Review: Zagg Rugged Folio for iPad Air
When Zagg used the term "rugged" to describe the new Rugged Folio for iPad Air ($150), we were optimistic that it would be an ideal solution; users with children, pets, or daily anti-drop/anti-splash concerns want to be sure that their iPads are truly protected. Constructed primarily from rigid polycarbonate plastic and silicone rubber, the Rugged Folio features a similarly ruggedized, detachable Bluetooth wireless keyboard with a rechargeable battery. A recharging micro-USB to USB cable is included in the package.
Upon first handling of the Rugged Folio, it was clear that the entire unit is well-made. The combination of polycarbonate and silicone makes for a comfortable and fairly sturdy case, which Zagg enables you to use in a standalone fashion. Initial installation can be a little challenging: when we tried to open the empty case to insert the iPad Air, the Rugged Folio was difficult to open, requiring some finagling. The case can be separated from the hinge as needed.
Once the folio was open, we were able to really examine the quality of the Bluetooth keyboard, case, and central connecting hinge. Generally, the expectation with a rugged case is that your device will be totally or near-totally protected from the elements. It’s noteworthy that the Rugged Folio lacks button, camera, speaker, and screen protection, leaving all of these components exposed. The case is durable but not on par in either design or coverage with New Trent’s AirBender Pro or Otterbox’s Defender Series Case for iPad Air. If it was sold separately as a $50 case without any promises of “rugged” protection, the Rugged Folio case would actually be pretty good.
Considered separately, Rugged Folio’s Bluetooth keyboard is very good — on par with some laptop keyboards. Many times Bluetooth keyboards feel cheap to the touch, but the Rugged Folio keyboard is internally steel-reinforced, with solid construction and a design that nicely matches the back of the case. In addition to being backlit, the keys feel firm and responsive to the touch, rather than hollow, an issue with some Bluetooth keyboards. A quick Bluetooth connection, keys that don’t feel much smaller or more cramped than an Apple keyboard, and up to two years of one-hour-per-day typing battery life per charge all make for a very good typing experience on the Rugged Folio.
Physically connecting Rugged Folio’s case to the Bluetooth keyboard is easy, once you get the stiff C-shaped hinge to cooperate. Small magnets and grooves secure the case to the hinge, which is permanently connected to the keyboard. When the unit is completely together with an iPad Air inside, the hinge operates as expected with no issue; you can use the iPad in video and laptop typing orientations with full angle support. It’s worth noting that a complete Rugged Folio with iPad Air inside feels very similar in weight to the original iPad without a keyboard or case.
Zagg’s Rugged Folio for iPad Air is a fine keyboard case, but far from a perfect solution if you’re looking for the kind of ruggedized iPad Air protection its name suggests. We liked the keyboard and liked the case, but there’s not enough here to justify a price tag higher than the combination of an Apple Wireless Keyboard and virtually any other iPad Air case of your choosing. Given that Rugged Folio sells for $70 more than New Trent’s Airbender Pro, which came with a comparatively comprehensive, ruggedized iPad Air case and a nice keyboard. the Zagg Rugged Folio doesn’t offer enough of an enhanced experience to justify its $150 price. It earns our B- rating and limited recommendation; consider it if you really want a drop-proof keyboard, and can find it at a significant discount off of its MSRP.