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Review: Rugged Folio keyboard case for iPad mini, ready for the work site

There are lots of keyboard cases for iPads, and there are rugged cases without the keyboard. Now there is a ruggedized case with a keyboard for taking the iPad mini into harsh environments.
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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 12 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Rugged Folio by ZAGG for the iPad mini

ZAGG has been making mobile keyboards for years, and they make good ones. The ZAGGkeys Cover is one of the best keyboard cases available for the iPad mini. Carrying on the design of that case with a patented hinge that makes it possible to use the iPad in multiple viewing angles, ZAGG now has the Rugged Folio for the iPad mini.

The Rugged Folio is the first ruggedized case for the iPad mini with a keyboard. It offers complete protection for using the iPad in harsh conditions, such as construction sites. It is a case that protects the tablet no matter the environment.

See related: Seven best iPad Air keyboards (hands on): June 20145 best iPad mini keyboards

Putting the iPad mini in the Rugged Folio couldn’t be easier, as the tablet tray detaches from the keyboard assembly. The iPad mini pops into the tray and then a rubber bumper is smoothed over the tablet.

The innovative design of the Rugged Folio allows using it with the iPad mini in any one of three modes. The first is a laptop mode with the unit assuming the typical clamshell form. This is the mode for typing with the keyboard.

The second mode is a pure tablet mode without the keyboard attached. Pop the iPad off the keyboard hinge and it can be carried and used as a tablet, with the distinction of being protected by the rugged case.

The third mode is also for using the iPad mini as a tablet, but with the keyboard attached for easy transport. Just pop the tablet tray off the hinge as in the second mode, turn the iPad around and reinsert it in the magnetic hinge. The iPad tray is then “closed” over the keyboard leaving the screen exposed.

I find it easier to use the iPad mini without the keyboard by simply detaching it from the keyboard. The keyboard goes back in the bag.

The tablet tray attaches to the keyboard via magnets which line it up perfectly. The entire unit closes like a folio for transport. The folio is thicker than other cases (about an inch) due to the polycarbonate and rubber construction which provides protection.

The keyboard on the Rugged Folio is typical ZAGG, with nearly full-sized keys that make it possible to touch type despite the small size. Keys are placed where you expect them and there’s even a top row of dedicated keys for controlling the iPad mini. The keyboard is just as good as the ZAGGkeys Cover for the iPad mini, my favorite keyboard.

There is a battery life indicator under the power key on the upper right of the keyboard that indicates the charge level when you press the Fn key along with the key with the battery on it. It’s not likely that you’ll be pressing this often as ZAGG claims a staggering two years of typing on a single charge. This is much longer than the three months typical for keyboards of this type.

The Rugged Folio keyboard is backlit, and can be toggled through seven colors, each at three brightness levels. It can be turned off to lower battery consumption.

The ZAGG Rugged Folio for the iPad mini is perfect for taking it to work no matter the environment. While not military spec, the case should protect the iPad mini from most bumps and drops. That it does this while remaining relatively light and portable is due to good engineering and design.

Pros:

  • Good protection
  • Can use in multiple configurations
  • Innovative hinge for variable viewing angles

Cons:

  • A bit thick when closed
  • Expensive

Reviewer's rating: 8.5 out of 10

The Rugged Folio for the iPad mini will be available July 12 from ZAGG and AT&T for $139.99. It fits both the iPad mini with Retina Display and the older iPad mini. The company plans to have the larger model for the iPad Air soon for $149.99.

Continue to the following pages for a photo tour of the Rugged Folio including demonstrations of all three user configurations.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini front view

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini side view

The hinge works like a laptop and supports variable viewing angles.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini in hand

You can easily pop the iPad mini off the magnetic hinge and use it as a tablet without the keyboard.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini tablet mode

You can reverse the iPad and put it in the hinge for tablet use with the keyboard covered.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini closed

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini open

The case is surprisingly light and thin for such a rugged model.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini side view

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini keyboard

The keys are nearly full size and touch typing is possible.

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini speaker vents

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini vs. ZAGGkeys Cover

ZAGGkeys Cover, Rugged Folio

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Rugged Folio for the iPad mini vs. ZAGGkeys Cover 2

Top- Rugged Folio, Bottom- ZAGGkeys Cover

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