ZAGG is known for their keyboard cases and covers, but their first effort for the iPad Mini wasn't a standout. The ZAGGkeys Folio changes that, bringing the company's best features to Apple's popular 8" tablet.
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Review: ZAGGkeys Folio for iPad Mini

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When it comes to Bluetooth keyboard cases for the iPad, there are a couple of companies who’s products tend to stand above the rest. ZAGG has cemented its name on this list with a string of flexible and feature-packed products, such as the ZAGGfolio, ZAGGkeys Pro, ZAGGkeys Pro Plus, ZAGGkeys PROfolio, and ZAGGkeys PROfolio+. There has been a consistent evolution in this line of covers and cases, bringing features such as Smart Cover-like magnets for auto on/off, island-style spaced keys, and multi-colored key backlighting. If you look in the tablet section of any major electronics retailer, you’re likely to find one or more ZAGG keyboards there, and for good reason.

While ZAGG has been on the forefront when it comes to keyboard accessories for the iPad, their first attempt for the smaller iPad Mini wasn’t quite up to the level of their previous efforts. The ZAGGkeys Mini 7 and 9, which I reviewed back in December, aren’t bad products by any means. However, they demonstrate the difficulty in creating a keyboard cover or case for a 7 to 8″ tablet. The 7’s keyboard is small, and requires key combinations to get to some common punctuation. This really slowed me down, and I never got used to it. The 9’s rigid plastic iPad section makes it hard to get the tablet in and out of the case. Also, while this case has larger keyboard with a more traditional layout, it isn’t as versatile because of the odd fit due to its larger size. Both the ZAGGkeys Mini 7 and 9 have kickstands, which aren’t as stable in the lap as ZAGG’s other keyboards. They also lack the auto on/off magnets of their larger covers and cases, as well as any mechanism to hold the case together while closed.

Despite their shortcomings, when the ZAGGkeys Mini keyboard cases were released, they were still the best in a fairly small and fairly weak category of products for the still new iPad Mini. Other, better options have become available since that time, which brings us to the present, and the new ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini. After using this keyboard case over the last week, I can attest that it is a worthy to sit next to ZAGG’s top quality products for the full size iPad.

 

Video Review

The Good

There’s a lot to love about the ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini. Unlike its predecessor, it brings all of the top features of the original ZAGGfolio and ZAGGkeys Folio lines to the iPad Mini.

1. The Feel

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One of the features that I liked about the ZAGGkeys Mini cases was the feel of the exterior, and ZAGG was smart to port it over to the Folio. The soft faux-leather covering is easy to grip, making the case comfortable to carry. The fact that the Folio measures only 6.9mm when closed and is also lightweight help with this, as well. This material also keeps the Folio from slipping when typing on a harder surface.

2. The Hinge

zaggkeys_folio_ipad_mini_sideOf all the features of the Folio, this one really stands out to me, because it makes the design possible. Where the ZAGGkeys Minis had kickstands and even the original ZAGGfolio and ZAGGkeys Folios were limited to just one screen angle, the strong hinge of the Folio for iPad Mini allows the user a lot of flexibility when it comes to positioning. The hinge is also designed in such a way that, even when the iPad Mini is positioned at its steepest angle, the tilt and weight distribution keep the case from falling backwards while typing. This feature is essential to make a design with no kickstand or rear stabilization work. Kudos to ZAGG for going back to the drawing board and getting this right.

3. The Backlight

The same adjustable strength and multi-colored backlight that is seen on the ZAGGkeys Pro Plus and the Pro Folio+ comes to the iPad Mini. This feature may seem like a frivolous addition, but just try using a keyboard of any kind without it in the dark. It’s a lifesaver when you need it, and the keyboard’s battery life is still very good, regardless of its use.

4. The Keyboard

zaggkeys_folio_ipad_mini_openAll worthy keyboard covers and cases made to fit the iPad Mini will come with the caveat of being good “for their size.” Any keyboard made to work with a 7 or 8 inch tablet without weighting it down or fitting awkwardly (like the ZAGGkeys Mini 9) is going to come with trade-offs. Size will always be a factor, and a larger keyboard of equal quality will always be a better option when available. However, when designing a keyboard case to work with the iPad Mini, making the best use of the limited real estate is critical. ZAGG got the mix right this time.

