ZAGGkeys Folio: Perfect keyboard companion for the iPad Air (hands on)

ZAGGkeys Folio: Perfect keyboard companion for the iPad Air (hands on)

Summary: The thin iPad Air is so fast it calls out for a good keyboard for heavy use. This folio case fits it just right.

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TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
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ZAGGkeys Folio profile
ZAGGkeys Folio with iPad Air (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I couldn't resist getting an iPad Air due to its fast processor and thin, light form. Now that it's in my hand (actually, I can hold it in one hand) it's clear a decent keyboard will turn it into a good work system for me. It's a good thing the folks at ZAGG sent me the ZAGGkeys Folio to try out with the iPad Air. The iPad Air and the ZAGGkeys Folio go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

See related: Lure of the iPad Air | iPad Air: Color me surprised | iPad Air: No Apple keyboard needed | 2 keyboards for iPad Air: ZAGGkeys Folio and ZAGGkeys Cover5 good office apps for the iPad

The ZAGGkeys Folio is very similar to the model for the iPad mini (reviewed here). It is basically the same case made bigger to fit the iPad Air perfectly. It completely protects the tablet when closed and exposes a good keyboard when opened. Opening and closing the Folio wakes and sleeps the iPad Air, respectively.

ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Air specs:

  • Length: 6.82 in (173.2 mm)

  • Width: 9.55 in (242.6 mm)

  • Depth: 0.697 in (17.7 mm) closed with iPad

  • Depth: 0.299 in (7.6 mm) keyboard only

  • Weight: 18.87 oz (535 grams)

  • Battery: 950 mAh rechargeable lithium polymer
ZAGGkeys Folio closed
ZAGGkeys Folio for iPad Air (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The top of the case (when opened) is a simple plastic tray where the iPad Air is inserted. The tablet snaps in with an audible click and can be removed by gently twisting the corner of the lid and pulling the iPad Air out of the case.

The Folio uses the same unique hinge that is used on the two iPad mini cases previously covered by ZDNet. The hinge allows adjusting the tablet to various viewing angles to suit the situation. It is a sturdy hinge that supports the iPad Air securely at any possible angle.

The keyboard is very good and makes fast touch typing possible. The chiclet keys have good travel and give solid feedback when keys are pressed. There are five rows of keys, including one for number keys and another with special keys for operating the iPad Air. These include cut, copy, and paste keys, that come in handy in many situations.

The Folio has two useful features that make the keyboard special while still allowing good battery life. The Folio is a backlit keyboard, offering three different brightnesses and several colors. There is a key in the lower left of the keyboard that indicates remaining battery life when pressed. ZAGG claims a battery life of several months with two hours of use daily, and my experience with other keyboards from the company back this up.

ZAGGkeys Folio closeup
ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard closeup (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

In addition to the full keyboard that is good for fast typing, the Folio also has four arrow keys that in my experience are very good for moving around documents on the screen. This, coupled with the undo/redo keys on the top row, is very useful for editing documents.

All iPad Air buttons are accessible through cut-outs on the the Folio. There are little channels over the stereo speakers of the iPad Air designed to channel audio toward the user. In my testing the iPad Air audio sounds good and is not muffled while in the case.

The ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Air is a really good keyboard/case and turns the thin tablet into a real workhorse. It is better than the many keyboards I've tested for older iPads, which is fitting for the new iPad Air. It is currently available from ZAGG for $99.99.

Pros:

  • Nearly full-sized keyboard

  • Useful iPad Air control keys

  • Variable viewing angles

  • Protects iPad Air front and back

  • Backlit keys

  • Slim profile

Cons:

  • Lid feels a bit flimsy, may wear over time

  • A bit expensive

Related:

Two keyboard cases for iPad mini from ZAGG change the game

9 best iPad keyboards (hands on): March 2013

Top iPad keyboards: 2013 First Edition

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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17 comments
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  • I've looked up some device specifications for comparison's sake.

    When the first Surface Tablets first came out, their dimensions were compared to an iPad 4 with an attached keyboard. (Some ZDNet blogger did those honors awhile back)

    Essentially, the Surface tablets weighed less and were thinner with their keyboard accessories than an iPad plus keyboard combo by a NOTICEABLE difference. (I know .. an almost meaningless stat but bear with me)

    When I read James' blog today, I couldn't help myself and I did a little digging.

    Per James' blog, the iPad Air and the Zagg keyboard weigh 2.23 pounds together and have a combined depth of "around" 0.697 inches. (I always get a kick out of dimensions taken to the third decimal point. Grin.)

    The new Surface 2 with it's new type cover 1 keyboard accessory has the following dimensions.
    The Surface 2 and it's keyboard have a combined depth of 0.91 inches and this combination weighs 2.1 pounds.

