Academic Technology @ Palomar College

iPad Keyboards 2: The ZAGGfolio

The ZAGGfolio for iPad 2 is an all-in-one iPad protective “carbon fiber textured” polyurethane case  with built-in bluetooth keyboard.  The case snaps securely and feels solid.  It has a breakaway back design so that your iPad can fold out and mate with a specially designed slot in the keyboard in landscape view to assume the look/feel of a laptop.  The iPad can also be easily disengaged from the case (as can the keyboard, for that matter) and placed in the slot in portrait view, while still feeling like it is solidly engaged.   Take a look at this video, so you will get the idea, and then we’ll talk about the details.  (Might want to turn your audio down first.  There is no narration, and only some fairly annoying electronica to accompany the video).

Ok.  You can see how it works.  It sells for $99.99, even at Amazon, and you will probably also want to get the ZAGG invisible shield for iPad 2 to protect your screen, which will mate with the ZAGG keyboard when the case closes.  It lists for $29.99 at Amazon, but is selling (today, at least) for $15.02.  You might feel safer that way in case there is any vibration or wear between the two.

The ZAGGfolio feels nice, but with the polyurethane model you are definitely aware that it is polyurethane, in spite of its textured look.  There is a leather version, but add $30 to the price if you want it.

ZAGG builtin Keyboard

source: ZAGG.com

When the case arrives, you will want to charge the keyboard before using it.  The one I ordered was nearly fully charged, so charge-up time using the included USB cable took only about half an hour.  According to ZAGG, it should only have to be charged several times a year.

Mating the bluetooth keyboard to your iPad is simplicity itself.  Just turn on the keyboard (you can turn it off with a power switch to save battery), turn on bluetooth on your iPad (Settings > General > Bluetooth), and press the connect button on the keyboard.  Your iPad will detect the keyboard (along with any other bluetooth keyboards within range) and present you with a numeric paring code you type in on the ZAGG keyboard.  Press Enter and they are paired.

I have used the Apple standalone keyboard with my iPad (made for Mac OS X), and must say that the ZAGG works better for me.  The keys are not quite as large as the keys on the Apple keyboard, and even slightly smaller than they onscreen virtual keys on the iPad itself (14 vs. 16 vs. 15 mm), but they are plenty large enough.  It is their tactile feedback that I like.  It is possible to type rapidly using them, where that is certainly NOT possible using the virtual keyboard.  Of course you can also type rapidly using the Apple external keyboard, but the problem is that it is external—it’s another piece of tech stuff you have to carry around, and it is so long (28 cm) that it will not fit conveniently in many bags and brief cases.  The only real complaint I have about the ZAGG keyboard is one I have about all keyboards, the size and location of the CAPS LOCK key.  Why can’t we come to our senses and move this key to the top of the keyboard?

The ZAGG keyboard is superior to the Apple keyboard in that it’s top row of keys are designed specifically for the iPad 2.  The Apple keyboard is designed for the Mac, and therefore includes dual purpose keys with a fn key to toggle that have meaning to OS X but not iOS 5.  The twelve ZAGG shortcut keys + International keyboard toggle key do the following:

ZAGG iPad 2 shortcut keys

ZAGG iPad 2 shortcut keys from the user guide

The Home and Search keys are self explanatory.  The Home key is very useful, the Search key less so, since searching is usually simply a matter of tapping in a search box.  The keyboard hide/show key is a little harder to understand, at first, but I think it is included for quick access to the virtual keyboard’s special symbol keys, which are well thought out and have no correlative on the ZAGG keyboard.   The Slideshow key is pretty useless.  It simply generates an on-screen slideshow, like a screen blanker, that runs through your camera roll pictures and does not, as far as I can tell, offer any configuration options.  If you have set a passcode on your iPad pressing any key to exit the slideshow brings up the passcode entry box.  As I say, pretty useless.

While it is true that cut/copy/paste are built-in to text selection on the iPad, these keys might seem redundant, but since the cmd-arrow key text selection shortcuts work on this keyboard, they are useful for cutting or copying/pasting text selected in that fashion.

The multimedia control keys are very useful.  Much easier to mute and adjust volume, and even jump tracks, than the hardware toggle key on the iPad or even the onscreen commands in apps.  It is also useful to have a lock key on the keyboard.

The missing key is a full-screen/windowed-screen view for media players (like YouTube) that I would find very useful, much more useful than the slideshow key.  Nevertheless, these shortcut keys make it a better choice than the Apple stand-alone bluetooth keyboard.  It may also be worth noting that the cmd-key shortcuts you may be used to using on the Mac (like cmd-shft-3 or 4 for screen/area capture) do not work on the iPad.

Conclusion

The ZAGG feels solid, will definitely protect your iPad, and makes it easy to use an external keyboard while not having to lug around a full-sized external keyboard.  The price is rather high for what it is, but that’s the after market for you.  I found it a pleasure to type on this keyboard, and some of the shortcut keys make life with iPad even easier.  The slot is well designed, and the keyboard works in both portrait and landscape views, but is designed for landscape view.  The ZAGG is very well designed, but the polyurethane model at least feels like plastic, in spite of some clever patterns stamped on the case.  I would give the ZAGG a solid B, or four stars out of five, with some room for improvement.  If you need an external keyboard for your iPad and want a carrying case/protector at the same time, and are not wed to your smartcover, you could do far worse than the ZAGGfolio.

2 Responses to “ “iPad Keyboards 2: The ZAGGfolio”

  1. Dennis O'Neil says:

    Thanks for this review. The ZAAG iPad case with keyboard looks great. I like the fact that it has additional keys not found on the iPad virtual keyboard or the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. Not having to recharge the keyboard but a few times a year is hard to believe, however. In any case, I envy you having the ZAAG.

  2. Haydn says:

    Thanks for the review. I had previously purchased a different cover/container for the iPad2 that has a Bluetooth keyboard and I am very happy with it. I was curious about the ZAGG invisible shield you mentioned in this review. It seems like a good idea to have something like this but I was a bit put off by the negative comments of many who wrote reviews on Amazon. Have you tried it and if so, what is your opinion?

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