If your tablet or e-reader never leaves the comfort of your living room, you can probably stop reading this review right here. You're unlikely to need a tablet sleeve at all, and barring a sudden spill of your favorite beverage, you definitely won't get much benefit out of a waterproof version.
For those who do leave the house with their iPad or Nook, however, a more robust version of the standard case or sleeve is a good idea. Traveling in particular often exposes electronics to harsher conditions than usual, whether it's dust, sand, rain or just being mistreated by the TSA, and opting for some extra protection makes a lot of sense.
I'll admit that when Catalyst Waterproof sent me one of its waterproof tablet sleeves to review, I initially wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. I'd asked for the 7-8” version to fit both my Kindle and Nexus 7, but the sleeve was both larger and bulkier than expected.
It was only when I opened it up that I realized why – it contained a removable padded foam insert, designed to shield whatever's inside from bumps and knocks. As both of my gadgets have screens well under 8”, I was able to drop them in without having to remove them from their existing cases – a useful touch.
The exterior waterproof sleeve is a plain black affair, other than the company logo in the bottom corner. To keep the inside dry, it uses a thick press-together section coupled with a small flap that folds over the top and attaches with velcro.
It's IP66 rated, which means that when sealed properly it will be dust-proof and can deal with high pressure jets of water for at least three minutes. In other words, being caught in a rain or dust storm shouldn't be a major problem, but don't go swimming with it.
It comes set up as a bag with a small handle, but the packaging includes a shoulder strap that can be attached via a couple of hooks. Catalyst describes the look as “stylish and functional”, and while it's not going to be setting Milan's catwalks alight any time soon, it is better looking than any dry bag I've come across.
The real question for me, though, was whether this sleeve was useful enough to justify its inclusion on your packing list, rather than just using an existing case coupled with a cheap dry bag. After using the bag for a while, I'd suggest that it is – but only in certain circumstances.
If you already have a case for your tablet and are just looking to add some emergency waterproofing, spending the money on a decent dry bag may be a better, more flexible and likely cheaper option.
For everyone else, though, the sleeve is definitely more attractive and easier to carry than a dry bag, and the foam insert provides significant extra protection. If you're heading to the beach, or will be in a wet environment like a yacht or small boat, it's a stylish and practical way to keep your valuables safe and dry.
I'd consider getting a size larger than you need, to provide extra space for a book or magazine, billfold and other small extras. Obviously the bag can be used to protect anything that will fit inside it, not just electronics, so if you get caught in the rain, just dump everything that needs protecting into it.