Our tablets go everywhere with us, so a protective case is generally a good idea. Those who go to extreme places but still need to get work done need more serious protection, like the ZAGG Rugged Book keyboard case.
There are versions for the iPad Air 2 and original iPad Air, as well as all three editions for the iPad mini.
Build & Design
This accessory is made from polycarbonate to protect the tablet from scratches and dents, and there’s a stainless steel sheet under the keyboard. Silicone rubber is used around the edges and hinge to absorb impact if the device is dropped.
All of this makes the Rugged Book significantly more protective than that average iPad case, but it’s important to note that ZAGG doesn’t make any specific promises about exactly how protective it is. There’s no mention of any MilSpec standards, and the company doesn’t say anything about drop tests.
There are apertures in the case for the lightning port, speakers, front- and rear-facing cameras, headset jack, and microphones. This means this accessory isn’t going to offer significant protection against water damage or dust.
These extra layers add to the bulk. With the iPad inside, the total weight is 2.75 pounds and the accessory is 1 inch thick.
The overall look is more military than professional, and it comes only in black/dark grey.
The Rugged Book has a clamshell shape, so the tablet’s screen is protected when it’s closed. When open, the hinge allows the display to rotate over a 130º angle, so it can sit back at a comfortable angle. The display section outweighs the keyboard, so this accessory will easily fall over backward when held in the lap.
The two halves of the clamshell can be separated at the hinge, so the iPad can be used without the keyboard but still in a bumper case. Together, they weigh 1.6 pounds.
The top section can be put back in the hinge the opposite way, allowing the Rugged Book to be used as a stand. Closing the clamshell at this point, with the screen still exposed, allows the iPad to be used like a book, albeit one that weighs almost 3 pounds.
The keyboard and bumper case are held together with magnets, as well as some thick plastic tabs. The connection if firm enough that you likely can’t separate the two under normal usage. Pulling them part takes a bit of force.
The keyboard ZAGG included in the Rugged Book is smaller than a desktop one, but about the same size as the ones found in an average laptop. This means that key separation is good, making touchtyping easy. The feel of the keys is OK; travel is minimal but that’s typical for mobile keyboards.
There are a five rows of keys, giving room for a standard QWERTY layout, including a D-pad and a row of number/symbol keys.
In addition, there’s a row of iOS function keys across the top that can control volume and multimedia playback. There’s also a replacement Home button and a Lock button to turn the tablet’s screen off.
The keyboard is backlit, making it much easier to use in low lighting. There are three lighting levels and seven different colors, although red and white are the ones most likely to be used.
Support for external Bluetooth keyboards like this one is built into iOS, so it was not necessary for ZAGG to write any software for this accessory to function. It also means that performance is flawless – typing is a quick and responsive as on any other computer.
Pairing the peripheral with the iPad is a simple process that only needs to be done once.
ZAGG promises that the Rugged Book will last for 2 years before needing to be recharged. Naturally, there’s no way to check this, but it’s not an unreasonable claim, as devices of this type require very little power.
There’s an on/off button on the keyboard, and the keyboard will shut itself down if it’s not used for a few minutes. Pushing a combination of keys will cause an LED to flash to indicate battery level.
The ZAGG Rugged Book could be a good fit for those planning to regularly use their iPad outside of an office, classroom, or home, as it provides greater protection for the tablet’s display than typical cases, while also offering a useful keyboard. However, potential customers should be aware that it doesn’t meet military standards for ruggedness, and those that need protection from water, dust, and other hazards should look elsewhere.
The iPad Air 2 and iPad Air versions sell for $149.99, and the one for the iPad mini series sells for $139.99.