The new Zaggfolio keyboard and case for the iPad 3 is a very weird little number. At first glance it looks like any other folio case, a protective book which holds the iPad in one side and has a keyboard embedded behind the front cover. But this one is modular, with a removable keyboard. And it comes in colors, although the plastic used to do this looks like it has been cut by (a shaky, alcoholic) hand.
And if you want to use the case without the keyboard (which is actually possible, as they’re available separately) then you’re going to end up with the dumbest-looking case around.
Despite all this, the Zaggfolio is actually pretty great.
The plastic, microfiber-lined case is light, and locks closed with a big plastic catch. The iPad slips into one side and is held (very) firmly in place by rails that grip it from the right edge to the center. The case bends along the iPad’s centerline to move away and provide an easel-like stand.
The keyboard slides into a similar receptacle in the front edge, or it can be used alone. Either way, the slot above the keys forms a perch for the iPad, just like other Zagg keyboards.
Zagg – and its partner in iPad-keyboard crime Logitech – consistently make the best-feeling keyboards. If you’re a fan of Apple’s own aluminum Bluetooth keyboards then these are the closest you’ll get in look and feel. They’re a tad smaller than the full-sized Apple version, but you soon get used to that, and the portability and extra iPad-friendly keys make it worth the small sacrifices.
The keys are positive, they have gaps between them, chiclet-style, so your fingers know where one ends and another begins, and there are all the usual iPad control keys up on the top row: search, homw, slideshow, cut/copy/paste and – inexplicably – language switch.
When removed from the case you can use the keyboard alone, although with the iPad in portrait orientation it’s not as steady as the other, larger cases. Then again, it makes a tiny, almost weightless partner to the iPad and – as it sports a proper power switch (unlike Apple’s effort) – you can toss it into a bag and forget it.
The worst part of the setup is the the case. When used as a stand, it is great: sturdy and stable. But in case mode it is too thick, and the catch is hard to lock shut. Worse, if you’re using it without the keyboard, it doesn’t shrink, so you’re left with a big gap in front of the iPad, and an oversized, harder-to-carry case.
The keyboard itself has a few niggles, too. You can’t access the USB port (for charging) while it is in the case (not such a big deal as the battery lasts forever). Worse is the choice of special buttons. You get volume, plus the keys mentioned above, but there are no keys for brightness. Why brightness, which I adjust as much as I adjust volume, loses out to cut/copy/paste and language select (all of which have their own shortcuts already, on any keyboard) is a mystery. After all, aren’t the kind of people who need a keyboard for their iPad likely to be power users, and thus know about Command-C and the like?
Despite the weird design of the case, this whole setup is pretty sound, and if you need something sturdier than the usual lightweight Zagg cases which cover the iPad’s screen and little else, then you should certainly consider this, especially as it costs just $99 for both parts together. If you want an ultra-light keyboard, then you can opt to not buy the folio part, but avoid doing it the other way around.
Add this to the multiple color options (including leather for the case and black/white/silver for the keyboard) and you might find just what you want. Me? I’d take this with me as an emergency keyboard. If I was planning on doing a lot of writing, I’d stick with my full-sized Apple model.