    (I couldn't get full updated specs on the second generation type cover 2. That keyboard cover is slightly slimmer and weighs slightly less)

    So, comparing those two tablets, the Surface 2 and keyboard weigh slightly LESS than the iPad Air and it's keyboard combo but the iPad Air combo is slimmer than the Surface 2 plus type cover 1 combo.

    Essentially, it's a "wash" between the two systems now - dimensionally speaking - especially if one uses the new type cover 2 with the Surface 2 tablet.
    kenosha77a
    • You should have

      added respective costs to your post.

      It has always been a head scratcher for me when you see an ipad with a keyboard because the total cost starts to bring it on par with so many other devices including apple equipment.
      calfee20
      • Good point. But then, how does one qualify "costs" to services rendered?

        That is to say, does the overall cost of an Apple hardware ecosystem provide a better "cost to user satisfaction ratio" than the the Surface 2 hardware ecosystem and it's related "cost to user satisfaction ratio" when software apps are taken into account.

        You see. It's an non-objective evaluation. Just too many variables involved.
        kenosha77a
        • Goal Post Moved...again.

          How does one measure user satisfaction with an ecosystem?
          xplatformer
        • Silly.

          You are comparing qualitative items vs quantitative... The original commenter mentioned numbers only. Take away what you want from it, but don't make it something else entirely.
          MarkDau
    • Drop the keyboard

      And then you pull the iPad Air out of the case to use as a tablet (which is how I use it most of the time) and it's 1 pound, 1/3 inch. No comparison.
      JamesKendrick
      • what a thoughtful comment!

        That would be a valuable comment in a post that wasn't literally dedicated to iPad airs -with- a keyboard attached. :)
        MarkDau
  • Nice cover

    I like this keyboard cover, its nice and high quality.

    The thing that is missing with the cover is a trackpad due to the missing mouse ability in iOS. Just like I find Windows 8 clamshell machines with touchscreens pointless as that is not how most people use that form factor, its the same with an iPad turned into a clamshell laptop. Its a use case and some do not perform any UI inputting that require a very tight degree of screen input or they are not switching between typing and screen input often. But for those that do, the missing mouse/touchpad input is just glaring.
    Rann Xeroxx
  • James, I tested the retina mini in my...

    ...original mini's ZaggKeys Cover (which I bought on your recommendation), and I am happy to say not only does the retina fit, the slightly thicker body of the iPad makes a snugger fit and an even HEFTIER and more secure feeling in the whole device as a result.

    The only caveat is the color mismatch between the space gray on the iPad and the black of the keyboard, but this is minor. Absolutely thrilled with the combination of the already great keyboard and the retina display.
    Playdrv4me
    • but folio does not fit

      I can confirm. Zaggkeys cover fits snugly with the iPad mini retina, and is a really nice combination. The feel of the keyboard is excellent for such a cramped space. Loving it!

      I had a zaggkeys folio for my non-retina iPad mini, and it *almost* fits the retina mini, but not quite. The little hook at the top, which holds the iPad in place, can't quite make it over the lip of the iPad. Who would of thought that the tiny size difference would make a real difference.
      GeorgeCree
      • I've always said...

        ...that the ZaggKeys Cover has Apple levels of fit and finish (we will see how that extremely complex hinge/holder assembly holds up over time) to it, and if Apple were to introduce a keyboard of their own, they'd be hard pressed to improve on that design.

        A shame about the Folio, but I didn't like the Folio much when I tried it anyway. I remember on one of the ones at Best Buy the adhesive seemed to be coming off of the leathery part, so I bet that wouldn't look good for very long, and the other thing I noticed is just how durable the back of the mini is, anyway. The keyboard itself has all kinds of little scratches on the black metal surface, the mini has zero (my old one that is).
        Playdrv4me
  • Still $600+ for something

    that gives all the drawbacks of a laptop and none of the benefits.
    Emacho
  • Doesn't Fit Reliably

    I tried two of these with my iPad Air and both failed to secure the top edge of the Air and it would fall out onto the keyboard when you tried to close it. I've seen others reporting this same problem with theirs. When will the ZAGGKeys Cover become available?
    dksmidtx
    • Mid Jan

      was what I have gotten by customer support on Dec14. He said both black and white version come at the same time.
      mitche55
  • Revised model?

    Amazon is now listing the Folio for the Air as "Not yet released" with a photo that shows cutouts for the speakers.
    parkslope
  • One fault major/minor?

    I bought the Zagg keyboard for my iPad Air. There is a problem with it, though. The keyboard is above the hinge, so that the bottom of the display is covered, making it almost impossible to open the control center by swiping up. The only way I can get to the control center is to rotate it to portrait mode and then swipe up.
    paul@...
  • Is Zagg keyboard cover better than Logiteck?

    I am interested in,
    which, do you think, is better Logiteck with a little less weight, or more robustness with American decoration (light)?
    mitche55