The ability to turn a tablet into a laptop just by adding a keyboard is hugely beneficial. For iPad Air owners, the ZAGG Slim Book is one accessory that can do just that.
It combines a bumper case and an add-on keyboard, and can be used in clamshell, drawing, and movie modes.
Build and Design
The Slim Book consists of a bumper case that fits around the iPad Air and that clips on.
The bumper case provides a bit of extra protection for the back and sides of the tablet. It’s made of rigid plastic, and should help prevent scratches and dents. There are openings for the iPad’s various buttons and ports while only adding a moderate amount of bulk.
This negates a drawback that plagues many rival add-on keyboards: They’re only usable when the tablet isn’t in case. Users of the Slim Book can carry their iPad Air in the bumper case, and then easily attach it to the keyboard base when it’s time to do some typing.
The keyboard base is approximately the size and weight of the iPad. This, along with its hinge, allows it to act like the second half of a clamshell, turning the tablet into an ultralight laptop that’s under 0.75 inches. Both case and base total up to 1.14 pounds, so together they approximately double the size and weight of the iPad Air.
Because the base is so lightweight and the hinge is located on the edge, the device tilts backward so it’s hard to keep it up while in your lap.
Because Apple chose to shave a couple millimeters or so off the iPad Air 2, ZAGG was forced to make two slightly difference versions of that accessory, one for the original iPad Air and another for its successor. Be sure to buy the correct version.
The design of the Slim Book’s hinge also helps set it apart from its rivals. Some competing accessories can only hold the tablet up at one angle, but the ZAGG offering can rotate 135º, giving a more of a laptop feel.
Even better, the bumper case can also be inserted with the iPad’s screen facing away from the keyboard. In this mode, the tablet can be held completely upright and used to show a movie or TV show, or angled back to become a drawing pad.
The iPad with the bumper case are held in the hinge with a strong collection of magnets. Separating them isn’t difficult, but they held together with enough strength that there’s little worry that they’ll come apart accidentally.
However, the hinge isn’t quite rigid enough to keep the screen from shaking slightly whenever it is tapped.
Closing the clamshell automatically turns the tablet off, while opening it reactivates the device.
The keyboard built into the Slim Book closely resembles the ones in laptops. It’s a full QWERTY, with the usual five rows of keys, almost all of which are full size, arranged in the standard layout.
The keys are of a sufficient size and there’s enough separation to enable touch-typing. Key travel is barely adequate, but that’s par for the course for ultra-light keyboards. The top surface of all the keys is flat not concave and somewhat slick, which brought complaints from one of our testers.
Above the regular keyboard is a set of function keys designed to make using the iPad Air more convenient. It includes multimedia controls so that music playing in the background can be started or stopped, and the volume can be adjusted. One key activates Siri, and another is an alternate Home Button, making it easier to switch between running applications.
As a very useful addition, ZAGG built in a backlight, making it easier to type in low-light situations, whether that’s a transcontinental flight or a classroom.
ZAGG makes an unusual claim: that the Slim Book’s battery will last 2 years between charges. Naturally, this isn’t something that we could test, aside from saying that the accessory was able to last a week of heavy use and its battery still indicates that it’s nearly full.
The ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air, as well as the virtually identical version for the iPad Air 2, is one of the better keyboard cases on the market. Its combination of bumper case and keyboard, as well as the flexibility to be used in laptop made, as well as a video stand and a drawing stand, make it stand out from the pack.
At $129.99 on the ZAGG website, it’s below what a many premium iPad cases sell for, but above the price of simpler models. Fortunately, it does a bit more than most keyboard cases, so the price isn’t unreasonable.