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I write for a living and a good keyboard is mandatory for my work. That's why I buy and try so many of them, looking for the ultimate solution to use with the iPad Air. The ZAGG Slim Book is so good my quest for the perfect keyboard may be over.
Last year I wrote almost a million words with the iPad Air using one keyboard or another. This demonstrates how important a good keyboard is for my work.
To be an acceptable solution, I have seven requirements for a keyboard case:
The Slim Book from ZAGG is the first keyboard case that meets all of the criteria. It is a case that fully protects the expensive iPad Air while remaining light and highly portable.
The case consists of two parts: the keyboard with hinge and the lid that holds the iPad Air. When closed both sides of the case are black plastic (white available), and when opened the aluminum keyboard with black keys is exposed. The Slim Book looks like a small MacBook when opened.
It is a simple process to insert and remove the iPad Air from the lid. There are cutouts allowing access to all iPad controls. The iPad in the lid attaches to the keyboard unit through the hinge with a slot full of powerful magnets that align the iPad properly and securely hold it in place.
Removing the tablet for use without the keyboard requires no force, you just pull up on the lid and it separates. This makes it easy to use the iPad as a tablet without the keyboard. The iPad Air is still nestled in the lid of the Slim Book, forming a case for protection.
The magnetic hinge can be adjusted in a range of viewing angles just like a laptop. This is a big advantage over other cases that only support a few fixed angles.
You can detach the iPad, turn it around and attach it backwards to form a convenient configuration for watching video. This would be useful on small airline trays.
You can push the iPad onto the keyboard for tablet use (ZAGG calls this book mode) while attached to the keyboard.
The Slim Book has smart cover technology that turns the tablet on and off by opening it and closing it, respectively. The keyboard goes to sleep with a few minutes of inactivity, and there is a power key on the upper right for manually shutting it off.
The Bluetooth keyboard charges via the included microUSB cable. An LED indicator on the power key is red when actively charging, and turns off when fully charged. This LED is green briefly when the keyboard is first powered on.
It's all about the keyboard
I mentioned how important it is to have a good keyboard, and the one on Slim Book shines. The keys have good tactile feedback, something vital for rapid touch typing. The spacing between the keys is sufficient to prevent hitting the wrong keys.
The top row of keys consists of standard iPad control keys. These include Home, Lock, Siri, and media control keys. The Caps Lock key has a bright blue indicator that lights up when it is toggled on. This same indicator is light blue to indicate when backlighting is turned on.
ZAGG has dropped the multi-color backlighting feature it used in previous keyboards. There's a simple toggle on/off by hitting the Fn key with the right arrow key. There is no brightness adjustment, but that's not an issue.
There is a battery key that when used with the Fn indicates remaining battery life. It flashes three times with the color (green, yellow, red) signaling battery level. This is important as you won't be charging the Slim Book very often. According to ZAGG, the keyboard will run a whopping two years on a charge with typical use. If you're like me, you may only charge it once as you'll trade in your iPad before the keyboard battery runs dry.
Because the iPad sits in the slot on the back of the unit, there is room for a small palm rest in front of the keyboard. This is a nice feature, as it makes long typing sessions comfortable.
The four configurations in use
The ZAGG Slim Book is versatile due to the four configurations. It is unique for a keyboard case for the iPad Air and adds a lot of value. I regularly use all four modes and each is shown in action in the slide show photos accompanying this review.
Laptop mode -- When closed, the Slim Book is no bigger than other keyboard cases for the iPad Air. Opening the lid forms a device that looks and functions like a MacBook. This case is one of the few that can be used resting on the lap. Even with the iPad pushed back to the farthest position, it is not top-heavy and is stable.
Tablet mode -- Pulling up on the iPad to remove it from the keyboard leaves you with a tablet in a case covering the back. It adds little weight to the iPad and provides a secure grip while using the tablet. The keyboard can be put in the gear bag for such use, or left at home. To prevent inadvertent key presses, the power key can be tapped to turn the keyboard off. All iPad controls are accessible through the cutouts on the case. Note that the Apple Smart Cover cannot be used with the Slim Book.
Viewing mode -- Removing the iPad from the keyboard, flipping it around and attaching it backwards positions the screen for functions like watching video. It turns the keyboard unit into an adjustable stand. I also find it good for reading ebooks and leaving my hands free.
Book mode -- Pushing the iPad down over the keyboard while in viewing mode forms book mode. This is for using the iPad as a tablet while remaining attached to the keyboard. While I prefer just removing the iPad from the keyboard for tablet use, this occasionally comes in handy for quick tasks better served by a tablet.
In just a short while, the ZAGG Slim Book has become my favorite keyboard for use with the iPad Air. It doesn't lack a feature I consider desirable, and it serves my every need. There is not a single thing I would change as ZAGG has gotten it just right. This makes the Slim Book deserve the rare rating of a perfect 10.
The Slim Book is available from ZAGG for $129.99 for the iPad Air and iPad Air 2, and for the iPad mini for $119.99. It may be found at major retailers for lower prices.
Reviewer's rating: 10 out of 10
Looks like a MacBook
Maximum viewing angle
Flip iPad around and you have video viewing mode
iPad pulls right off for use as a tablet sans keyboard
Book mode for using the iPad as a tablet with keyboard attached
Keyboard has laptop layout
Lid becomes iPad case when detached from keyboard