There are some very small targets here, such as the number 1, left bracket, colon/semi-colon, and coma/quotation mark keys. They can be difficult to hit when moving fast, but these smaller keys mean that there are no key combinations required for any letters, numbers, or punctuation. ZAGG even managed to include a row of dedicated function keys at the top. The keyboard has a much better balance than the ZAGGkeys Mini 7, and has become a positive feature of the Folio rather than a tradeoff.

 

The Not So Good

No product is perfect. While the ZAGGkeys Folio for iPad Mini is a big step forward for ZAGG, but there are still some small complaints that potential buyers should be aware of.

1. Lily White

When I corresponded with my PR contact at ZAGG about this product, he asked if I had a white or black iPad Mini. I knew from the press release that the ZAGGkeys Folio would be available in both black and white, but I didn’t consider the implications until I got it. It is really white. Not cream. Not off white. Bright white.

On its own, this isn’t a problem. The case actually looks really good out of the box. The problem is keeping it that way. Because both sides of the case are covered in soft, textured faux-leather material, the exterior is susceptible to showing dirt. Within a few days I had to clean mine up a bit with a damp cloth. This wasn’t difficult, but on the other hand, I wasn’t using it in extreme conditions, either. Just at home and on the desk of my new office at work.

In the end, this is a nit-picky complaint, and I seriously doubt that the black version has the same problem. Anyone who really likes white accessories is certainly aware of the issues with keeping such items looking good. The white Folio is no different. However, if you own a white iPad Mini and don’t want to have to worry about keeping your case clean, you might consider going with the black version of the Folio. I am considering picking up a black version myself, if I stick with the Mini form factor when the next round of Apple devices comes along this Fall.

2. Fit and Finish

Again, I’m being picky, but the fit and finish of the case isn’t quite as good as what I’ve seen in ZAGG’s full size iPad cases. The Folio is still a world better than the plethora of no-name knockoffs available online, but were a couple of noticeable inconsistencies. While all of the cut-outs for for the iPad’s camera, buttons, and ports are perfect as usual, the small rubber spacers that are supposed to keep the iPad’s screen off of the keyboard are too low on mine. As such, my screen protector has a very small line on it now where it is sits against the plastic base below the keyboard when the case is closed.

Another small issue that I saw with my keyboard is with the seam around the edge of the keyboard half of the case. The fit is a little loose around the on/off switch, with a slight but noticeable gap there. The last thing I noticed was a creaking sound from the more flexible keyboard section moving while positioning the iPad section with the hinge. The hinge holds just fine, and the case is secure when positioned, but the sound hurts the perception of the Folio’s quality. As with the issue of the white model showing dirt, these small fit and finish issues are ultimately superficial. And if this is the worst I could find over the course of a week of constant use, then ZAGG has definitely done their job.

 

Conclusion

While I had two minor complaints with the ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini, overall I came away very impressed. Despite the fact that the white version shows dirt, both models look sharp and professional, and fit the look of the iPad Mini to a tee. The backlight is very useful in low light, the hinge gives the case much more flexibility than even ZAGG’s popular cases for full size iPad models, and the keyboard is a big improvement over the ZAGGkeys Mini models.

Those original models were acceptable, but had significant tradeoffs. The Folio does away with those issues and brings the best features of ZAGG’s other cases to the iPad Mini. In my eyes, this makes the ZAGGkeys Folio the best keyboard case currently available for the iPad Mini. While this may not be the ideal tool for typing out the next Great American Novel, I think of it like a camera. The best one is the one you have with you. As good a case as the Folio is, there’s a good chance that will be quite often. If I know I need to do a lot of document work on my Mini, I will bring a full size Bluetooth keyboard along with me. However, the ZAGGkeys Folio has proven to be more than adequate for notetaking, email, and other everyday typing tasks while on the go.

 

The ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini is available from select retailers in either white or black for a retail price of $99.99. It will be available directly from ZAGG within the next week.

 

 

The ZAGGkeys Folio for iPad Mini was provided by ZAGG for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

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