Like it or not, at this point there's no denying that there's a market for iPad keyboards and keyboard cases. There are ones that stand alone, and ones that do double-duty. Zagg, maker of one of our favorite keyboard case solutions--the Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg--has entered the folio case market with the $99 Zaggfolio. Does it make sense to have a keyboard case, or would a standalone keyboard be a better bet? Zagg's folio case is a better keyboard than it is a case, to no great surprise.
Zagg's keyboard folio, when unfolded into keyboarded mode, is perhaps the nicest stand/keyboard solution we've ever seen. Passersby will wonder what new Netbook or transformable tablet you've just purchased. The silver and black design blends perfectly with our test black iPad 2, and the top groove slots the iPad in a way that's far less wonky than the flip-up plastic stand on the Zagg keyboard case we reviewed a few months ago. A small physical on/off switch and pairing button activate Bluetooth connection with the iPad, and a tiny Micro-USB port and included cable handle recharges of the keyboard's internal battery, which is rated for "weeks" of use. In our limited time with the Zaggfolio, we never needed recharging.
The edge-to-edge raised island-style keyboard makes the most of limited real estate, and feels more comfortable for dropping the raised side walls we've seen on some other keyboards. Key sizes are similar to those on a 10-inch Netbook, and ever-so-slightly too pushed together for our ideal tastes, but every key's where it should be, and touch-typing is easy. A row of dedicated buttons above the number keys activate iOS-specific controls such as volume, track-skipping, play/pause, cut/paste/copy, and a photo gallery shortcut. These extra functions are becoming standard on iPad-dedicated keyboards.
We did fumble a little because of the closely spaced keys, and the key responsiveness felt a step behind the more classic-style keys on the Zagg case. It's still some of the best keyboard performance we've seen outside of a full-size standalone keyboard, and we were able to write this whole review on it comfortably.
Though the keyboard's a hit, we're a little less bullish about the folio case part. The outside is sheathed in a "carbon fiber textured" material that feels like soft patterned nylon. The hard case slots an iPad 2 into its top half and bends backward so the iPad 2 remains perfectly slotted in while typing, but flipped into a "normal" case mode the Zaggfolio feels bulky and floppy, and not at all ideal for reading. An embedded magnet awakens an iPad 2 for instant-on use, but we found this less necessary on a keyboard case that probably requires Bluetooth management between uses anyway. The Zaggfolio's thickness is similar to a thin-and-light laptop, and a plastic front snap keeps the case closed for the most part. Padded bumpers on the keyboard protect against content with the iPad's glass screen when folded up, but we still wouldn't trust this type of overall case compared with a true folio alternative.
The plastic keyboard can be removed from the folio case and used on its own; intriguingly, an iPad 2 will still stand upright in the removed keyboard. It's a clever bonus to the Zaggfolio's design, and we might even say after a day or so of use that we perhaps prefer the detached Pad/keyboard feel to the whole folio addition. The folio can also work with the keyboard removed. Though it becomes more lightweight, its cumbersome, thick design is terrible in comparison to dedicated folio cases. Plus, one side of the iPad 2 pops out from the plastic bracket by design. That works nicely for keyboard transformation, but it's lousy for flipping open the folio cover and reading. Targus' Versavu Keyboard Case felt much more sturdy by comparison.
In its keyboard-open mode, the Zaggfolio is a success. For pure case design and when the case is closed, it's a letdown. Overall, the Zaggfolio amounts to a solid buy for those who love a tucked-away Bluetooth keyboard and minimal setup fuss, and can live with a subpar case design. It's not perfect, but we've come to realize that's probably true of nearly every iPad keyboard case.