Two keyboard cases for iPad mini from ZAGG change the game

Summary:The new ZAGGkeys Cover and ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad mini both feature hinges that allow adjusting the viewing angle to suit the situation.

Typing angle Cover
ZAGGkeys Cover -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I frequently use keyboard cases with my iPad as a stand-in for a laptop that is highly portable and versatile. I didn't do that much with the smaller iPad mini until the Logitech Keyboard Folio mini impressed me so much I named it the gadget of the year (so far). I now have to rethink that award as two new keyboards for the iPad mini are just as useful as the Logitech while adding extra features.

The two new keyboards from veteran accessory maker ZAGG each have a good keyboard but in two different forms. The ZAGGkeys Cover has a keyboard that forms a cover for the iPad mini when it's popped into the hinge. The keyboard features big keys for such a small keyboard, and the innovative hinge is capable of supporting the iPad mini in lots of viewing angles to suit the situation. This is the thinnest keyboard/case option for the iPad mini.

Unique Cover hinge
ZAGGkeys Cover hinge -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The hinge design can accept inserting either side of the iPad mini, so you have a choice of having the Home button on either the left or right. Note: while the iPad mini can be inserted in either side, you'll want to have the Home button to the right so the volume rocker keys are exposed.

The instruction pamphlet for the ZAGGkeys Cover mentions a "media mode" which is simply inserting the iPad mini into the cover upside down. Basically it is putting the tablet into the hinge so the display is exposed when you close the cover. This works OK but I don't find it very practical. It's easier to use the iPad mini out of the cover, rather than remove the tablet, turn it over, and reinsert it. You have to turn the keyboard off in this mode to get the iPad onscreen keyboard to come up when needed.

The ZAGGkeys Cover is surprisingly heavy, a necessity as the cover becomes the keyboard base for typing. The weight is required to keep the assembly from tipping over. It's not too heavy to carry by any means, but it's a shock the first time you pick it up with the iPad mini attached.

Keyboard
ZAGGkeys Cover keyboard (both cases the same) -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The standard iPad control keys are on the top row of the keyboard, and key spacing is good for an under-sized keyboard. The cover utilizes smart cover technology with magnets to turn the iPad mini on/off by opening/closing it.

Cover side
ZAGGkeys Cover -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Typing on the keyboard is surprisingly good given the small size of the keyboard. ZAGG has thoughtfully laid out the keys to make the most-used keys, the alphabet keys, nearly full size. Lesser-used keys are shrunken to make them fit the small keyboard. There is a row of number keys, which is welcome for fast typists.

The cover form means the bottom of the iPad mini is unprotected. If that's an issue then the ZAGGkeys Folio might be a better fit. It has the same keyboard in a portfolio form that completely protects the tablet when closed.

Since the folio is able to support the typing position without requiring weight in the base, the folio is much lighter than the cover model in spite of the full protection. The iPad mini is snapped into the lid, an easy process.

All of the comments about the keyboard of the ZAGGkeys Cover apply to the Folio as the keyboard is the same. The unique hinge on the Cover is also used on the Folio which makes various viewing angles possible on it, too. These adjustable angles are unique when it comes to keyboard cases, which typically have only one or two available angles. The ZAGGkeys Folio is thinner and lighter than the Logitech Keyboard Folio mini I have been using.

Folio side
ZAGGkeys Folio -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Both keyboards have ZAGG's backlit keys that can be cycled through different colors and brightnesses to suit any user. A key combination on the the keyboard is clearly marked to indicate the way to control the backlighting.

Both keyboards should last three months on a charge according to ZAGG and are recharged via an included microUSB cable. 

The ZAGGkeys Cover and ZAGGkeys Folio should be available this summer for $99.99 each. They are both quite good and the choice comes down to form factor.

Cover left Folio right
ZAGGkeys Cover (left), ZAGGkeys Folio (right) -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Topics: Mobility, iPad

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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