It clearly occurred to ZAGG that some of the people who are using a 12.9-inch iPad Pro instead of a laptop would want to turn this full-size tablet into a MacBook, so it created a keyboard case for this model that greatly resembles one of Apple’s laptops. Even better, this accessory makes this computer into a 2-in-1, offering features a MacBook doesn’t.
The ZAGG slim book for 12.9-inch iPad Pro is available now for $139.99.
Design and Build
This is certainly a well-constructed item. Our review unit shows no production issues at all, and it’s as sturdy as a product that’s composed mostly of plastic can be.
The Slim Book comes as two parts: a hard plastic case for the iPad Pro and the keyboard base. These come together at a hinge.
Giving any tablet some extra protection is a good idea, and the plastic case that’s part of the slim book will help preserve this expensive computer from bumps and blows. It’s not as protective as a truly rugged case, however, and doesn’t do anything to buffer the display. Still, when it’s being used without the keyboard, this tablet is safer than it is “naked.”
The case has openings for all the iPad’s buttons, ports, and speakers, and is relatively easy to take off and put on.
It does add some weight to this tablet — about 6.5 ounces. The iPad Pro itself is so large that anything that wraps around it is inevitably going to have some bulk.
Even when connected to the keyboard base, the case is what most people see when they look at the slim book, and the overwhelming impression is plastic with noticeable ZAGG branding. The plastic does help keep the weight down, and it doesn’t show fingerprints.
The slim book can convert this tablet into clamshell laptop, and an inescapable fact of any device with this design is that the base needs to be heavy enough to hold the top stable. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro itself weighs 1.6 lbs. and so the keyboard base comes in just under 2 pounds (1.97 lbs.).
Add in the weight of the case and the iPad Pro/slim book is a little heavier than a 13.3-inch MacBook Air. This will certainly be a sticking point for some people.
The “slim” in its name is a bit more aspirational than realistic. It’s 0.9 inches thick at the hinge with the case closed down over the keyboard, so it’s slightly thicker than an MacBook Air.
The QWERTY keyboard was clearly built to resemble the ones found in Apple’s MacBook lines, which is to the benefit of users. The 12.9-inch screen in the newest iPad means there was room for ZAGG to include a keyboard that’s 10.9 inches wide, with normal-size keys arranged with plenty of space around them. In our tests, no one had issues typing on it, even those with large hands.
Across the top of the keyboard is a set of iOS function buttons. There’s a replacement for the Home button, another that brings up the application switcher, and a third that locks the iPad Pro. Those who like to listen to music while they work should welcome set of media controls, including volume up, down, and mute buttons.
The keys are backlit, with ZAGG going so far as to offer a range of colors: red, white, purple, green, blue, and yellow. This is a convenient feature when typing in a dimly-lit airplane cabin or lecture hall, especially as the brightness of the backlighting can also be adjusted.
An important factor in any clamshell device is how easy it is to use when held in the lap — sometimes called “lapability”. The slim book is well suited to be used this way, with the screen staying steadily in place while typing.
Apple hasn’t added support for mice to iOS so the slim book’s keyboard base doesn’t have a trackpad.
Between the case and the keyboard case is a hinge that allows the iPad Pro to close over the keys, or to learn back at up to a 135º angle. While not a full 180º, this is still a very wide range to choose from, and should even satisfy those who like to hunch over their keyboards.
Closing the clamshell automatically turns off the iPad’s display, and opening it turns it back on again.
The hinge is where the two components of this accessory can be separated, and they are held together with magnets and a couple of plastic tabs. The connection is strong enough that they aren’t going to slip apart under normal conditions, but not so strong that there are issues separating them.
The iPad and its case can be removed from the keyboard base and then flipped around so that the keyboard is behind the screen. This is a good arrangement for people who want to draw on their tablet, or use it to play video, and is a nice advantage of this slim book and iPad Pro over a MacBook.
Support for Bluetooth keyboards like this one is built into iOS, so no additional software is required to start typing with the Slim Book. There’s not even an infinitesimal delay between a key being hit and it registering on screen.
A nice feature of the keyboard is that it can be paired with three different devices and then switch between them at the push of a button. This allows someone to use this keyboard with their iPad Pro, their smartphone, and even another tablet, like an iPad mini. There’s a groove on the hinge that works well to hold a smaller device, and the iPad Pro makes a good backstop.
The drawback to Bluetooth keyboards is that they have to deactivate themselves if not used for a few minutes to save power. This means that, on returning from a phone call or coffee break, they won’t respond for a second or so while they wake up and reconnect to the iPad.
ZAGG says that the battery in the slim book is good for up to 2 years of use, while a typical Bluetooth keyboard is good for about 6 months. This apparently shows that the necessary additional weight in the keyboard base is in the form of battery.
While the idea of never needing to recharge this accessory will appeal to some, others should feel confidence that they can use the backlights for the keyboard as much as they wish. While this will necessitate more frequent recharges, there’s enough capacity that it shouldn’t be necessary very often.
A key combination makes an LED blink to indicate battery remaining capacity, and when it starts to run low the slim book is recharged through a microUSB port on its right side.
Unfortunately, the large battery in the slim book can’t be used to recharge another device, like a cell phone.
The ZAGG slim book for 12.9-inch iPad Pro is successful at turning this tablet into a 2-in-1. Its best feature is a large, backlit keyboard. The downside is that this accessory adds quite a bit of thickness and weight to a tablet that’s already not small.
ZAGG asks $139 for this product. By comparison, the Apple Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro is $169.
Those looking for a similar but more affordable option could consider the ZAGG Messenger Universal at $69.99.