I’ve gone on record multiple times about how I feel about using the iPad for productivity. I’m a big iPad fan and the tablets I usually use day to day are Apple products, but the lack of mouse support drives me crazy. I’ve always quickly given up on any experiments with using a Bluetooth keyboard and an iPad in place of my laptop, much as I like the idea of my iPad becoming an ultra-compact travel productivity companion. ZAGG sent me a Folio keyboard case for my iPad Mini with Retina Display, so I thought I’d give the experiment one more shot. I ended up really liking this device. With the right apps, it could actually stand in for my MacBook Air, at least for short bursts of work. In fact, I wrote this post on the ZAGG.
Beats a Virtual Keyboard, Any Day
The keys on the ZAGG Folio are considerably smaller than full-sized, at least on the iPad Mini version. That’s a given, assuming you want to retain some of the iPad’s compact size. Some have had to be made even smaller to fit everything — the TAB key, for example, is tiny. But they have spaces between them, decent travel and even with my large-ish hands the keyboard is usable. I can go almost full speed.
I can’t live without a backlit keyboard. If you do any typing in less than ideal lighting, it’s a great feature. The ZAGG has a backlit keyboard, you can control the brightness of the light and even cycle through a handful of colors. Very cool! The light draws from its own battery and won’t impact iPad battery life.
ZAGG provides keyboard shortcuts for many iOS features that help to reduce the amount of time you’ll spend poking the screen. Media controls, volume, CUT, PASTE, cursors a Home button and Virtual Keyboard all have their own dedicated keys.
A Little Tippy
The ZAGG Folio’s hinge offered a wide range of flexibility (135 degrees) and it’s quite stable on a flat surface. On your lap or when it’s upright and poking the screen comes into play, that iPad in the top half can result in the device tipping over if you’re not careful. I learned to type on my lap by keeping one thumb permanently on the lower edge of the keyboard to prevent this.
Long Battery Life
ZAGG says up to three months of battery with typical use. I’ve been using the ZAGG for three weeks — always with that backlight on full blast — and it’s still showing almost a full charge.
Still Usable in Portrait
I was concerned that sticking the iPad in clamshell case would make it a lot less usable in portrait mode (for reading) and interfere with games. That hasn’t been the case. The lower half of the case actually provides a nice grip in portrait use. The only issue I’ve run into is that UI elements positioned too close to the hinge can be tough to hit — smaller fingers or a stylus would help there.
Easy to Remove
Many iPad cases require work to secure the tablet. That makes frequent removal an unpleasant prospect that could result in a snapped clip, scratched iPad or pinched finger. The ZAGG Folio holds the iPad Mini quite securely, but it pops in and out with ease. This is great for those who want the functionality of the keyboard sometimes, but other times a more compact cover is called for.
Let’s face it, one of the reasons for carrying a device like an iPad Mini around is its compact size. Despite offering some protection and full keyboard functionality, the ZAGG Folio is just about half an inch thick and the bezel around the iPad is tiny, so it doesn’t add much in the way of bulk.
The case also has magnets so it supports Apple’s instant wake/sleep feature.
The ZAGG Folio combines a backlit, Bluetooth keyboard with its own rechargeable battery and a protective case. It’s reasonably priced for the functionality you get even at its $99.99 MSRP, but it’s a real deal when you consider it’s currently going for $60.95 on Amazon.
What changes would I make to the ZAGG Folio?
No device is perfect and there are a few tweaks I would make to the design. Lightness is a virtue when it comes to iPad accessories. Despite that, if it were up to me, I’d build the Folio with a metal plate embedded in the bottom to counter the weight of the iPad in the upper shell. That would go a long way toward making the device more stable. I’d also consider adding a little padding to offer a bit more shock protection. That’s about it, though.
The ZAGG and its iOS shortcut keys do eliminate a lot of the poking involved with working on an iPad, but there’s still some reaching out and touching required. I think I’m reaching the point where I’m making peace with that reality. Even if Apple did enable mouse support in a future version of iOS, I wouldn’t want to be carrying a Bluetooth mouse with me everywhere and on a keyboard case as compact as the ZAGG Folio, there’s no room for a trackpad.
Until such time that a choice between trackpad-equipped and ultra-compact is needed, I’d suggest the ZAGG Folio is an excellent option for converting your iPad (and other tablets) into a mini notebook. The company also sells versions for other tablets.
Disclosure: ZAGG provided a Folio review unit.