When it comes to accessories for the iPad, we’re no longer just seeing cases, stands, or screen protectors on the market. Manufacturers have started to cater to users who aren’t all that keen on typing with the iPad’s virtual keyboard for extended periods. As such, the iPad is often being paired up with Apple’s own iPad Keyboard Dock or Wireless Keyboard. This may be good for when at home, but on the road, it can be cumbersome to lug around the two separately.
It’s no wonder then that we’ve seen a whole new market open up for cases that incorporate a physical keyboard. The Kensington KeyFolio, Gembox Keyboard Case and the upcoming Adonit Writer are such examples. Unfortunately, most add unwanted bulk and make your iPad look more like a crummy (second hand) netbook. Thankfully, ZAGG has come up with a solution that is both sleek and sexy, not to mention fun to use – the ZAGGmate w/ Keyboard case.
One of main selling features of the ZAGGmate is without a doubt its form factor. Made with aircraft-grade aluminum on the outer shell, the trusty bluetooth keyboard is found on the flip side. When in use, a plastic hinge folds up and helps prop up the iPad in either horizontal or vertical position. The groove that the iPad sits in combined with the hinge provides for more than adequate sturdiness when typing. The downside is that the hinge only locks into one position, meaning users won’t be able to manually adjust the viewing angle. Conversely, the standalone ZAGGmate model (without keyboard) does allow for up to 10 different viewing angles.
The ZAGGmate was also designed to work as a case (well, sort of). The iPad fits perfectly on top of the keyboard, and the high-density padding within provides for some shock absorption. Once enclosed, the iPad rests snuggly and won’t easliy fall out due to the tight fit. Of course, this leaves the backside of the iPad completely exposed, so don’t expect full-on protection from this half-case. The plus side to this particular design is that the ZAGGmate is relatively lightweight and hardly adds any bulk to the iPad. It weighs 12.8 ounces (0.37 kg) — the WiFi iPad model is 0.68 kg — and adds only 1/4″ when it’s in the case mode.
The bluetooth keyboard found on the ZAGGmate is basically your full sized keyboard skrunk to fit into a working area of about 9.75″ wide (which is about the size of the iPad). All the main and essential keys found on an Apple keyboard are here: fn, control, option, command, shift, caps, tab, etc. It even has the arrow keys tucked into the bottom right corner for those excel and word documents.
Then, there are the special function keys specific to the iPad: Home (Esc) key acts just like the iPad’s own home button (double tapping it will bring up the multitasking bar on iOS 4.2); spotlight search; slideshow; music and volume control for your music library (play/pause/next/previous); and the international keyboard button, which allows you to quickly switch between international keyboards. And while its size obviously prevents ZAGGmate from having a Numeric Keypad often found on full-sized keyboards, they are actually superimposed over a group of keys on the keyboard via blue fn keys to the right. This should come in handy for those who regularly work with numbers.
The keyboard itself works surprisingly well; the keys are responsive and have a nice feel to them when typing. Given that it is smaller than what you’re likely accustomed to, you’ll probably need a small adjustment period before feeling real comfortable using it. Personally, it took me about a good hour or so before I was able to type relatively close to my usual speeds. The added bonus of using a bluetooth keyboard like the one here is that you’ll have the entire screen for your work space, as the virtual keyboard collapses and no longer takes up half the screen.
To give you a better idea, I used an app called TapTyping that measures one’s typing speeds. With the “Simple Sentences” course, I tested my typing over numerous sessions using the iPad’s virtual keyboard, the ZAGGmate keyboard and Apple’s Wireless keyboard. Typing on the iPad’s virtual screen (which is something I’ve never enjoyed doing) I was able to type 38 wpm with 94% accuracy. On the ZAGGmate, the number went up to 60 wpm and 96%. Finally, on the Apple Keyboard, I averaged 62 wpm and 96%. Needless to say, I have been much more efficient at typing on on the ZAGGmate than that of the virtual keyboard. So in case you’re wondering whether you can type with speed and ease on it, the answer is yes! (granted, with a bit of practice)
It’s also powered by a 510 mAh rechargeable lithium polymer battery that will reportedly last weeks between charges. From my experience, this does seem to hold true. I initially charged it over night upon receiving the product, and it’s been more than 3 weeks now and I’ve yet to recharge it via the USB 5-pin mini cable (included). It does help that the keyboard goes into sleep mode whenever it’s not in use.
And pairing the ZAGGmate keyboard to the iPad is a breeze. Ensure that both the iPad and keyboard’s bluetooth signal is turned on. Then go into Settings –> General –> Bluetooth and tap on “ZAGGmate” under Devices. Upon doing so, you’ll be prompted to enter a 4-5 digit code on your keyboard and you’re good to go. You’ll only have to go through this process once (unless you pair it with another device at home), and waking up the keyboard from sleep mode usually takes a second or two.
Is it for you?
At $99US (Amazon currently sells it for $78), the ZaggMate doesn’t come cheap. It’s designed for those who never quite felt comfortable typing on the iPad’s screen and want an external keyboard that’s portable and complimentary to the iPad’s own design. If you’re part of this group, you’d be hard pressed to find a much better alternative on the market at the moment. It is unfortunate that the case doesn’t protect the backside of the iPad, but given how it has increased my productivity levels, that trade-off is something I’m willing to live with.
Of course, if you’re perfectly happy with your current case and typing on the iPad’s virtual keyboard doesn’t bother you one bit, the ZAGGmate w/ Keyboard probably isn’t for you. But if you do dig its form factor, the standalone ZAGGmate may just do the trick.
Prior to the ZAGGmate, I’d stuff my iPad (along with the MarWare Eco-Vue Case) and Apple Wireless Keyboard into my travel satchel for the road. Thanks to this 2-in-1 solution from ZAGG however, I’ve been able to ditch the bulky leather case and separate Apple keyboard. And since I do a fair bit of traveling with my other job, I’ve found that the ZAGGmate is a great companion to the iPad when on the go. In fact, my iPad rarely goes anywhere without the ZAGGmate. If I’m not using the keyboard, I simply rely on it as a stand for watching movies, web browsing, reading PDF files and what have you.
To sum it all it up: I have grown to love the ZAGGmate w/ Keyboard. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s made traveling with my iPad so much easier thanks to its compact design and highly capable keyboard. If you’re tired of typing on virtual keys and are in the market for such a product, look no further than this sexy accessory right here.