Company: ZAGG Product: ZAGGKeys Folio for iPad Air Price: $99.99 Compatibility: iPad Air Website: www.zagg.com Date: Jan. 13, 2014
Apple’s iPad Air is the company’s most powerful iPad yet, and as such there’s no better time for owners to turn their tablet into a mobile work station. There are apps like Editorial, Byword, and even Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) which allow users to get a serious amount of work done using an iPad, but it seems one aspect continually causes certain owners (including myself) a degree of trouble: the virtual keyboard.
Of course, unlike Microsoft’s Surface, the iPad isn’t advertised as a product that requires a clip-on keyboard (though if certain rumors have it right, this could change with an anticipated “iPad Pro”), however there’s still hope. For a price, iPad owners can add a physical keyboard to their tablet using a growing number of third-party Bluetooth-powered keyboard cases and folios, and in this review we look at one such example: ZAGG’s ZAGGKeys Folio for iPad Air.
Created and distributed by ZAGG, the folks behind a number of other impressive iDevice-related products, ZAGGKeys Folio is one of several iPad-compatible keyboard cases manufactured by the company, all of which use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to the tablet while also offering a degree of protection. Though certain products in this category look and feel rather a lot like the Microsoft Surface’s much-praised Touch Cover (Logitech’s FabricSkin Folio, which Bryan reviewed recently, is one such example), others rather offer users a more traditional laptop-style experience through the inclusion of real, physical keys and an adjustable hinge. ZAGGKeys Folio falls into this latter category.
The product itself should be thought of as an iPad Air case: on one side, the iPad clips into a plastic shell; on the other (the side which covers the iPad’s screen) is a built-in keyboard. ZAGGKeys Folio is designed so that users can flip the case around, prop their tablet up, and type as one does with a conventional netbook or laptop.
The keyboard itself is smaller than that of a 13-inch MacBook Pro, for example, but typing using it isn’t difficult at all (we’ll discuss this in more depth later). Alongside the keyboard are two physical buttons and a mini-USB port; one button is used to switch the keyboard on and off, and the other is used to initiate the Bluetooth pairing process. However, you’ll only need to do this once, since ZAGGKeys Folio is rather good at remembering iDevices and auto-connecting once powered on.
The mini-USB acts as the product’s charging port, but ZAGG promises that owners of the keyboard case aren’t going to need to charge it up all that often. Based on an estimated two hours of use per day, the ZAGGKeys Folio touts an impressive three months of battery life (the same as Logitech’s FabricSkin Folio). The case’s keyboard will also go to sleep if left unused for several minutes: “To wake your Folio, simply press any key,” ZAGG explains in a leaflet that accompanies the product.
One aspect that could eat into the keyboard’s battery life, however, is its built-in backlight, but this is a great (and much appreciated) feature. Obviously, this backlight allows users to see ZAGGKeys Folio’s keys in low light conditions, and three brightness levels (which users can cycle through using a dedicated key) are on offer. Plus, this backlight can also be configured to shine in an impressive eight different colors.
ZAGGKeys Folio makes room for the iPad Air’s Lock button, its camera, its volume controls and mute switch, and its Lightning port; the front bezel remains untouched by the case, and as such the enclosed iPad’s front-facing camera and its Home button are also easily accessible. Finally, the case feels sturdy, and though one wouldn’t be advised to drop the product, I’d nevertheless expect ZAGGKeys Folio to protect the enclosed iPad Air if such a mishap did indeed occur.
Now you have an idea of what ZAGGKeys Folio is, how it looks, and how it feels, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to use the keyboard case. Though I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of products like this (the misconception “if Apple doesn’t think I need it, then I don’t need it” comes to mind), using ZAGGKeys Folio has been an absolute pleasure, and this clever accessory has greatly enhanced iPad-powered work practice.
