ZAGG Rugged Book Pro Review: Protective Keyboard Case for 9.7-inch iPad Pro

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  • Pros

    • Very protective
    • Easy to type on
    • Kickstand gives wide viewing angles
    • Apple Pencil Holder
  • Cons

    • Bulkier than non-rugged cases
    • Expensive

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is expensive, and it’s understandable that users want to protect their investment. At the same time, nothing increases the usefulness of a tablet more than an external keyboard. The ZAGG Rugged Book Pro accomplishes both at the same time.

Those who are looking for a slimmer option should read our ZAGG Slim Book Pro Review.

Rugged Book Pro Build and Design

ZAGG chose design somewhat reminiscent of Microsoft’s Surface Pro line. Rather than imitatating a laptop, the tablet is held up in a protective case by a kickstand, and the keyboard is removable.

Case

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

Rugged Book Pro Front and Back

The case is assembled from layers of polycarbonate plastic and silicon rubber wrapped around a stainless-steel frame. It’s designed to protect the iPad Pro from a drop of 6 feet, even onto a corner of the device. We didn’t try anything so extreme, but we can assert that Apple’s tablet and this case came through days of heavy use without a scratch.

The Rugged Book Pro doesn’t protect against water or dust, so it’s more for accident-prone office workers than the job site. Partially, this is because there are openings for the rear camera, Lightning port, and headset port.

Allc the extra protection doesn’t come without additional bulk. This product is 9.75 by 7.4 by 0.7 inches, compared to the 9.4 by 6.6 by 0.24 in. of the iPad alone. The case is 1.4 pounds, so it more than doubles the thickness and weight of the tablet.

The exterior of the Rugged Book Pro is black plastic, and the “X” shape that helps makes it more rigid is prominent. The case looks tough, not like something one expects to see at a board meeting.

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

Rugged Book Pro with Apple Pencil

On the back of the case is a slot and semi-flexible band designed to hold an Apple Pencil. Our days of use showed that it does this job well, and can also be used to hold any other stylus, or just a regular pen.

Kickstand

An aluminum plate swivels down from the back of the case to become a kickstand, which we found quite stable in both landscape or portrait orientation. The hinges of this kickstand are firm enough to easily hold up the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and can swivel over about 120º, giving users a wide selection of screen angles to choose from.

A kickstand takes up more room than the traditional laptop design used by many add-on tablet cases, but it’s more stable, especially when being used in the lap.

Removing the keyboard makes the iPad Pro into an ideal video player, and pressing the kickstand flat enables the iPad to be used as a traditional tablet.

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

Keyboard Base

As mentioned, the keyboard can be removed from the case, so it can be left behind if it’s not needed. Just keep in mind though, it’s all that protecting the iPad’s screen.

Another advantage of separating the Rugged Book Pro into its two sections is that the screen doesn’t have to be right next to the keyboard when typing. This accessory communicates with the tablet wirelessly over Bluetooth, so the keyboard can be placed at any distance and angle while remaining usable. This almost makes up for ZAGG not using the Smart Connector that Apple built into the iPad Pro series specifically for attaching keyboards.

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

Rugged Book Pro Keyboard

The key area is 9.0 x 3.8 inches, so it’s typical for a 9.7-inch tablet: comparable in size to smaller laptop keyboards but not as big as desktop ones. Most keys are 0.6 x 0.6 in. with 0.1 of space between them. There’s decent key travel, and the plate holding all the keys is firm.

There’s 64 keys in the traditional QWERTY arrangement, including arrow keys. ZAGG also included a row of function keys with a replacement Home button and controls for multimedia playback and volume.

Our tests showed that this keyboard can be easily used for touchtyping, but people with larger hands might find it cramped. Part of the the Rugged Book Pro’s hinge can fold under, propping the key area up slightly, improving the typing process.

A three-level backlight allows this accessory to be more easily used dim classrooms, airplane cabins, etc.

Rugged Book Pro Performance

No additional software is required to use this item, as support for Bluetooth keyboards is integrated into iOS. We had no problems using the Rugged Book Pro with our test iPad, and experienced no skipped or repeated characters.

mophie Power

mophie Power

A bonus feature is the the ability to be paired with up to three different computers, and switch between them with a press of a button. The others can be an iPhone or even Android or Windows devices.

Battery Life

ZAGG says the Rugged Book Pro is good for up to two years on a single charge. We can hardly confirm this, but can say that several days of heavy use left the battery close to 90%. We put an unusual amount of drain on the battery with heavy use of the backlight.

We knew the exact battery level because the free mophie Power App can display the exact amount of charge remaining in the accessory’s built-in battery.

Rugged Book Pro Final Thoughts

ZAGG has a well-deserved reputation for making good tablet keyboards, and the Rugged Book Pro will help maintain this. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is powerful enough to be used as a laptop, and this accessory could make that possible. The keyboard easy to type on, but potential buyers will have to accept that additional protection requires additional bulk.

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

ZAGG Rugged Book Pro

The suggested price for this product is $149.99. Keyboard cases designed for specific models are often expensive, but ZAGG’s offering is near the top end. The Brydge 9.7 is $129.99, for example, and so is the Logitech CREATE for 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The ZAGG Slim Book Pro for this same tablet is also $149.99.

Pros:

  • Very protective
  • Easy to type on
  • Kickstand gives wide viewing angles
  • Apple Pencil Holder

Cons:

  • Bulkier than non-rugged cases
  • Expensive


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