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ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2 hands on: The best keyboard case

Very versatile and usable in several configurations, it's a good case, a very good keyboard, and a decent thin cover for the iPad Air 2 when used without the keyboard.
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1 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The ZAGG Slim Book for the older iPad Air impressed me so much I rated it a rare perfect 10 in my review. That’s why I ordered one for the iPad Air 2 as soon as I bought the latest iPad. The new Slim Book is just as good as the original, but an early issue keeps it from earning a rating of 10. I’ll address the issue later in the review.

The hardware

The Slim Book is both a back cover for the iPad Air 2 and a clamshell keyboard case. The plastic lid forms a case for the iPad Air 2 that can be attached to the aluminum keyboard unit. It uses magnets to firmly hold the tablet in place, and they automatically align the iPad Air 2 with the base when inserted.

As a clamshell, the Slim Book turns the iPad Air 2 into the thinnest, lightest laptop. The hinge used to attach the tablet to the base permits adjusting the screen through a range of comfortable viewing angles.

When the tablet is detached for use without the keyboard, the lid forms a back cover that provides simple protection for the iPad Air 2. The cover adds very little thickness to the thin tablet, and due to the slimmer iPad it’s even better than the earlier version for the iPad Air.

The ease with which the iPad can be detached from the keyboard is one of the best features. Few keyboard cases allow removing the lid this way, and it’s a real boon. It makes it a snap to use the iPad Air 2 and case in whatever way best fits the situation.

That includes attaching the iPad Air 2 to the keyboard with the screen facing backwards, forming an adjustable stand. This permits watching video and interacting with the screen without the keyboard getting in the way. This is a particularly good way to watch movies on flights, even with the cramped tray table common today.

Keyboard nirvana

As a laptop, the Slim Book is a joy to use. As someone who uses a keyboard to make a living, the one on this case is much appreciated. The key layout matches those on laptops, so moving from this one to a laptop is natural and requires no adjustment either way.

The key spacing on the Slim Book keyboard is decent, and the tactile feedback when typing is quite good. I can type as fast on this keyboard as on any laptop, something rare on iPad keyboards.

The top row of keys are controls for the iPad Air 2. These include Home, Siri, media controls, and a key to take screen shots. There is a toggle for the keyboard backlighting, and a battery key combination for checking the remaining battery life.

Putting the screen hinge on the very back of the keyboard unit allows room for a small palm rest between the user and the keyboard. This is a nice feature that you realize is significant the more you use it. It makes typing feel more natural, just like on a laptop. It's even better as there is no trackpad to accidentally hit when typing, as on a laptop.

Most versatile

The Slim Book connects to the iPad Air 2 via Bluetooth, and has an internal battery. According to ZAGG this battery should run for two years on a charge with typical use. Odds are some Slim Book owners might end up replacing the keyboard before needing a second charge.

Since the Slim Book supports using the iPad Air 2 as a laptop, a tablet with the keyboard, and in viewing mode, it is one of the most versatile keyboard cases for the tablet. As if that isn’t enough, it also supports pushing the iPad Air 2 down over the keyboard when in viewing mode. This permits using the tablet alone while leaving it attached to the keyboard. ZAGG calls this book mode. All of these modes are demonstrated in the photo gallery.

Like the model for the iPad Air, the new one for the iPad Air 2 is so good I wouldn’t change a thing. All of the features I need are supported, and I can use it as my daily work system without compromise. I can't imagine another keyboard case coming along that will work better for me.

The issue

If that’s the case, why am I not rating it a perfect 10 like its predecessor? That’s strictly due to an issue with the case after a week of heavy use.

Opening the case for use as a laptop one morning a plastic piece that sits in the hinge broke off. That rendered the Slim Book useless, as it could no longer be used attached to the keyboard. A quick scan through customer reviews for the Slim Book on Amazon showed a number of owners were having similar problems.

To the company’s credit, ZAGG stepped in immediately and indicated that the initial production run of the Slim Book produced defective units. Unfortunately for early adopters of the case, ZAGG failed to detect the defect and released them into the retail channels. The company indicated that it had pulled all remaining bad units from retailers, and were replacing buyers’ defective units.

I returned my broken Slim Book to Amazon and since ZAGG assured me that all units still available on the market were corrected cases, I ordered a new one from the online retailer. I had it sent overnight so I could verify it was indeed unaffected by the error in manufacture.

When it arrived it was immediately clear the new Slim Book was not defective like the first. The lid with the iPad Air 2 fit in the hinge perfectly without loose movement when opened and closed. The defective unit had a small amount of play doing this.

The replacement Slim Book feels and operates just like the model I own for the iPad Air, which is going strong after heavy usage. This indicates that ZAGG has indeed corrected the problem and gotten good units onto retailers’ shelves. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the Slim Book as a result.

The trouble this caused me and other buyers is why I won’t give the ZAGG Slim Book for the iPad Air 2 a perfect 10 rating. While the company did an admirable job rectifying the situation, it should never have let a bad production run get out to retailers and ultimately in the hands of its customers.

Conclusion

The ZAGG Slim Book for the iPad Air 2 is a fantastic keyboard case. It is very versatile, and usable in several configurations. It is a good case, a very good keyboard, and a decent thin cover for the iPad Air 2 when used without the keyboard.

Pros:

  • Versatile with four configurations supported
  • Outstanding keyboard
  • Backlit keys
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • None

Reviewer’s rating: 9.5 out of 10 (would have been a 10 save for issue covered above)

ZDNet reviews of top keyboard cases for the iPad Air 2:

ZDNet reviews of top keyboard cases for the iPad Air:

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2 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The hinge on the Slim Book works just like a laptop's.

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3 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

Simply pull the iPad Air 2 off the keyboard and use it as a tablet.

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4 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

Book mode for working with the tablet folded over the keyboard.

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5 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The white polycarbonate is a simple protective case when closed.

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6 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

Remove the iPad, flip it around and reattach it to the keyboard to form the handy viewing mode.

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7 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The keyboard looks much like that on the MacBook.

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8 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The palm rest is a very nice touch and provides comfort during long typing sessions.

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9 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

The Slim Book lid forms a nice back cover for the iPad Air 2.

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10 of 10 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Slim Book for iPad Air 2

Barely thicker than the iPad Air 2 alone when in the cover.

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