Review: Zagg ZaggKeys Cover + Folio Keyboard Cases for iPad mini
Zagg's lineup of keyboard cases for the iPad mini has grown by two with the introduction of ZaggKeys Cover ($100) and ZaggKeys Folio ($100). Both sport the same, small Bluetooth keyboard, which is just as wide as the tablet in landscape orientation. The big difference between the two accessories is how they hold your iPad mini in place. Cover uses a magnetic lip, somewhat like a Smart Cover, which means it leaves the back of the device exposed when the parts are folded up for carrying around. Folio, on the other hand, is a complete faux leather-covered case, with cutouts for the buttons and ports. Both keyboards are backlit, and can cycle between seven different colors. Zagg includes a Micro-USB charging cable with each case.
The most obvious comparison to ZaggKeys Cover is Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard mini, although they’re not identical. Logitech was the first company to come up with a magnetic latching system for a keyboard, attaching the keyboard to the edge of an iPad without protecting the back. Instead of including a thin spine, Zagg uses a curved hinge that slightly wraps around the back of the device; some Smart Cover-compatible shells may actually work in conjunction with it, although our favorite, SwitchEasy’s
CoverBuddy, doesn’t. The bottom of the keyboard is a nice blue brushed aluminum, and the footprint exactly matches that of the tablet. It’s actually about a millimeter thinner than the iPad mini, so when they’re put together, the iPad mini and Cover require a little less than double the mini’s normal thickness. Along the edges, you’ll find a power switch, Bluetooth syncing button, Micro-USB port, and charge indicator light.
Instead of having to separate the iPad mini from the keyboard and attach it to a second slot, ZaggKeys Cover allows you to start typing simply by lifting the tablet like a laptop lid. The hinge raises the iPad slightly, and allows for your choice of angles. There are magnets in the keyboard to automatically wake the tablet’s screen when you go to use it. Since the keyboard doesn’t fold behind the iPad mini, you’ll likely find yourself having to remove it for tasks other than typing.
ZaggKeys Folio is certainly the more protective of the two options, though this results in a bit of additional thickness. At about 0.66 inches thick, it’s still relatively small, and it doesn’t add significant bulk in terms of height or width. Instead of metal, the keyboard is made from plastic, and so is the iPad case that’s attached along its left edge. Both are covered in a faux leather material. The tablet easily snaps into place, and is well-protected inside the shell. Apart from necessary openings for the camera, buttons and ports, the iPad is otherwise totally covered. Each of the holes is tailored nicely to avoid over-exposure of the mini’s aluminum, while still allowing larger accessory plugs to connect without an issue. Folio opens in much the same way as ZaggKeys Cover.
As mentioned, both solutions offer the same keyboard layout, which is an improvement over what the company offered with its Mini 7 Keyboard Case. It’s small, but it seems that Zagg got as much out of the real estate as it possibly could. There are a total of six rows of keys, something that was not possible on designs such as Ultrathin Keyboard mini. Along the top are iOS function keys, followed by numbers and then a close-to-standard QWERTY layout. A few concessions did have to be made to accommodate the limited space: the tilde and Q keys are combined, as are the caps lock and tab keys. On the other side, the most noticeable difference over a standard keyboard setup is that the colon and quote keys are each half-width. This is better than before, when Zagg had them combined as one key. Overall, we found the typing experience to be about as good as one can currently get from such a small keyboard: serious typists will find this to be a superior solution to tapping on the screen for writing long-form content on the iPad mini, while users with only occasional type-input needs will be just as well off with the mini’s virtual keyboard.
The backlighting is a cool touch that we haven’t seen executed like this before. Both keyboards support three brightnesses, and seven different colors. Toggling between the modes is all controlled by the function and arrow keys. To save power, the lights turn off after a minute of the keys not being used. While neither backlighting nor colored backlighting is a strictly necessary feature for a keyboard like this, they’re both nice differentiators that will appeal to some people.
ZaggKeys Cover and ZaggKeys Folio clearly represent step forwards for Zagg: though they’re each $10 more expensive than the Mini 7 and Mini 9, their keyboard layouts and overall designs are much stronger. Of the two, Folio is the smarter option for the price. It’s protective and has a very solid keyboard, earning it a strong general recommendation; at this point, iPad mini-specific keyboards don’t get better than this. Cover is also a nice option, and will appeal to those who prefer as thin of a solution as possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover the iPad’s back, which is a problem given the asking price; it merits a lower B rating. While it’s still a good choice if you’re looking for a keyboard, it doesn’t offer enough to fully justify a $100 expenditure. Both options will be most appealing when offered at significant sale prices, as Zagg often does through its own web site.