ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

by Reads (10,880)
  • Pros

    • Useful backlight for keyboard
    • Lightweight
  • Cons

    • Uses Bluetooth, not Smart Connector

Quick Take

The ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a decent option for those who want to turn this high-end tablet into a 2-in-1 laptop alternative.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro combines power and portability, and the ZAGG slim book can improve this tablet by making typing easier while protecting this expensive computer. The keyboard case can be used to turn the iPad into a detachable 2-in-1, it includes backlit keys, and is available now for $129.99.

Those who have the larger version of Apple’s tablet should read our ZAGG slim book for 12.9-inch iPad Pro Review.

Build and Design

The slim book can be used in four different modes: Keyboard Mode, Case Mode, Video Mode, and Book Mode. It’s this flexibility that allows the iPad to function as a convertible 2-in-1 laptop.

Keyboard Mode

A disadvantage of hard cases like this one is that they wrap the elegant metal and glass casing of a tablet in matte plastic. With the cover closed, the look of the slim book is still professional, however, with curved edges. The exterior is all black, while the keyboard is silver with black letters. There’s a ZAGG logo on cover, but it’s not overwhelming.

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

ZAGG slim book in Keyboard Mode

Overall, this item is 9.7 x 7.0 x 0.6 inches, so it adds just a bit to the height and width of the tablet, and it more than doubles the thickness. That said, the slim book still lives up to its name. The weight is just 2.2 pounds, including the tablet.

This case opens like a clamshell, exposing the QWERTY keyboard and also activating the display. If it isn’t obvious, at this point the iPad can be used like a laptop. The screen can be tilted back to 145 degrees or any angle less.

ZAGG chose to make the base section of this accessory as lightweight as possible, which makes it more portable but it means that it doesn’t offer the most stable platform for holding up the tablet. There are no issues when being used on a desk or tablet, but when the slim book is moved to a lap, tilting the tablet back much past 120 degrees caused the device to flip over onto its back.

The keys occupy a 9.1 x 4.8 inch block, with each key measuring 0.6 x 0.6 inches, separated by 0.1 inches of open space. This makes it comparable in size to many notebook keyboards, but it’s definitely smaller than desktop ones, which are generally 10.5 to 11 inches wide. We had people with a range of hand sizes try out the slim book, and most had no problems touch typing. However, those with large hands will find it cramped.

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro

There’s a row of half-size function keys above the regular keyboard; these can take the place of the Home and Power buttons, as well as control the volume and playback of audio and video.

Those who find themselves using their tablet on planes, trains, and the back seats of taxis will certainly find uses for the keyboard backlighting. These can be white or red, depending on the conditions, and ZAGG also included blue, purple, green and yellow. There are three levels of brightness for each color.

Unfortunately, this keyboard doesn’t make use of the Smart Connector, the new port Apple added to the left edge of the Pro series of tablets for communicating with keyboards. Instead this accessory uses Bluetooth, which is not as convenient.

There’s no trackpad, but iOS doesn’t support that kind of input anyway so ZAGG can hardly be criticized for not including one.

Case Mode

Unlike a MacBook, the keyboard can be removed from the iPad Pro, at which point the slim book becomes a case for the tablet. This is the right configuration for casual web surfing, reading books, or playing games.

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

ZAGG slim book separating into Case Mode

Tablet and keyboard are held together with magnets at the hinge, and the connection is strong enough that they won’t accidentally separate, but they do come apart with just a tug.

In Case Mode, polycarbonate plastic wraps around all four edges and the back of the iPad Pro. There are openings for the power and volume buttons, as well as the Lightning Connector, the headset jack, and the rear-facing camera. Of course, the entire front of the iPad is exposed. This is sufficient to provide some protection for the computer, but this isn’t a truly rugged option. There’s virtually no protection from liquids.

The Smart Connector is completely blocked, so it isn’t possible to use accessories like the Logitech BASE while in Case Mode.

Video Mode

With the iPad Pro held up at 90 degrees, the tablet and its case can be removed from the base unit, rotated around, and then reinserted. This puts the keyboard behind the display, and the slim book into Video Mode. Obviously, this is the best configuration for watching TV shows and movies.

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

ZAGG slim book in Video Mode

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has four speakers on its edges, so that they point to the sides. The slim case sports channels that guide the sound from the speakers toward the user so that audio is actually louder with the tablet in this case. Kudos to ZAGG for using these, rather than just putting in slots that would let the sound go out to the sides.

It is possible to tilt the screen back to about 140 degrees, pull out the Apple Pencil, and start drawing. However, ZAGG probably decided to not call this Drawing Mode because the hinge on the slim book really can’t take a lot of pressure. It’s possible to draw this way, but it’s not ideal.

The same goes for using this configuration to finger type on the screen. Each tap causes the screen to bounce slightly, and this quickly becomes distracting. Curiously, the slim book moves much less when the screen is tapped in Keyboard Mode.

Book Mode

Starting in Keyboard Mode, remove the iPad Pro from the base unit, flip it around, plug it back into the hinge, and then close it down over the keyboard. The result is what ZAGG calls Book Mode, though it’s not really the best way to read books: that’s Case Mode.

ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro Review

ZAGG slim book in Book Mode

This configuration is useful for operating the iPad as a tablet when for some reason the keyboard can’t be put aside. The base unit is out of the way, but still attached. Or to put it another way, the weight and bulk of the keyboard are still there, but not accomplishing anything, which is why Case Mode is generally a preferable option.

Performance

Apple built support for Bluetooth keyboards like this one into iOS so no additional software is required to use the slim book, and it performed without a hitch in our testing. Pairing the two is a breeze.

That said, we consider it unfortunate that ZAGG chose to not make use of the Smart Connector, so users have to put up with the slight hassles that come with Bluetooth: the keyboard has to have its own battery, and communication between this accessory and the tablet will shut down to save power if they aren’t used for a few minutes. Waking the keyboard back up takes a second or so.

We typed this entire review with the slim book’s keyboard and ran into no issues with keys failing to register or repeating characters.

Battery Life

ZAGG says the battery in this product will last for up to two years on a single charge. This is a reasonable claim because Bluetooth uses little power.

The same can’t be said for the backlights. Users would be wise to assume that a day or some with these on will drain the slim book’s battery completely. Obviously, these should be off unless they’re necessary, as fun as it might be to have the keyboard glowing green.

Recharging the battery is done via a micro-USB port on the right side of the keyboard. The cable is supplied, but the USB charger that comes with the iPad will also be necessary.

Conclusion

The ZAGG slim book for 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a decent option for those who want to turn this high-end tablet into a 2-in-1 laptop alternative. The keyboard is well designed, and the various configurations are useful.

Still, we wish ZAGG had made use of the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro, rather than Bluetooth.

Value

The list price for this version of the slim book is $129.99. Rival keyboard cases include the Apple Smart Keyboard ($149) and the BrydgeAir ($149.99), so ZAGG’s offering is more affordable than many other premium keyboard cases.


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