Although a laptop can’t be converted into a tablet, adding an accessory like the ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard can turn your Apple iPad Air into a ultraportable notebook computer.
Build and Design
This accessory consists of a plastic clamshell that completely wraps around the tablet. One side holds the tablet and the other is, of course, a keyboard.
This case definitely adds some protection, but it couldn’t be described as rugged. It should get the iPad through normal situations without scratches or dings, but will be little-to-no help in real disasters, like a fall down a set of stairs or immersion in water.
The ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard adds a bit of bulk to the iPad, roughly doubling its thickness and weight. Fortunately, the tablet itself is so thin and light that the combined package is easily portable.
There are openings in this case to give access to the power and volume buttons, as well as the rear-facing camera, the Lightning port, the headphone jack, and the microphone. Unfortunately, there are no openings for the two speakers on the bottom of the iPad Air. As a result, sound is slightly muffled. It’s very surprising that a company that has been making iPad keyboards since 2010 would make such an elementary mistake.
Much thought clearly went into the hinge of the ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard. This allows the user to position their tablet at any angle when typing.
There’s no physical clasp holding the clamshell closed, but the hinge is firm enough that one isn’t really required. It’s also firm enough that tapping on the screen doesn’t change the angle that the display is being held at.
Quite a number of companies are making external keyboards for the iPad Air, and so the bar is set fairly high. In some ways, the ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard is outstanding, but it is not flawless.
It uses the standard QWERTY layout, with no significant modifications. The keys are well separated and offer decent travel. Like virtually all mobile keyboards, this one is about the size of the ones found in laptops, slightly smaller than the ones typically used with desktop PCs.
In addition, there’s a row of special-purpose keys: Home, a button to pull up the on-screen keyboard, and even a full set of controls for any media that’s playing in the background. There also a set of arrow keys.
The really outstanding feature of this accessory is the backlighting. Anyone who has ever tried to type in a dimly lit place — airplane, lecture hall, etc. — can see the value of a keyboard that can be clearly seen in the dark. The ZAGGkeys Folio offers three brightness levels in addition to off. And while offering white and red lights would probably have been good enough, ZAGG went the extra mile by adding blue, purple, yellow, and green just for the fun of it.
The keyboard that’s built into this accessory has an issue: a tendency to produce repeated characters if the keys are struck too hard. It doesn’t happen every time, but unless typing with medium or gentle force, several repeated characters will show up per sentence.
While this isn’t a major flaw, it will certainly be an irritant to some users.
All of ZAGG’s Bluetooth keyboards have been able to go for months on a single charge, and this one will likely be no different… with one caveat: extensive use of the backlight will cut into this.
The one TPCR has been testing has been running for several weeks on a single charge. This is with heavy typing use but sporadic use of the backlight.
ZAGG has been making keyboards and cases for tablets for years, and these have generally been quite good… but the ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard for iPad Air is not the best one it has ever produced. The missing openings for the speakers and the tendency to repeat letters make it less compelling than its predecessors.
Still, it has some great features, including backlighting for the keys and a hinge that can hold up the display at a wide range of angles.
I suspect ZAGG is already working on an updated version of this keyboard that will have all the strengths without the issues.