Review: ZAGGfolio for iPad Air

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I have reviewed several of ZAGG’s various keyboard cases over the last two and a half years, so already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the new ZAGGfolio for the iPad Air when I got it. However, coming back to the larger keyboard on the larger iPad has made this experience unique. I have used an iPad Mini for the last year up until I got my Air on launch day, so it feels really good to be back. I had the ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini for several months, but as good as it was, it can’t replace the more comfortable size of the new ZAGGfolio.

Writing this review has also been an interesting contrast, considering that I just finished reviewing the Livescribe 3 smartpen a couple of days ago. After spending a several hours with a pen in my hand, it’s good to be back to my familiar Bluetooth keyboard case arrangement. As cool as Livescribe’s pen and notebook solution is, keyboards are the way to go for me. My handwriting was never very good, and it isn’t getting any better with age. The more digital I get, the worse it is. I think my handwriting is pretty much beyond repair at this point, so I appreciate a good keyboard all the more.

The ZAGGfolio was actually the first accessory purchase that I made for my new iPad Air. I got an email from ZAGG with the announcement that they would be available before launch, so I had pre-ordered one in hopes of getting it before my iPad. Unfortunately, ZAGG ran a little short of stock and I found out mine hadn’t even shipped on launch day. Fortunately, the new ZAGGfolio was already available at retail outlets, as well, so I cancelled my online order and was able to pick one up at my local Best Buy. So, I’ve had and used this keyboard case for a month now and have gotten a really good feel for its performance. Let’s take a closer look.

 

 

Video Review

Design

ZAGG has made Bluetooth keyboard cases for every generation of iPad since the original, but this year’s ZAGGfolio marks a departure for their full size iPad model cases. Previous folio-style versions for the iPad 2, 3, and 4 were larger, and were also limited to a single viewing angle. This was mostly due to the size and weight of the previous generations of iPads. Those larger and heavier models required more support to hold the tablet steady, so the design options were more limited. The iPad rested in a groove behind the keyboard to get the necessary stability.

ZAGGfolio Profile

Thanks to the much slimmer build and lighter weight of the iPad Air, ZAGG was able to borrow from the more flexible design of the ZAGGkeys Folio for the iPad Mini. This results in a keyboard case that is much thinner and lighter than last year’s models. It also greatly improves on the iPad Mini version, thanks to the extra width. The ZAGGkeys Folio’s keyboard was as good as could be expected under the size constraints of an 8″ tablet, but it just can’t compare to one with a little extra room for the keyboard.

The ZAGGfolio’s biggest design improvement over previous full size models is the addition of the rear hinge.

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Like its iPad Mini counterpart, the new ZAGGfolio can be positioned securely at a variety of viewing angles. This makes the case much more useful on uneven surfaces, such as your lap. The hinge also does a good job of holding the case securely closed during transport, negating the need for the clip or clasp closure that previous models required.

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The exterior look and feel of the ZAGGfolio also takes its cues from the ZAGGkeys Folio, sharing the same plastic construction. The edges of the case are smooth plastic, with the center covered with textured faux leather.

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The thin plastic iPad section only provides a minimal amount of drop protection, but it does fully cover the back sides and protect the surface from scratches. On the positive side, this thin plastic is the reason for keyboard case’s relatively light weight. As for the faux leather, it’s hard to be too complimentary of it. Even the best fake leather is just that. However, it does provide a bit of texture that makes for better grip in the hand.

I can definitely say that I prefer the black version of the ZAGGfolio, no matter which color iPad Air it is paired with. I previously reviewed the white version of the ZAGGkeys Folio, which matched my white iPad Mini. The white faux leather of that case showed every bit of dirt and debris, and had to be cleaned every few weeks to a month. If not, it would end up looking pretty ragged. Even with cleaning, mine did yellow a bit over time, which was very obvious next to the bright white of the case’s plastic edges.

On the other hand, I haven’t had a moment’s trouble with black faux leather on my ZAGGfolio. I’ve used it for three weeks in a variety of environments, and it doesn’t show any ill effects. The black material naturally does a much better job of hiding the same dust and dirt that my previous white case highlighted.

 

 

Build Quality

As for the ZAGGfolio’s quality of construction, it is just as I would expect from ZAGG based on my previous experience. All of the various cutouts for the camera, headphones, buttons, and Lightning Port line up perfectly.

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The power switch, Bluetooth pairing button, and the micro USB charging port on the keyboard itself are also just as they should be. As for durability, the plastic construction feels solid and has held up very well over the last three weeks. The hinge still holds securely at all positions, including closed, the auto on/off magnets reliably turn the iPad on and off, and the exterior of the case shows no signs of wear from constant use over the last month.

Then there are the little touches that I’ve come to expect from ZAGG, such as the small rubber spacers at the four corners of the keyboard that keep the screen out of contact with the keyboard’s keys.

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All together, I think the ZAGGfolio is a perfect fit for Apple’s latest iPad. The Air feels like the iPad that Apple wanted to make all along, but couldn’t right away because of technological limitations. They were just waiting on the tech to catch up to their ultimate design. The ZAGGfolio feels the same way to me. As good as ZAGG’s earlier folio cases were, this seems like the logical end result in terms of design and build. It is a polished, perfect fit for the iPad Air in every respect.

