Ultra-thin ZAGGkeys PROPlus Apple iPad keyboard backlit by seven colors (review)

Summary:I've been waiting for ZAGG to launch an ultra-thin keyboard cover and in addition to the thin form factor they brought one with a cool backlight feature. You actually get seven backlight options with this keyboard.

Back in late August we heard that ZAGG was launching a new keyboard cover with integrated backlight, which is something unique in the removable keyboard arena. ZAGG is now selling the ZAGGkeys PROplus for $129.99 and the PRO (no backlight) for $99.99 that both fit on the iPad 2 and 3. I've been very happy with their other keyboard/case solutions, but they are a bit bulky and don't let me install a protective or decorative cover on the back of my iPad so this looked like a perfect solution to test out.

Make sure to check out my product image gallery that includes photos of each of the seven backlit keyboard colors.

In the box and first impressions

Inside the box you will find the keyboard, microUSB to USB cable, and small Quick Start pamphlet. The bottom of the keyboard is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is similar to their first iPad keyboard/cover I tested a couple years ago. However, this one is a bit more compact with a much better keyboard design and cool backlight feature.

Walk around the keyboard

There are four soft silicone pieces in the corners to cushion the front of your iPad when you place the keyboard on top of your display. There is a gray plastic ridge around the entire keyboard that helps lock it into place around your iPad as well while the magnets also work to hold it in place. The slot you place your iPad into has magnets to help hold it, but they are not strong enough to lift the iPad and keyboard when you have a cover on the back of your iPad. This slot holds your iPad in a very comfortable angle for text entry and viewing media.

There is an on/off switch and pairing button in the upper right area of the keyboard. The microUSB port, for charging, is found to the right of these two buttons.

The keyboard is very similar to their other current designs and is just about perfect for this sized keyboard. I am able to type quite fast and accurately on the well spaced keyboard. The keys have nice tactile feedback and pitch. There are special function keys optimized for the iPad, including:

  • Home: takes you to the home screen
  • Search: brings up the iPad search screen
  • Slideshow: starts playing a slideshow of your photos
  • Virtual keyboard toggle
  • Cut, copy, paste, undo and redo buttons
  • Media buttons: Previous track, play/pause, next track, mute, volume up and down
  • Lock: makes the iPad screen go dark and turn back on when pressed again

The cut, copy, and paste buttons are great since they are single button press keys rather than having to use a Ctrl>C combo like on a standard keyboard.

The backlight key is found just to the right of the space bar. You press once to turn on the backlight at the lowest level, then again to go to medium brightness, a third time for max brightness, and a fourth time to turn it off. If you want to toggle between the seven colors (white, red, amber, green, aqua, blue, and violet) then you simply press and hold the backlight key and the right or left directional arrow to scroll through the color options. Check out my product image gallery to see each color on the keyboard. Once you select a color, that is what will activate with the backlight button press the next time. I personally like aqua and green.

There is an indicator light for charging that appear on the lower left battery status key. You simply switch the keyboard on then press the connect button and setup Bluetooth on your iPad. Bluetooth 3.0 technology is used in the keyboard. You should only have to pair it once and then the connections should happen automatically in subsequenty uses. I never worry about turning the keyboard off and just pop my iPad in, open up IA Writer and get typing when I want to create a post.

A rechargeable battery is in the device and it is charged up via a standard microUSB port. ZAGG states you can go several months with normal usage between charges and since I have only been using it for a week I haven't had a battery issue yet. It will be interesting seeing how much impact the backlight has on the battery life, but since it is likely only used occasionally I don't imagine it having a huge impact unless you use it all the time.

I like the durability and protection offered by the aluminum cover, especially when I am traveling through the airport. The case weighs 15.3 ounces and has dimensions of 9.64 x 7.4 x 0.24 inches. It barely adds any thickness to the iPad, but is extremely useful if you create content on your iPad.

Thoughts on daily usage

While there are other keyboard solutions for the iPad, this new one is designed for on-the-go ease of use so you don't have to carry other solutions along in your bag and have minimal added bulk. I love the use of backlit keys and have this on my MacBook Pro. I don't look at the keyboard a lot when I write, but when I need to see something on the keyboard I hate having to have external light or angling the display to see the keys so backlighting on such a portable keyboard is an outstanding addition.

The case offers outstanding screen protection, but there is no protection offered for the back. I have ZAGG Sport Leather soccer cover that I bought and I can now use it again with this keyboard. When I was using their ZAGGfolio case I had to remove this to slide my iPad into the upper folio cover. I prefer this more elegant solution that also saves me quite a bit in thickness of the total package.

You can also prop up your iPad in portrait mode and it is held well in the slot and keyboard with a good weight to keep it steady. It is a very versatile keyboard and my new favorite. I enjoy using my iPad for writing on my daily train commute and IMHO this is the PERFECT keyboard solution. It took a couple years of improving keyboards, but I don't think there is anything else ZAGG needs to do with keyboards for the iPad as they have now reached perfection.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Reviews

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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