While tablets have become an invaluable computing device, they still have not reached the point where they can replace a laptop. The biggest drawback with traditional tablets is the lack of a physical keyboard. While I have become rather proficient at typing on virtual keyboards, I still prefer a real keyboard when typing longer documents, such as this review. There are a number of Bluetooth keyboards on the market today that sync with mobile devices and allow you to type just like a normal keyboard. Back in October I reviewed the Kensington KeyFolio Pro Performance Case for the iPad 2. I was happy with the keyboard, but the case was a bit flimsy and did not offer very good protection for my iPad. Recently I have been using the ZAGGfolio for iPad 2 Keyboard Case, which was given to me for this review. I found that it offers a similar keyboarding experience as the Kensington, while providing much better overall protection.
For anyone who has ever paired a Bluetooth device, such as a hands-free headset with a cell phone, setting up the ZAGGfolio was a cinch. After unpacking it, the first thing you do is snap your iPad 2 into the back of the ZAGGfolio. There are specific cutouts for the iPad’s rear-facing camera, volume controls and speaker, so it is easy to know which way it is supposed to go. Furthermore, these cutouts exactly match the design of the iPad 2, so the camera and speaker are not partially covered. The backing of the ZAGGfolio is made of soft microfiber that won’t scratch the back of your iPad.
Once you have “installed” your iPad on the ZAGGfolio, turn the keyboard’s power switch to “On” and then go to the Settings menu of your iPad. Under General, select Bluetooth. After making sure the Bluetooth receiver is on, look for ZAGG Keyboard under the list of available devices and tap on it. The first time you pair your iPad with the ZAGGfolio keyboard, you are prompted to enter a code, which you type in using the keyboard. After pairing the ZAGGfolio to your iPad the first time, you do not have to do it again. If you need to reconnect your iPad to the ZAGGfolio, after restarting either your iPad or keyboard, just press the Connect button at the top of the keyboard, and the devices should pair again.
The ZAGGfolio keyboard is as good as any other keyboard I have used that is integrated with a case. The keyboard is not as big as the Apple Wireless Keyboard, which I adore. However, I have found that transporting the Apple keyboard and an iPad was a bit cumbersome, which is why I went looking for an all-in-one solution.
While it does take some getting used to (unless you have used a netbook), I do think that the ZAGGfolio keyboard is a definite step up from the virtual, on-screen keyboard. It has a full QWERTY layout and a full complement of iPad 2–specific keys along the very top, allowing you to perform such tasks as copy and paste, volume and music control, home, search and more.
I am not a fan of quiet-key keyboards, and I found that the ZAGGfolio keyboard provided sufficient feedback without requiring so much pressure as to cause fatigue after prolonged typing.
In order to set the iPad up for watching videos or typing, you actually “pop” the lower portion of the iPad out of the ZAGGfolio and it rests in a slot above the keyboard. The viewing angle was very good, and not as severe as the Kensington KeyFolio’s. It also was significantly more stable than the Kensington. Actually, compared to the Kensington, the ZAGGfolio only really lags in that it does not allow you to rotate your iPad for portrait viewing. However, since I use my iPad in landscape mode the vast majority of time, this was a non-issue.
The ZAGGfolio does add just over a pound to your iPad (19 ounces to be exact) but I think that is a sacrifice worth making. The folio is also 23 mm thick, versus 3 mm for the iPad itself.
If you want, you can even remove the keyboard from the case for added flexibility. The keyboard easily slides in and out of the ZAGGfolio, depending on your needs.
I also really liked the carbon fiber design of the ZAGGfolio. While I wouldn’t want to rely on it to protect my iPad from being dropped, I do like that it snaps closed, thereby offering an enclosed case for transport.
The ZAGGfolio comes with a micro-USB cable, which allows you to plug the keyboard into a USB port on your computer for charging. When I first received the ZAGGfolio, it took about an hour to fully charge it. Once it is charged, the company claims that the battery will last for several weeks of “normal” use without needing a charge. When not in use, the keyboard goes into sleep mode to extend the battery life. To bring it out of sleep mode, just press one of the keys, and after a few seconds it is ready for use.
The ZAGGfolio is the best all-on-one iPad case and Bluetooth keyboard I have used so far. The keyboard extends the functionality and usefulness of a device that is already highly useful, the iPad 2. I like the feel of the keyboard, even though it is slightly cramped. Given the amount of money an iPad costs, I also like the peace of mind the case offers in terms of added protection. If you are looking for an integrated iPad case and Bluetooth keyboard, the ZAGGfolio for iPad 2 is definitely worth a look.
ZAGGfolio for iPad 2 Keyboard Case
$99.99 (currently $99.99 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.