- Cover can be used separately from Keyboard base
- Very stable kickstand supports landscape and portrait modes
- Can be paired with three different computers
- Rather dull exterior
- Not cheap
Quick TakeZAGG has created an unusually flexible keyboard case that can turn either of Apple’s 9.7-inch tablets into a convertible laptop.
Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro has the power to be a credible laptop alternative, and the iPad Air 2 is no slouch, but to be really useful for business people and students these tablets need physical keyboards. The ZAGG Slim Book Pro adds that keyboard, as well as an integrated stand and a place to store the Apple pencil.
This multi-function accessory sells for $149.99, and is available now.
Design and Build
The exterior of the Slim Book Pro is primarily black plastic with aluminum accents. The casing isn’t textured to be easier to grip, but it’s still less slick than an iPad. The exterior appears reasonably professional, if not as sleek as either Apple tablet by itself. On the interior, there’s a very nice pattern engraved around the keyboard so it actually looks better on the inside than the outside.
It weighs in at 1.4 pounds, while either the iPad Pro or the Air 2 is just under a pound, so ZAGG’s offering more than doubles the weight. And adding this case takes the tablet’s thickness from 0.24 to 0.7 inches, but the combination still feels very slim and light… especially for a laptop alternative.
This product is made up of two parts, the Cover and the Keyboard Base. Each of these can be used separately and, of course, together.
Either the iPad Pro or the Air 2 is wrapped in the Cover, which provides protection for the four corners, the back, and the two long sides. There is an opening for the rear-facing camera, and button covers for the volume controls. The two short sides are open to provide access to the speakers, Lightning port, etc., a feature that allows it to work with both these similar iPad models.
Without the Keyboard Base the front of the tablet is also left open, and even with it the Slim Book Pro provides only moderate protection from bumps and blows, and even less from water. Still, that’s not this accessory’s primary focus.
An aluminum plate swivels down from the back to function as a stable kickstand, whether the tablet is in landscape or portrait orientation. The hinges of this plate are firm enough to easily hold up the iPad, and can swivel over a full 90º. Without the keyboard to get in the way, this configuration is well suited for watching video.
Also on the back is a loop and slot to hold the Apple Pencil. This doesn’t grip the active pen particularly tightly, but that’s a bit misleading, as this stylus never accidentally slid out over our several days of testing. And it’s loose enough to make removing the Pencil easy. Even those who don’t have an Apple Pencil might appreciate this loop, as it can just as easily hold a Wacom Bamboo Stylus solo or Just Mobile AluPen Digital. Or any pen.
The base fits over the front of the Cover, and the two are held together with magnets. The connection is quite strong enough that we have no concerns about them inadvertently coming apart.
One edge of the Slim Book Pro functions as a hinge, so that it can open into a clamshell. The Cover’s kickstand is still used in this configuration, as the hinge isn’t designed to hold up the tablet. A section of the Keyboard Base folds down, propping the keyboard up at an angle for more comfortable typing.
In this configuration, ZAGG’s accessory boasts quite good lapablity: it’s very stable when being typed on in one’s lap.
The Cover and the Keyboard Base can be separated without interfering with their functionality, as the two communicate wirelessly over Bluetooth. This is one of the better features of this product, as the best distance for seeing the screen often isn’t the best distance for accessing the keyboard.
The Smart Connector was added to the iPad Pro line to make external keyboards simpler. The Slim Book Pro doesn’t use it because that would make this accessory incompatible with the iPad Air 2. It would also mean that the keyboard couldn’t be used when it’s not connected directly to the tablet.
The actual keyboard area is 9.0 x 3.8 inches, so it’s comparable 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. This is a typical keyboard for a 9.7-inch tablet, and can be used for touchtyping. However, those with larger hands might find it cramped.
One of the “Pro” features of the Slim Book Pro is the ability to be paired with up to three different computers, and switch between them with a press of a button. The other two can be an iPhone or even Android or Windows devices.
ZAGG also built in a set of function keys for controlling multimedia playback and volume. There’s also a replacement Home button, making using the iPad a bit easier.
Another professional feature is a three-level backlight to facilitate typing in dimly-lit areas. The only backlight color option is white.
No trackpad is built into this accessory because iOS can’t use that type of input device.
Apple integrated support for Bluetooth keyboards into its operating system for tablets, so no additional software is necessary to use the Slim Book Pro. Just pair the iPad and keyboard, a one-time process that takes less than a minute.
There’s no lag when typing, nor were there any dropped letters in any of our tests.
Because this is a wireless accessory, it needs its own internal battery and can’t draw from the iPad. ZAGG says the battery is good for up to 2 years on a single charge, but that will be greatly affected by how much the backlight is used.
ZAGG has worked out a deal so that the free morphie Power App supports this keyboard. This means that the application can display the exact amount of charge remaining in the accessory’s built-in battery. After several days of testing, including frequent use of the backlight, our test unit is at 86%.
The ZAGG Slim Book Pro for 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 has a lot to recommend it. The design allows the tablet to be used like a laptop, or this accessory can just function as a stand for the iPad. The keyboard can be easily removed if it’s not needed, or placed at any distance from the screen to facilitate typing. And the backlight keys are a nice bonus.
By contrast, there are few downsides, and even the $150 pricetag isn’t unreasonable in comparison to competing keyboards.
ZAGG has created an unusually flexible keyboard case that can turn either of Apple’s 9.7-inch Pads into a convertible laptop.