I don’t have a laptop — I’ve just never really liked typing on a tiny keyboard and I spend most of my time at home anyway, so I don’t need the portability. However, when I do go on a trip I can’t take my iMac with me. I usually end up borrowing time on somebody else’s computer, maybe my wife’s netbook or a computer of somebody we’re staying with. There were a few trips when I was on my own where I actually used my iPod touch as my primary computer, and let me tell you: that’s not a great solution.
I do have an iPad now, and that’s certainly a much better device than the iPod touch for checking email, but if i thought composing emails on a netbook keyboard was difficult, it was nothing compared to using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard and the resulting battles with AutoCorrect. I debated getting an Apple Bluetooth keyboard just to have something to type on, but then I discovered the ZAGGfolio.
The ZAGGfolio is a hard clamshell-style case for the iPad 2 which incorporates a Bluetooth keyboard. You can get the keyboard separately (sold as the ZAGGkeys Solo) or with the case. The keyboard itself works with either generation of iPad, iPhones, and iPod touches, but the case is designed to work just with the iPad 2.
The keyboard is about the same dimensions as the iPad, so it’s pretty slim and very portable. It has a USB charger and is pretty simple to connect to your iPad — once you’ve got it set up, it connects automatically whenever it’s on and your iPad’s Bluetooth is turned on. The keys are “island-style,” meaning that they are separate from one another, much like the standard Mac keyboard, rather than butting up to each other like most small laptops. There are some special function keys across the top which serve as the Home button, search function, and a photo gallery slideshow. There are also buttons to cut, copy, and paste, as well as some volume controls and some music-playing controls.
The case is hard plastic on the outside with a microfiber lining, and there’s a magnet in the clasp so that opening and closing the case turns the iPad 2 on and off. There are cut-outs for all the ports and buttons on the edges of the iPad, plus a hole for the camera lens. The keyboard and iPad slide into the two halves of the case, and the top half has a crease so that you can open the case, bend the lid, and stand the iPad in the slot on the keyboard, giving it the appearance of a netbook. (You can also stand the iPad in the keyboard without the case, horizontally or vertically.)
Although the case has a carbon-fiber pattern on it and looks nice from a distance, it feels a little cheap. The latch can be a little tricky to undo and meanwhile your iPad is on because you’ve shifted the magnet. Also, when you shut the case the keyboard is right up against the iPad screen. I know there’s a raised edge on the keyboard with a strip of microfiber as padding, but it still made me a little uncomfortable to be pressing a keyboard against the glass.
I tried out the ZAGGfolio last weekend while I was at PAX, giving it a real-life test out in the field, so to speak. What I found is that I liked the keyboard for typing, but I preferred to have my iPad with just the Smart Cover and the keyboard separately in my bag. That way, when I just wanted to check Twitter or read my emails, I could do that with a slim iPad and not worry about the keyboard. But then, if I wanted to do a little more typing than 140 characters, I could pull out the keyboard and fire it up. The battery lasted fine and I only had to do the initial charge for the amount of typing I did over the weekend.
The keyboard isn’t huge, of course, but I’m finding it not too difficult to use. The one thing is that there’s a small key at the bottom left which can be used to cycle through international keyboards if you have that set up on your iDevice. However, I notice that I keep trying to hit that when I mean to push Control — and because of it’s position I then think the Control key is the Alt/Option key, which is usually the second button from the corner.
When I’m home, of course, I’ll do my typing on my full-size keyboard in front of my large screen iMac. But I know the ZAGG keyboard will be coming with me on any future trips. It’s handy enough that I typed this entire review on my iPad. The case, though, I’ll probably leave. Depending on how you use your iPad, you may like the integrated case and keyboard. For me, though, it seems to spoil the point of having a tablet over a laptop.
Wired: Bluetooth keyboard is small, portable, and has built-in stand for iPad. Easy to connect, comfortable feel.
Tired: Case feels cheap, and may not be necessary. Keyboard better by itself.
Disclosure: Zagg provided a sample of the ZAGGfolio for review purposes.