 

 

Features

Feature-wise, the ZAGGfolio doesn’t bring anything new to table that we haven’t already seen in a ZAGG keyboard case. All of the shortcut keys that we are used to are still here. And, as in many previous models, most have dedicated keys, so you don’t have to worry about remembering key combinations.

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The ZAGGfolio also has auto on/off magnets in the front edge, like all of its companion products. Like Apple’s Smart Cover and Smart Case, this automatically turns your iPad Air on or off when you open or close the case. This is one of those features that is so ubiquitous that you don’t even think about unless it isn’t there. ZAGG omitted this feature from their ZAGGkeys Mini cases, the first models offered for the iPad Mini last year, and it’s absence really stood out when I reviewed them around a year ago. They corrected that omission in the ZAGGkeys Folio, and I am glad to see it here in the ZAGGfolio, as well.

Keyboard backlighting has been a staple feature of several recent ZAGG keyboards, and is also included in the ZAGGfolio.

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The backlight has three different brightness levels, and seven different colors (white, red, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue, and purple) available.

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It is clear, bright, and very useful in dimly lit settings.

ZAGG also wisely included an automatic timeout that will cut the backlight off after a period of non-use. As good as the battery life on most Bluetooth keyboard cases is (and this one is no exception), using the backlight cuts it down exponentially. As such, the auto timeout is a smart addition.

The ZAGGfolio’s keyboard backlight gives users a lot of flexibility, no matter what situation they find themselves typing in. I’ve always thought it was a cool feature, but never used it much because I don’t do a lot of typing in dim light. However, I was recently testing out the Logitech’s Bluetooth Keyboard Folio (a competing case for the iPad Air) in the passenger seat of my family’s van around dusk, and quickly saw the value. That particular keyboard does not have a backlight, and a quickly found myself at the point where typing was nearly impossible. If you find yourself typing in situations such as this, the backlight is a real sanity saver.

 

 

Keyboard Performance

As good as it’s design, build quality, or features may be, performance is the determining factor for any Bluetooth keyboard case. Fortunately, like most ZAGG keyboards, the ZAGGfolio does well in this department. As discussed earlier, the size of the keyboard and the spacing between keys is perfectly adequate for touch typing.

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It is comparable to the keyboard of a 10″ netbook, which certainly can’t hold a candle to a full-size keyboard. However, for those who want a case that gives them access to said keyboard everywhere they take their iPad, this setup is solid.

The action of the ZAGGfolio’s keys is springy and responsive. However, if there is a major issue I have with this case, it is that I still get the occasional key doubling that I have noticed with the last few models from ZAGG. We still have the older Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case (which was made by ZAGG), and ZAGGkeys Pro at our house, and I do not have this issue with either of them. It seemed to start with the first model I tried with blacklit keys, and I’ve had it on each one since to varying degrees.

In my review of the ZAGGkeys Folio, I mentioned that the doubling effect I get on various ZAGG keyboards seems to stem from my typing style. Let’s just call it hamfisted. Unfortunately, that’s probably putting it mildly. Anyway, when I gave the ZAGGkeys Folio to my wife to see if she experienced the same issue, she didn’t have any trouble. And she typed a few paragraphs in the attempt. Granted, she is a former legal secretary and paralegal who can type like the wind, so she has a lot of experience on me. The issue, while annoying, looks like it is less a bug, and more a sensitivity to heavy-handed typing.

To be fair, I should also mention that this isn’t the only keyboard that I’ve experienced this key doubling issue with. My current work laptop is a Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, and I have the same problem just about as often with it during extended typing. And Lenovo is no slouch when it comes to keyboards. They managed to keep the ThinkPad’s industry standard setting keyboard at a consistent level after they took over the line from IBM years ago. I’m sure they know a little but about making a good keyboard, yet I find myself with similar performance to that of the ZAGGfolio and other recent ZAGG keyboards.

All that said, however poor my typing my be, I have never experienced similar issues with any of the Logitech keyboard cases that I have reviewed, including their latest model for the iPad Air. The ZAGGfolio is an impressive accessory in all other respects, and still performs well enough when it comes to typing, but it is unfortunate that the one aspect that you use the most in a keyboard case is its lone weakness in my personal experience.

 

 

Conclusion

Like the majority of ZAGG keyboard cases that I have either owned or reviewed (or in a few cases, both), I have come away impressed with the ZAGGfolio for the iPad Air. For someone like me who wants to use the Air for some productivity-oriented tasks, and also wants full device protection, this accessory is the ideal addition to my setup. There is the one major negative of occasional key doubling, but the rest of the device is near perfect in execution. As I stated earlier, the ZAGGfolio feels like the logical destination that previous designs were leading to, in much the same way that the iPad Air does.

After testing and reviewing Logitech’s competing Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for the iPad Air, I have have found that despite the key doubling issue, the ZAGGfolio is my favorite of the bunch. I much prefer the traditional keyboard layout of the ZAGGfolio to the competition, and that is a big deal with me. I also love having the freedom of movement and viewing angles that the rear hinge offers. And the backlight is great bonus that can be a lifesaver when you need it. All together, this is the best keyboard case I have seen for the iPad Air, and it is definitely worth the $100 investment for those like myself who need or want one.

 

The ZAGGfolio is available in both white and black, and can be purchased directly from ZAGG or from many electronics retailers such as BestBuy for a retail price of $99.99.

 

The ZAGGfolio was independently purchased by the post author in the App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

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