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Summary:

Accessory-maker ZAGG recently introduced its ZAGGmate iPad case, which comes in two flavors: with and without integrated Bluetooth keyboard. I had a chance to test out the keyboard variety. Read on to find out how it stacks up against the Kensington KeyFolio and other similar offerings.

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Accessory-maker ZAGG recently introduced its ZAGGmate iPad case, which comes in two flavors: with and without integrated Bluetooth keyboard. I had a chance to test out the keyboard variety. Read on to find out how it stacks up against the Kensington KeyFolio and other similar offerings.

Build and Design

The ZAGGmate is different from the recent crop of keyboard cases for iPad. It isn’t a leather or fake-leather folio, like most of the offerings you’ll find. Instead, it’s a hardshell made of aircraft-grade aluminum that matches the finish of your iPad itself. When operating as a case, it doesn’t actually protect that finish, leaving the back of your iPad exposed to the elements (unless you have some kind of stick-on film shield already in use).

In case-mode, you place your iPad face-down against the keyboard, and the ZAGGmate’s foam inner lining hugs the Apple tablet to prevent it from coming lose. If you throw it into a bag without any additional protection, your screen won’t be damaged, but you can expect to scratch and scuff the aluminum backing on your iPad. Combined with a sleeve (most of which will fit with the ZAGGmate on), though, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Of course, that means purchasing another protective device in addition to the $99 you’re spending on the ZAGGmate.

But the case is only half the story. Lining the inside of the ZAGGmate is a Bluetooth keyboard. There’s a fold-out tab that props up your iPad in either landscape or portrait mode while you’re using the keyboard. The keyboard itself is about 90 percent the size of a full one, and makes maximum use of the space available. Unlike the keyboard on the Kensington KeyFolio, it has both Shift keys. The texture of the keys also isn’t rubberized, as it is with many of the folio-type cases, making this keyboard much more pleasant to type on.

Features and Function

The keyboard is actually a pleasure to use. As mentioned, it doesn’t sacrifice any keys to fit into the space provided, and it feels very similar in use to Apple’s own wireless keyboard in terms of noise and the depth of individual key presses. Keys are closer together, but adjusting to this difference is much easier than it is to the keyboard in Kensington’s case.

Also, I mentioned that I experienced rare connectivity issues with the Kensington case. Not so with the ZAGGmate. It seems to have struck just the right balance in terms of knowing how long to wait after the last keystroke before going to sleep, and the connection is solid when it’s awake.

The keyboard also includes many special function keys, including some that aren’t found on the KeyFolio. Spotlight search, iPod and volume controls, home, picture frame and darken screen buttons are all including on the function key row. The Spotlight key is especially handy, since it can act as a launcher, but I wish Apple would let you scroll through the results with the arrow keys so you wouldn’t have to touch the screen at all.

ZAGGmate also got things right with the battery. According to the company’s claims, the battery (charged via included MicroUSB cable) can last a couple of months in standby. It hasn’t run out on me yet, and I haven’t plugged it in since I received it a week ago.

Verdict

In terms of the keyboard/case spectrum, the ZAGGmate with keyboard leans heavily towards the keyboard side of things. In fact, it’s almost more of a competitor for Apple’s keyboard dock than for other keyboard cases (and a very strong one at that). Using the ZAGGmate without a sleeve or built-in laptop compartment is something I’d probably never do. At the same time, my gear bags almost always have either one of those available. Plus the ZAGGmate takes up way less room than the KeyFolio or other cases of similar design, and weighs less, too.

  • Highs: Great keyboard and battery, good looks, lightweight and low-profile.
  • Lows: Doesn’t protect the back of the iPad.

If you’re serious about using the iPad as a mobile device, this is the best option out there right now. The price may seem a little steep when you factor in additional protection for the back of your device, but if you’ve already been an iPad owner for a while, you probably already have something that can serve in that capacity anyway. And of course, the ZAGGmate still protects the screen, which is more important anyway, depending on how much stock you put in looks.

Disclosure: The ZAGGmate tested was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.

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  1. This just beggars belief! Why not go out and get a laptop?

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    1. because apple doesn’t make one with a touchscreen… yet.

      Lol..

