This third entry in a series on iPad keyboard case options focuses on the ZAGGmate. This accessory is a keyboard that also doubles as a cover for the relatively vulnerable screen of Apple’s tablet computer. It is currently available for $99.99. There is also a non-keyboard version available for $69.99 if you just want a protective front cover for your iPad.
The ZAGGmate is made of aluminum that is designed to match the finish of the Apple iPad. On the outside it is completely plain, with no logos or words of any kind. As you can see from the photos, it is designed to snap onto the front of the iPad and it completely covers the front, sides, and corners of the device. The only thing left exposed is the charge/sync port, which is handy if you need to charge the iPad without having to remove it from the case.
When I first opened the retail box I was surprised to see that instructions were included that illustrated exactly how to use the ZAGGmate. It slips onto the front of the device easily enough, and it’s easy to tell which end is which because of that charge/sync port cutout. The slightly more difficult part, and the reason it needs instructions, is that it can be hard to take the ZAGGmate off of the iPad.
The effort required is minimal, but the manufacturer suggests that you rest the iPad on a firm surface like a table and then use both hands to hold the iPad and remove the cover. You have to keep a firm grip to avoid dropping the iPad, because the process is a little awkward, especially the first few times. After some experience it gets easier, but it is still best to support the device on a table or desk to ensure that you don’t drop it.
Using the Keyboard
Once the case is off of the iPad, you’ll see that every available inch is taken up by the Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard is relatively small, with very closely spaced keys, but it is very usable and easy to type on after a short period of adjustment. Those with larger hands may have a little more difficulty, of course, but I do think that the keyboard is usable for anyone willing to make the effort to get used to it.
There are dedicated function keys at the top of the keyboard that go a long way toward making this accessory a true companion for the iPad instead of just another text entry option. There is a home button and a search button, plus others that start a photo slideshow, blank the screen, or control your music. Once you get used to them, you’ll find that they are extremely handy and minimize the need to take your hands off the keyboard and touch the screen of the iPad, which definitely saves time.
The iPad is secured behind the keyboard by a very cleverly designed folding stand. Obviously it’s flat when the ZAGGmate is attached to the iPad, but when you’re ready to type it takes just a second to set it up. The stand holds the iPad in either landscape or portrait mode, and it does so very securely. You definitely won’t have any problem with the iPad falling off of the stand, and there isn’t any wobble either. The manufacturer states that you can use the ZAGGmate on a lap, bed, or ot
her soft surface, and that is true. A tabletop is definitely more comfortable, but if you like the idea of putting it on your lap when you’re sitting on the couch, it will work because the stand is well designed and won’t flop.
The workmanship and design are absolutely top notch here. All of the edges are lined with smooth black foam, so you don’t have to worry about the accessory scratching your iPad. It adds a minimum of bulk, just 1/8 of an inch. But that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. Some users may be frustrated by the recessed nature of the keyboard–the heel of my hand tends to rest on the corners of the case, which isn’t the least bit comfortable. You may not have the same problem if you’re better than I am about keeping your wrists up when you type.
It is also important to note that the ZAGGmate cannot be attached to the back of your iPad. If you want to use your iPad to look something up while you’re walking down the hall or standing in line, it will be awkward. The instructions that come with the ZAGGmate instruct you to rest the iPad on a table while separating it from your iPad in order to avoid dropping the device. Even if you can master the art of doing that without a surface to rest it on, you’re still stuck holding the ZAGGmate and the iPad. This accessory is definitely designed for those who need to take a lot of notes on a tabletop or desk, not for folks who are constantly using the iPad on the go.
When I first heard about the ZAGGmate keyboard case for the iPad, I just couldn’t wait to try it out. After an extensive review I’ve come to the conclusion that this is indeed an excellent product, but it isn’t without limitations.
Some may find the borders around the keyboard (that allow it to attach to the iPad) may get in the way when trying to type, and of course the back of the iPad is left completely exposed. On the other hand, it has a sleek modern design that matches the iPad, adds very little weight or bulk, and the stand holds the device securely when you’re typing. If you’re willing to accept the potential for cosmetic damage to your iPad, and can get used to a rather small keyboard, the ZAGGmate can make an excellent companion.