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Review: Case-Mate Barely There For PlayBook

I have apparently become a case freak. I really want/need my devices protected. I have 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and lots of opportunities for personal electronics to get knocked, dropped, dinged, scratched, scuffed, or otherwise violated. 3 of 4 phones in my house live in Otterbox Commuters. My PlayBook never leaves the house out of its OEM Convertible case.

That being said, I find that I prefer my PlayBook naked at home. The thing is just so darned comfortable as-is! Unfortunately, my paranoia has steadily grown, so I decided that a slim scuff guard of some sort was in order. Enter the Case-Mate Barely There.

The Barely There is just that. It’s a slim, semi-rigid sheath that snaps right onto the PlayBook. It’s so thin, it’s almost invisible. The box actually has the dubious tagline “Like a thong for your tablet” on the back. I’m not even kidding:

The Barely There has cut-outs for all the buttons and ports, including the dual microphones. Access to the buttons and ports is not hampered in any way due to the extreme thinness of the case, but it does add just enough bulk to prevent use of the charging dock.

It completely covers the back, top and bottom edges of the PlayBook, as well as the corners, providing adequate minimalist scuff and scratch protection. The top and bottom edges come up above the PlayBook just enough to prevent the screen from touching a flat surface if laid face-down on it, though it provides no more than a millimeter clearance. Since there’s only the barest overlap on the front edges of the device itself, bezel gestures are completely unaffected by the case.

The Barely There case, curiously, leaves the sides of your PlayBook completely open and unprotected. This is, I suppose,  a concession to the minimalist theory behind the case’s design, but in my world, danger comes from all directions, so I was disappointed by this lack of lateral protection.

I probably could have gotten over the lack of side protection, but for one glaring flaw: this case is sharp, and not in a ZZ Top kind of way. The back edges are rounded on all four sides, but every front edge of this case is sharp to the touch, making it uncomfortable to hold and shift your grip on it. The exposed sides leave a sharp edge all along the part of the PlayBook right where your hands go. Every time I reached toward the touchscreen or shifted the position in which I was holding the PlayBook, my hands or fingers caught or scraped on this uncomfortable edge. Even the front corners felt sharp, as did the thin seams around the buttons and ports. A naked PlayBook is a joy to hold; smooth, secure, and comfortable. This case makes it less so.

The Case-Mate Barely There case takes a minimalist approach to minimalist protection. It adds almost no bulk at all and provides good basic scuff protection for the back of the PlayBook, top and bottom, but leaves the sides open. You may find that its sharp front edges cause you no discomfort., but after 2 days of constantly putting the case on, getting annoyed, and taking it off again, I decided that, for me, this flaw was a deal-breaker. A case that is meant to be “barely there” should not cause a tactile distraction every time you use it. I’m sending it back and ordering an OEM soft shell.

PROS: Ultra-thin, adds no appreciable bulk, provides basic scuff protection, blends almost flawlessly into the appearance of the PlayBook, leaves ports, buttons, and bezels unhindered.

CONS: No side protection, very little, if any, impact/drop protection, sharp edges make it uncomfortable to use.

RATING: 6/10

The Case-Mate Barely There Case is available for ~$17 @ Amazon and other retailers

5 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Very accurate assessment. I still have mine, now collecting dust. Not only did it now offer screen protection or a stand but I was actually scared to use it the protection was so minimal and the sides left open. I was actually thinking “ok, if I were to knock the playbook of my desk accidently and it landed screen up, maybe the case breaks and the device is fine”…any other surface, sides or front and I just wasn’t able to convince myself that the playbook would make it.

    I now have the sena journal case. Very nice. Cost $80-something but should last me quite a while.

  2. Thanks, Daniel. Yup, I really wanted just some basic around-the-house scuff protection for the back without detracting from the comfort of holding it caseless. It would be almost perfect if it weren’t so sharp.

  3. I don’t think you can beat the combination of good looks and good protection provided by the Blackberry Journal case. Some have complained about the difficulty using the on/off button, but who needs that when you can just swipe for “on” and leave it to go “off” by itself. I do have to remove the Playbook when I use the HDMI port. The really good news is I got mine for $20 from Staples. And no, I don’t work for them.

  4. Where did you get that wallpaper that of the Millennium Falcon?

  5. Jeremy, I’ve had it for eons. It’s actually a PhotoShop of the toy vehicle (look closely at the guns) done by some Japanese guy with mad skillz. It’s watermarked in the corner, very tiny. I punched it into the CrackBerry.com wallpaper maker a few times, but never really got it the way I want it. I need to try making a manual edit to get the dimensions right.

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