Zagg Pro Keys offers quality iPad keyboard case at affordable price [Review]

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Zagg Pro Keys review: Quality iPad keyboard case at affordable price
Turn your iPad into a laptop — one that can survive a 6-foot fall — with the Zagg Pro Keys.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Zagg Pro Keys wraps a range of iPad models in a very protective case, and includes a removable keyboard that makes the tablet even more productive. It’s a full-featured accessory that comes at a relatively low cost.

I used the Pro Keys with my work/personal iPad for several days. Here’s what I found out.

Zagg Pro Keys review

An iPad can be so much more than a tablet. Connect a keyboard and it becomes a laptop ready for light duty: email, web, video, etc.

Zagg Pro Keys can be just what you need for this, especially as you can easily remove the keyboard while still using the tablet in its protective case.

There are versions made for the 10.2-inch iPad, the 10.9-inch iPad Air and the 11-inch iPad Pro. I’m testing the one for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Hardware and design

This is called a keyboard case because it consists of two parts: a keyboard and a case. They cling together with magnets but can be easily separated. Or you can flip the keyboard around behind the screen.

Zagg Pro Keys folds up like a clamshell, but when open it uses a kickstand instead of hinges. The benefit of this design is it doesn’t take up much space on a desk or table. But it limits the angles at which you can prop up the display. It offers only two: 120 degrees (30 degrees past vertical) or 130 degrees (40 degrees past vertical). These are useful angles, but this is a limitation nonetheless.

You might want to leave the keyboard behind when you don’t need it. I’m testing the version for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the removable keyboard weighs 1.4 pounds. The case that wraps around the iPad is 0.5 lbs. Extra bulk is inescapable with this type of accessory, but this one is a bit more than is typical.

Just be aware though, the kickstand is built into the keyboard so you can’t prop up the tablet without the keyboard.

The material Zagg chose for the Pro Keys’ exterior is a sort of artificial suede in a dark gray color. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m not a fan of this look. The texture makes it easier to hold onto your tablet, though.

Case

The Zagg Pro Keys case doesn’t have a kickstand.
Pro Keys can be used without the keyboard but with the iPad still protected by a case.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Perhaps the important detail to know about the Pro Keys is that Zagg promises 6.6 feet of drop protection. If you’re concerned about breaking your tablet, this is critical… and not something you get with many keyboard cases.

Even without the clip-on keyboard to protect the display, the case covers the back and sides of the iPad. And there’s a lip around the screen to make it less likely to get scratched.

There are openings for the ports and rear cameras. And the buttons are protected by covers that don’t interfere with their use. Plus, Zagg built in channels that guide the audio from the speakers toward the user. As the speakers normally point away from the user, I found this a welcome improvement.

An Apple Pencil slot sits on one edge, and the stylus is held in place by the flap that holds the Pro Keys closed. I tested, and the magnets built into the Apple Pencil 2 work through the case, and the stylus charges, too.

Keyboard

12.9-inch version of Zagg Pro Keys provides comfortable typing.
The 12.9-inch version of Zagg Pro Keys includes a regular laptop keyboard.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The size of the keyboard in the Zagg Pro Keys depends on the screen size of the tablet it’s designed for. I’m testing the 12.9-inch version so there’s room for a full-size laptop keyboard. It’s 10.5 inches wide, And most keys are 0.6 in. wide and 0.6 in. tall with very rounded edges. There’s about 0.1 in. of key separation, and decent key travel for a portable keyboard.

The keys are plastic and just a bit “clicky.” That’s not criticism — I know some people prefer that, especially when it means the keys aren’t mushy. There were no problems with keys that didn’t register or registered double in my lengthy usage. I found Zagg’s offering easy to type on.

There’s a row of function keys above the standard letter/number/symbol ones. These make using your iPad a bit easier, letting you adjust the volume for the music you’re listening to, skip tracks, etc. with the push of a button.

Zagg built in backlights for the keyboard in seven different colors: red, white, purple, green, etc. And there are three brightness levels as well as off. This is handy when you need to type in a dimly-lit class, conference room… wherever.

The Pro Keys keyboard communicates with the iPad via Bluetooth. Zagg could have used Apple’s Smart Connector, which was created just for clip keyboards, but there are some advantages to Bluetooth.

For one, the keyboard can pair with more than one device. For me, the second is almost always my iPhone. And Bluetooth doesn’t drain the iPad battery as much as keyboards that are powered by the tablet. That said, you have to charge the Pro Keys’ built-in battery through its USB-C port.

Just in case there’s some confusion, there is no trackpad. These are available on many other keyboard cases, but not everyone wants one. There’s a touchscreen right there — use it.

Zagg Pro Keys final thoughts

Zagg has made iPad keyboard cases for many years, and its expertise shows in the Pro Keys. It’s well designed and solidly built. I found it easy to type on, and like how protective the case is.

But it’s a bit heavier that is typical. And it uses Bluetooth so it’s slightly more hassle than keyboards that use the Smart Connector. That said, this product costs less than many keyboard cases that use the Smart Connector.

The exterior of the Zagg Pro Keys is… OK.
Zagg Pro Keys closes up to be easily carried.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Pricing

With four different versions across a wide range of sizes, Zagg’s Pro Keys prices vary considerably. The 10.2-inch model for Apple’s basic iPad is $99.99. The 10.9-inch model for the iPad Air is $109.99. An 11-inch version for the smaller iPad Pro also costs $109.99. And the 12.9-inch version for the largest iPad Pro is $169.99.

You can certainly find cheaper keyboard cases, but few of them will be from a company with as good a reputation as Zagg.

Comparable products

Users of the iPad Pro looking for a keyboard case should consider the Logitech Combo Touch. It’s a solid competitor that does have a trackpad, but the 11-inch model costs $199.99 and the 12.9-inch version is $229.99.

And there’s Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio. It’s very slim and lightweight, but provides far less protection than Zagg’s offering. The 11-inch version is $179, while the 12.9-inch one is $199.

Or the Apple Magic Keyboard has an eye-catching design that makes the keyboard look like it’s floating. But it’s very pricy. The model designed for 11-inch iPad Pro costs $299, and the 12.9-inch model is $349.

Zagg provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out other in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.