For many, the iPad has replaced their laptops while away from the office/home or when processor intensive tasks are not required. This is especially true when the bulk of the work involves writing reports or filling out numbers and data in spreadsheets. What better accessory to go with the iPad than an external keyboard case to help you be more productive AND provide your tablet with some form of protection at the same time? I’ve covered keyboard cases in the past, like the ZAGGfolio, and today we’re going to take a closer look at ZAGG’s other product – the ZAGGkeys PROplus, a dandy backlit keyboard that’s both slim and fun to use.
Unlike the ZAGGFolio, which protects the entire iPad, the ZAGGkeys PROplus takes on a very similar design to its much older sibling, the ZAGGmate.
Primarily made out of durable aluminum, it’s lightweight (15.3 ounces) and thin (7mm), and covers one side of the iPad (the screen) when clasped together. Magnets are hidden in each corner, where the top pair lock the iPad in place – just like the Apple Smart Cover would – and the bottom two are there as well to wake/sleep the iPad whenever the keyboard case is opened or closed. A cutout found below the spacebar will help separate the iPad from the ZAGGkeys Pro’s magnets; this motion is similar to opening a book down the middle.
In case you’re wondering whether the iPad will fall out easily when closed, fret not as the magnets do hold it in securely. I’ve tried separating the two and unless you use the aforementioned open/close slot, it can’t be easily done. Just do make sure that you orient the iPad correctly when closing the case (match the bottom port of the iPad to the right side of keyboard, which has another cutout for the USB dock connector), otherwise the magnets won’t properly engage and you’ll be setting yourself up for a dropped iPad.
And just like all the other ZAGG keyboard cases, a horizontal groove can be found above the top most row of keys. It is here where you prop up the iPad for a near 45 degree viewing angle. While this angle is set and can’t be altered, the iPad can be placed either horizontally or vertically.
The special functions keys found on the ZAGGkeys PRO is one of areas that remains unchanged from the ZAGGfolio. They’re all located at the top row of the keyboard and include the “Home button” (my favorite of the bunch as I can double tap it to bring up iOS’ multitasking tray), cut/copy/paste, volume/play controls and others. Here’s the full list of the keyboard’s function keys:
A unique addition to the ZAGGkeys PROplus is the introduction of the backlit keyboard. If you’re accustomed to this feature on Macbooks and Macbook Airs, you’ll feel right at home here with the PROplus. By pressing the Backlight Key (located immediately to the right of spacebar), backlight on the keys will toggle from Low/Medium/High settings and a fourth press will turn it off. The lowest setting is fairly dim, though it’s still bright enough to illuminate all the keys in a dark environment. Personally, Medium was more than sufficient for typing in the dark, and that’s the setting I use when I want to turn on the backlight.
Having this feature is neat and handy no doubt, but it doesn’t stop there. The PROplus actually comes in 7 interchangeable colors. By pressing the Backlight key and right or left arrow keys, you can cycle through the following colors: White, Red, Amber, Green, Aqua, Blue, and Violet. After having used this keyboard extensively over the past 3 months, I have to say that I’ve really come to love the backlight when typing with my iPad, which I do a bit of while in bed (and in the dark). It certainly helps to have the entire keyboard lit up and all the function keys visible in low light. The fact that the colors can be changed is just icing on the cake. Depending on my mood, I find myself toggling mostly between Red and Aqua at Medium brightness. One thing I’m not crazy about with the backlight is if you lean back far enough from the keyboard when typing, you can see some of the light source bleed through the bottom edges of the keys. It’s not a huge distraction, but it would have been more ideal if the lights were better contained.
If a backlit keyboard isn’t all that important to you, ZAGG also sells the ZAGGkeys PRO without all the fancy lights for $30 less, at $99.
Using the ZAGGkeys Pro Plus
The ZAGGkeys PROplus’ keyboard spacing and layout is basically identical to that of the ZAGGfolio’s (save for the Backlight and Battery indicator key, which I’ll touch in on a bit), though typing on them will give you a different feel. Whereas the keys on the folio are raised higher and offer more resistance, those on the PROplus don’t have to be depressed quite as far down. As a result, the keys on this all-in-one keyboard/case combo don’t feel as “heavy” and it’s slightly more quiet. Coming from the ZAGGfolio, it did take me a while to get used to the lighter action of the PROplus’ keyboard, but once I did, I’ve enjoyed typing on it. The one thing I’d like to see tweaked is the spacebar; I find that it just doesn’t give enough of a “bounce” when I press down on it with my thumb.
As a case, the ZAGGkeys does a good job of protecting the screen. Once snapped onto the iPad, it stays tightly closed and doesn’t add all that much weight. Of course, because of its design, the back of the iPad is left exposed. This is certainly something to consider if you’re afraid of scratching up its backside, though one solution is to apply a clear skin on the iPad’s aluminium casing. I’ve been using the invisibleSHIELD HD and it’s been working out great. I get to reap the benefits of a lighter and more portable keyboard AND get protection for the back of my iPad at the same time.
ZAGG claims that the ZAGGkeys PRO/PROplus battery lasts several months with “normal use”, even with the backlight on. So far I haven’t been disappointed with these claims, and it helps that the keyboard goes to sleep if left on and not used after a short while. To give you a better idea of how much juice is left, there’s a battery indicator key at the bottom left. When pressed, a small light on the key will blink green if the battery is charged between 50-100%; yellow when it’s at 20-50%; and red when there’s less than 20% in the tank. Once you see the red light, ZAGG says that there’s about 2 weeks of normal use left on the keyboard, and it should be noted that the backlight will stop working to help conserve the remaining charge.
Accessories wise, the keyboard comes with a micro-usb cable that plugs into its side when a recharge of the battery is (finally) required.
The ZAGGkeys PROplus is a great bluetooth keyboard that’s compatible with the iPad 2/3/4. It’s solidly made, lightweight, doesn’t add much bulk to the iPad when closed, and you’ll have a hard time going back to using iOS’ virtual keyboard after typing with this. Then there are the backlit keys that light up in 7 different colors and 3 brightness settings. Not only is it real practical for typing in a low light environment, but the cool factor alone might be worth the extra $30 for some users. If not, and you don’t think you’ll be using it in the dark much anyway, the ZAGGkeys PRO should be considered if you want a keyboard case that’s light and slim.
If you’re after more protection – as in a case that covers the entire iPad – ZAGG also recently released the ZAGGkeys PROfolio+. It’s slimmer than the ZAGGfolio, and it comes with backlit keys as well.