In fact, in partnership with the mighty Editorial, while testing the product for review I was able to use my ZAGGKeys Folio-equipped iPad Air as my main work machine for a solid two weeks. During this time, all of my work (including this review) was completed on the iPad using ZAGGKeys Folio, and the process hasn’t felt clumsy or awkward in the slightest.
The first point worth noting in this respect, then, is that ZAGGKeys Folio’s keyboard is incredibly easy to type on, once you’re use to it. This important mention of getting used to the keyboard certainly isn’t a negative; with any small-size keyboard, users will find that the transition over from the full-size keyboard could take a few minutes. But it’s nevertheless important to keep in mind. You’ll probably mistype at the edges of the keyboard for a short while (for me, the left-hand “Shift” key is one I kept on missing), but soon, the process of typing using ZAGGKeys Folio will feel really quite normal.
The keyboard case’s keys are well spaced, meaning users shouldn’t find that they frequently hit a couple of keys instead of just the one. Furthermore, the addition of a number of special iOS keys means using the case’s keyboard is made all the easier. These keys, which are situated in a row above the keyboard’s line of numbers, allow users to reveal or lock their Home screen, to activate Siri, to hide or show the keyboard, to copy and paste, to interact with their Music app, and to increase, decrease, or mute the volume. There’s also a dedicated battery life key (this will flash in a particular color depending on the case’s remaining charge), and a futher key allows users to adjust ZAGGKeys Folio’s backlit keyboard, as mentioned.
ZAGGKeys Folio can sleep or wake your iPad’s screen using the built-in function in Apple’s iOS (the same one Smart Covers, for example, take advantage of), and as noted above, the keyboard can put itself to sleep and will auto-connect to one’s tablet almost instantly after being switched on. There’s no laborious re-pairing process and this only encourages owners to use their ZAGGKeys Folio-equipped iPad Air all the more often, even for minor tasks.
It would be nice for ZAGGKeys Folio to offer iPad Air users a nicer material, because both its shell and the keyboard surround are made of a hard plastic that isn’t exactly pleasant. Plus, after a couple of weeks of use I accidentally broke ZAGGKeys Folio’s case (the section of the product where the iPad is meant to clip in). This hasn’t posed much of a problem, however; in fact, I’ve found it easier to insert and remove my iPad after having broken the case in this way.
Combined with the right iPad app, ZAGGKeys Folio has the potential to transform the relationship its user shares with Apple’s iPad Air. You don’t need me to wax lyrical about [the fifth-generation tablet’s “desktop class” 64-bit A7 processor] (/appnn/tag/a7) or the countless iOS apps which can help owners really put their iPad to work, and with a product like ZAGGKeys Folio users have the chance to elevate their iPad Air in order to achieve a higher level of efficiency and productivity.
For a closer look at the product, see:
If you can’t see the above video, please click this link.
- Adds a physical keyboard to one’s iPad Air
- Bluetooth connecting (and re-connecting) is quick
- Long battery life
- Auto-sleep function
- Keys are well spaced
- There are lots of special iOS keys
- The case makes space for the camera and iPad buttons
- The material certain sections of the case are made from could be of a slightly higher quality (but this is only a minor qualm)
It’s impossible not to recommend ZAGGKeys Folio for iPad Air. The product is a dream to use: it works well, feels great, and looks good - what more could you want? Plus, if you often undertake a degree of serious or even casual work on your iPad, or if you’re looking to embark upon something of a transition from desktop to iOS, ZAGGKeys Folio can definitely help.
Provided you equip yourself with the right iOS app (check our AppGuides for some hand-picked recommendations), there’s really no limit to what you can achieve with an iPad. ZAGGKeys Folio removes the stumbling-block of the tablet’s on-screen, virtual keyboard and allows for a more efficient and productive iOS work experience. It’s a product that we love, and one that we highly recommend.
ScoresAesthetic Appeal: ★★★★☆ Wow Factor: ★★★★★ Build Quality: ★★★★★ Value: ★★★★★
Buy Now: $99.99 from ZAGG[gallery columns="2"]