamevice really sets it apart.
If you want something more traditional, the SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller ($48) is a solid shout. It has two joysticks; a D-Pad; A, B, X, and Y pressure sensitive buttons; and L1, L2, R1, and R2 triggers. You’ll need to prop your iPad up with a case or mount to keep your hands free, but in return you get a very comfortable and ergonomic gaming experience.
A nice touch is that the Nimbus charges using a Lightning cable. This means you only need to bring one charger with you.
While the iPad’s speakers aren’t bad, per se, they don’t really pack a huge punch and, perhaps more importantly, you can’t use them in public without coming across like an ass. It’s time to upgrade your iPad’s sound output.
What makes the Beats X so good is Apple’s W1 chip. This little bit of technowizardry builds on top of the Bluetooth standard and turns it into something incredibly useable. You get higher sound quality, a longer range, better battery life, instant pairing, easy swapping between devices, and they even charge using a lightning cable like your iPad. With eight hours of battery life—and around two hours with a quick 15 minute charging session—they’re hard to beat.
With access to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, and serious battery life, an iPad can be the perfect device for powering your beach party’s tunes. The built-in speakers won’t cut it, so your best bet is a Bluetooth speaker. We’ve looked at Bluetooth speakers in-depth before. If you want something cheap and cheerful, check out our guide to the best budget portable Bluetooth speakers. If you need something that can shrug off a bit of rain or sand, check out our guide to the best rugged portable Bluetooth speakers.
I personally use the UE Boom 2 from our rugged list. It delivers surprisingly good sound for such a small speaker and you can safely take it anywhere.
If more than one person is trying to watch a movie on the iPad, Bluetooth headphones won’t work. This is fine if you’re somewhere private, but if you’re somewhere public you can’t just crank up the volume on the tablet or use a speaker. Instead, you need to go old school, get some wired headphones, and use a headphone splitter.
The AmazonBasics 5-Way Multi Headphone Splitter is, bang for your buck, the best way to share one headphone jack with a few different people. While you’re unlikely to be able to crowd five people around a single iPad, you can definitely get three kids in the back of a car watching one.
Unlike the iPhone, iPads still come with 3.5mm jacks and, since space isn’t as much of an issue, should stick around for a bit longer.
I travel a lot so my iPad is my go to entertainment option. Whether I’m in the mood to read a book, watch a movie, or sing along to some songs in the shower, it has me covered. With these accessories it’s so much more than an iPhone with a big screen and with hands free viewing, enhanced sound, and a game controller, becomes a full fledged entertainment center.
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