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      1. Apple did say in one of their conferences that they did make a touchscreen based mac. It did work successfully but the problem is that using a touchscreen based mac will make people fatigued from using the tablet and soon they will be fed up of it. Apple don’t even want to think about touchscreen based macs at the moment. So I guess.. iPads are one of the best tablets out there!

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    2. This is an accessory for a tablet style computer. Some people may like the tablet form factor, but may need a keyboard every now and then. These come in handy for those occasions. For instance, when I use my iPad to log (ssh) into my web server to make a few changes to a page, I use my bluetooth keyboard. Most of the time though, a keyboard isn’t needed and would just get in the way of using the device.

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  2. Are there international versions of the keyboard like in Swedish? Or can you use the Apple BT keyboard instead?

    For the rest of us outside the US we would like to know the details for international use. If it’s only US keyboard then it’s useless for us.

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  3. I would get this case sans keyboard, but not knowing the form factor of iPad2 has me hesitating…

    I must admit I am looking forward to iPad2. I have had the iPad since day one, and in those eight months, I have bought two external keyboards ( now used for my Mac or returned, on screen is better, IMO ) and probably six iPad cases. Bookbook is the clear winner for me.

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  4. Anyone with an iPad should check out the TabGrip (tabgrip.com). It’s like nothing else out there, and it actually helps you get the most out of your iPad. I love how fast and easy it is to use, which is what I love about my iPad. Great quality too.

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  5. I would wonder if the sides of the case would cut into the side of the hands as you are typing.

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  6. Wouldn’t a touchscreen laptop make your arms tired pretty fast?
    I can’t imagine Apple going in that direction.

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    1. Definitely. This is where, in my eyes, Apple seems to understand multitouch better than the Windows ecosystem. Multitouch is not a display technology – it’s an input technology. It just happens to have the highest profile on devices where the display surface and the input surface are the same: smartphones and tablets. For “conventional” computing devices, it makes far more sense to make your pointing surface (mouse or trackpad) multitouch than to expect your user to keep putting an arm up to interact with the screen.

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      1. Great point. I’ve never actually heard someone describe it that way. I couldn’t agree more. I really missed my laptop keyyboard and mouse for input until I got the TabGrip. Everyone who has or is getting an iPad needs to get a TabGrip. You’ll be shocked how much better it makes using your iPad.

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  7. That TabGrip is ridiculously priced. Good design or not, something like that needs to be no more than $25. Pass.

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    1. I first thought $50 was steep too until I tried it out. I use my iPad a lot, and I can tell you it is totally worth the cost of a few apps and miles better than those inexpensive accessories. I haven’t run across anyone who has tried it and didn’t think it was worth the price.

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  8. Mainstreethost Monday, December 13, 2010

    I would wait for iPad2 it seems to be more user friendly. The new case seems nice will have to try it out.
    mainstreethost

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  9. RE: Phil and TabGrip.

    Okay, so yes, Phil Song you clearly are connected directly with TabGrip as is evident by the URL associated with your account at GigaOm and your Facebook profile. I should have noticed that.

    So why not be upfront about it instead of acting as though you’re an unbiased user? Your “comment” contributes nothing to the discussion and is no more than a blatant advertisement.

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    1. I am connected to TabGrip. I thought that was pretty obvious, and I didn’t think I was acting like an unbiased user. I love my TabGrip. That’s about as biased as you can be, right? But, thanks for your insightful comments. I’m sure everyone here found them useful.

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      1. Dude, there was nothing obvious about it. The only thing obvious was your advertisement and lack of contribution to the discussion about the ZaggMate.

        I did have a previous post about my thoughts/questions about the ZaggMate as well as my opinions on the TabGrip (and your connection with them), but I either didn’t submit it properly or it wasn’t added. Not sure what happened there.

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    2. No worries CSS Design. I think it’s great people have different views and opinions about what’s out there for iPads. The ZaggMate is obviously a beautiful product, even if not my cup of tea. Enjoy the holidays.

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  10. Why is it so, that only the keyboard version is tested and mentioned all around the Net, and nearly nothing about the zaggmate without keyboard?!? I really don’t get it, its not even properly introduced (e.g. I desired 8 photos from differrent angels at least) on the Zagg page. And anyway, i might be “alone” with it but why would i buy a keyboard when iPad already has (builtin)one? :) it used to be a Secondary machine (for me) … Just write the novels on the Primera :P

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