ZAGG's new armored iPad Air keyboard case

ZAGG Rugged Book for iPad Air

ZAGG Rugged Book for iPad Air
ZAGG Rugged Book for iPad Air is a heavy duty, highly adjustable keyboard case. Photo by Brad Moon

I’ve grown rather fond of ZAGG’s keyboard cases for the iPad in recent months. It wasn’t until I reviewed the ZAGG Folio Keyboard case for the iPad Mini earlier this year that I finally reached the state where I felt productive writing on an iPad. Since then, the combo has largely replaced the 11-inch MacBook Air that I used to lug around for mobile work. ZAGG recently sent me a new model to try out with a MacBook Air and this one offers all the benefits of the Folio Keyboard case, plus impressive armor. The Rugged Book transforms an iPad into a hardened notebook while offering flexibility in configuration options.

Slipping the iPad Air into the Rugged Book requires a little more effort than the simple “pop in” operation of the Folio. It’s still pretty effortless compared to many, but this probably isn’t a case that you’ll want to be slipping on and off throughout the day.

ZAGG in clamshell configuration
Image copyright ZAGG

But that’s okay because while the Rugged Book offers the advantage of a clamshell laptop form factor (with a sturdy hinge and excellent range of incline), it has a trick up its sleeve. The entire top half with the iPad mounted within can be easily removed, leaving you with an iPad Air inside a traditional protective case with grippy rubber to hold onto and all the ports, buttons and the camera accessible. This component docks securely to the keyboard using a pair of magnets.

The magnetic mount also lets you easily remove and flip the display around for viewing or presentations.

The Rugged Book keyboard is up to the usual high ZAGG standards —responsive, chiclet keys with good range of motion and adjustable backlighting (you can change both the intensity and the color of the light). I do love that backlight.

There are dedicated keys for iOS shortcuts like copy, paste, sound control and switching between open apps. Connectivity is via Bluetooth and ZAGG says a charge is good for an unheard of two years. I didn’t have two years to test it… However, it went for three weeks of heavy use out of the box before needing to be plugged in, and that was using whatever charge it happened to have had from the factory.

I’ll have to keep you posted on the two year thing, but my Folio regularly gets a month or more on a charge and I’m pretty happy with that.

A case of this nature obviously adds weight to your iPad, so it’s not going to be an “Air” while being used with it. I put the Rugged Book/iPad Air combo on my kitchen scale and it says 2.65 pounds.

Rugged Book is layered rubber, polycarbonate and steel
The layers of silicon rubber, stainless steel and polycarbonate that make up the Rugged Book. Image copyright ZAGG

To put that in perspective, though, it’s only a few ounces heavier than my MacBook Air and that weight not only protects the iPad from falls and bangs, it makes the whole setup much more stable when used as a laptop replacement. The Rugged Book doesn’t suffer anywhere near the same top heavy “tippyness” the Folio Keyboard did, despite the larger iPad encased in the lid. ZAGG says the case is constructed of silicon rubber, polycarbonate and stainless steel — it’s not just solid feeling and stable when open, it looks like something that would take a bullet.

At $149 (you can save a few bucks at Amazon), the Rugged Book isn’t an inexpensive iPad accessory, but if you travel with an iPad Air and use it for tasks that would benefit from a keyboard, it’s money well spent. You get protection, a backlit keyboard and multiple stand/case configurations in a single device.

Also available for the iPad Mini.

Note: ZAGG says a version for the new, thinner iPad Air 2 is due around the end of November.

Disclosure: ZAGG provided a Rugged Book case for review purposes.

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6 thoughts on “ZAGG Rugged Book for iPad Air

  1. I picked up the Rugged Case yesturday for my Ipad Air. Its great but my back lights for the key board will not work, nor will the battery button. I called Zagg and they are sending me a replacemant.

  2. why does it only say it’s for the ipad air! does that mean it works with the ipad air 2 as well? like serioously help

  3. Just bought it off of the Zagg site for 15% off! I can’t wait. I’ve been looking for something like this since I’ve bought my iPad 2 years ago.

  4. Good job Brad!
    I enjoyed reading this review; lots of good information without being opinionated like some mag reviewers (lots of whinging about too heavy, or ‘you might as well be using a lap top’ etc….
    Anyhow, it seems that ZAGG have addressed the mechanical weaknesses of the FOLIO keyboard. I purchased a FOLIO 13 months ago and the hinge failed yesterday; keyboard and screen parted company!! The other big weakness is the keyboard is too light to keep the screen section stable when fingering the screen.
    Great to read that the screen can be separated easily on this version.
    I am a musician and use the ipad for music scores; the screen has to be easily detachable to place on a music stand. Extracting the ipad from the FOLIO was awkward; the magnetic hinge seems to be a dream.
    So, in spite of owning a rubbish FOLIO, I am feeling convinced by Brad’s review of the RUGGEDIZED version.
    Thanks again!
    John Hadley

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