ZAGG Messenger Folio for Apple iPad Mini 5 review: Affordable keyboard with Pencil holder

I recently went back to using an iPad, the small iPad Mini 2019, but to improve my productivity I need a keyboard. ZAGG sent along its Messenger Folio and despite the small size I am still able to crank out the words at a good clip.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

When Apple announced the new iPad Air and iPad Mini, both with Apple Pencil support, I just couldn't resist so I picked up a new iPad Mini 2019 for myself. Check out my full review to see what I think of this diminutive tablet.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been using the ZAGG Messenger Folio for the Apple iPad Mini 2019. It is priced at just $64.99, which is a reasonable price for a keyboard, case, and media kickstand. Apple doesn't offer any sort of external keyboard option for the iPad Mini so it's up to third parties like ZAGG to satisfy this need.

Also: Apple iPad Mini 2019 review: A beloved classic with internal improvements and Apple Pencil support

Upper case assembly

The top portion, in landscape orientation, has three hard plastic pieces that are designed to securely hold the iPad Mini in position. There are two upper corner pieces and one piece on the bottom, about an inch long, that secures your iPad into the case. Slide your iPad Mini into the two corner pieces and then press your iPad Mini down into the cover to snap the central bottom piece over the edge.

There is a cutout in the left upper corner plastic bracket for the power button with an area cut out of the fabric cover to help you more easily manipulate the volume buttons. There is also a cutout in the fabric case for the Lightning port on the right side of the upper assembly.

There is an opening in the back of the cover for the camera. The speakers and 3.5mm headset jack are not covered at all so remain fully accessible while using this keyboard folio. The lower two-thirds of the back flips out and serves as a wide kickstand to hold the iPad Mini at a good viewing angle for media. There is a piece of material under the flap to keep the flap from extending out too far. Sitting on a table or desk lets you extend this flap for different viewing angles, but the fabric piece only limits the extension out to one angle.

One of the best features of the ZAGG Messenger Folio is the Apple Pencil holder found along the top (in landscape). I hate that there is no way to conveniently carry the Apple Pencil with your iPad and this feature helps make the Apple Pencil a more useful utility for my daily usage. The holder is a simply fabric loop that tightly holds the first generation Apple Pencil securely in place.

Also: iPad Air (2019) review: Apple's newest tablet combines productivity with affordability

Lower keyboard assembly

The bottom piece is the keyboard and serves as the front cover when you close the case and carry it around. The keyboard is permanently mounted to the lower fabric case and connects to your iPad Mini via Bluetooth. A fully charged keyboard is rated to last for up to three months between charging.

There is a row of keys above the five typical keyboard rows that serve as the following shortcuts:

  1. Home
  2. Lock
  3. Task switcher and search (with FN press)
  4. Switch keyboard input language and keyboard hide/show (with FN press)
  5. Media control for back
  6. Media control for play/pause
  7. Media control for forward
  8. Mute toggle
  9. Volume down
  10. Volume up
  11. Bluetooth button to pair
  12. Keyboard power button

There are five rows of keys below this top line with a full number row, directional arrows, FN key, CMD, CTL, Alt/Option, and two Shift keys. There is no backlighting available on this keyboard, but the white letters on the black plastic keys make it easy to use in most lighting conditions.

ZAGG Messenger Folio for Apple iPad Mini 5 review: in pictures

Despite the small size of the iPad Mini limiting the width of the keyboard, there is actually decent space between the keys and the keys are large enough for me to tap on with my fingertips. The keys have excellent travel and feedback when pressed too. There is only just over an inch of the keyboard to serve as a wrist rest, which is fine when I hold my hands up above this small keyboard anyway.

The keyboard charges via microUSB, found down on the lower right of the keyboard. There are two notches that small tabs on the top cover fit into with a magnet in the wrist rest to help hold the case closed and keep the display off while you are carrying the iPad in the case.

Daily usage experiences

Some may think I am being ridiculous using a keyboard with an iPad Mini, but I started using UMPCs more than a decade ago and have been able to adapt to small keyboards. I'm actually working on documenting my life story for my daughters while commuting on the train thanks in large part to the ZAGG Messenger Folio and the iPad Mini.

While I was primarily looking for a keyboard to use with the iPad Mini, the ZAGG Messenger Folio also provides an Apple Pencil holder and kickstand for viewing media. This entire package has served me well while traveling and commuting on the train daily, in addition to being used around the office as my portable computing device.

The keyboard is well designed and very functional while the Apple Pencil holder is convenient. The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a better kickstand design that supported more viewing angles. Then again, a lot is offered here by ZAGG for just $64.99.

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