BlackBerry Playbook Case Review: Case-Mate Barely There

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I’m a huge fan of minimalist cases and that tends to hold true for pretty much every device I use. I want something as thin as possible on my iPhone 4. I want something that doesn’t add too much bulk to my iPad 2. And I want to get a case for the BlackBerry PlayBook RIM gave out at the launch event that adds some protection but doesn’t remove the key advantage this “completely and totally unfinished but still has potential” device has over the iPad and other 10″ tablets: its small size and light weight.

That’s where Case-Mate’s Barely There for BlackBerry Playbook comes in. Here’s a brief look.

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From Case-Mate:

Think less case and more talk. The Barely There BlackBerry PlayBook case shows off your PlayBook with its slim and minimal case design. One of our most popular cases, the Barely There combines style with function for the ultimate slim BlackBerry PlayBook case.

Offering a layer of protection and polish, the Barely There case reveals more of your BlackBerry PlayBook. Colorful shades add a modern look, without the bulk. Made from specially engineered materials, including a hard-to-break plastic shell, the form-fitting case slims in all the right places.

Extremely slim profile showcases more of your BlackBerry PlayBook

Form fit feature covers back and corners

Impact resistant, flexible plastic shell

Access to all ports and functions

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If you read Gear Diary on a regular basis you are no doubt familiar with Case-Mate’s Barely There series of cases. We’ve used and reviewed them on a wide range of devices and even have a review of the Barely There for iPad 2 on  the way. The Barely There cases tend to be as thin and lightweight as possible while still adding some degree of protection, particularly from scratches, to the device they cover. The Barely There for BlackBerry PlayBook is no different. As you can see, it adds little or no bulk to the PlayBook. In fact, if you aren’t looking for it you probably won’t even realized the PlayBook is in a case. Yes, the case lives up to its name.

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As one might expect with a case from Case-Mate the cutouts are precise and only expose as much of the device as is needed to allow ease-of-use.

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The headphone jack is left open just enough to ensure that headphones with thick plugs will still fit.

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And the top controls on the PlayBook are as accessible as ever. (The stress there is “as ever” since the on/off sleep/awake button is one of the smallest and ridiculous things I have seen on a recent device. Seriously, it is all but useless!)

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The other microphone is also left exposed “just enough”.

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Surprisingly the company made the case in such a way that while it covers the top, bottom and corners it leaves the sides exposed. I don’t see this as much of an issue since the corners ARE protected but it does strike me as a bit peculiar.

If you look closely you will notice that the case comes above the screen ever so slightly. It isn’t enough to get in the way of using the touchscreen but it is enough to give the device some “lay on the table” protection. That is probably the biggest reason to use this case.

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Here’s the thing with the PlayBook: it has a great build quality to begin with and the back is made from a lovely soft-touch material that doesn’t show fingerprints. It seems to be a pretty tough little device. More than any device I have used in the last year or two I think the PlayBook is one you COULD use unprotected. In other words you don’t really NEED a case on it. BlackBerry knew that and included a nice pouch so you can use the device naked but throw it into your bag without concern. Still, I personally like the added level of protection and this is a great way to get it without changing the device all that much. The result is that I will be using the Barely-There with the PlayBook, at least until a folio case I love comes along.

Here’s a quick promotional video of the case which can be ordered directly from Case-Mate.



What I Like: Adds little to no weight and bulk but does as a layer of protection; provides just enough “lay on the table” screen protection; made from a nice soft-touch material that is quite pleasant to hold.

What Needs Improvement: While it does protect the corners it leaves the bulk of the sides exposed

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13 replies

  1. Found another case for the contest (Blackberry Playbook)

  2. I saw the  Gear Diary at 5 Giveaway: Day 1 Win a BlackBerry PlayBook and I thought I’d give it a shot. But Dan, you forgot you reviewed two PlayBook cases in the spring so I’ll post in both.

    Neither the CaseMate nor the Pop! does what I want a tablet case to do. I don’t care if my chassis gets scratched up, I care about my screen. My HP Slate’s case is like an open binder with a hard screen cover and access to all the ports/buttons/cameras. It’s also a matter of seconds to pop the Slate out and put it in it’s dock. With a case like this, I can throw the tablet in my bag without worrying about what else might be banging around in there.

    A different case solution was one I had on an old Motion m1300 tablet, It snapped over the screen and, when unsnapped, had a keyboard. The m1300 also had a cheaper case without the keyboard which could snap over the screen while carrying the tablet and snap on the back while using the tablet.

    Of the two, the Pop! would be the one I would consider because of the built in stand. Still, this is of limited value to me. Of the cases you’ve mentioned, the Sena Jornal is the one I’d go for.

    • Too funny- thanks. It initially read that way (and does again thanks to you) but I got as comment from someone that they only saw one review and i couldn’t track it down either for some reason. Thanks for the catch.

  3. I’m commenting to be entered in the GearDiary 5th Anniversary giveaway.

    I think I would prefer the Pop! case because it has a stand. The Barely There case is nice too, but I think the stand would be more helpful.

  4. In for the Gear Diary  at 5 Giveaway.

    I will go with Barely There, as it is not bulky and I don’t need stand

  5. (For the GD 5th Anniversary Giveaway)

    I’d prefer the popcase because I’d definitely prefer to prop it up. I’d like to be able to read and what not with it elevated and out of my hands.

  6. Gear Diary 5th Anniversary Giveaway

    I prefer the Barely There over the Case Mate.  I like the smaller footprint of the Barely There.  Also, I’ve had overmolded (dual durameter) case/products delaminate on me before.  I usually always go the route of least likely to fail, unless there’s a feature that the makes it hard to pass on.

  7. I too am commenting regarding the GearDiary 5th Anniversary Giveaway!  While this appears to be a nice, snug case, I’m a sucker for gimzos/tech features, so I still prefer the Pop! case on account of that slick self-standing ability.  I hate having to take out a unit from a case to pop it into another one, which is one of the reasons I love and still use my aging HTC X7501! 😉

  8. I am commenting for the GearDiary 5th Anniversary giveaway. This case definitely has a very sleek design and is almost simplistic, which I like a lot, however, there’s barely and innovation with it unlike the Pop case which stand the playbook up!

  9. This is my comment for the 5th Anniversary Giveaway! Although this one looks really classy and sleek (barely there), it seems like a lot of the other cases out there. It seems kind of bland compared to the Pop! case. I watch a lot of videos so the pop out stand on the other case would be so helpful!

  10. If I win the Playbook at stake in GD’s 5th Anniversary Giveaway, I would like to have the Pop! case. I would probably prefer to use the Playbook bare but I’ll slip it into the Pop! case when I let my nephew play with it or when I need to prop it up on my work desk. 

  11. I’m commenting for the 5th Gear Diary Anniversary. I prefer the Pop! case because of the awesome stand feature, but this case’s minimalism also seems like it would suit some people. 

  12. I prefer the Venture over the Barely There, because I like the professional folio look of the Venture as well as the stand feature.