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ZAGGmate case with keyboard for iPad 1 (review)

April 19, 2011 5 Comments

A few months back, I bought an iPad portfolio case with a built-in bluetooth keyboard from ThinkGeek. (No manufacturer name appears on the case, but I’ve seen what appears to be an identical case offered on Amazon by Kensington.) That case is set up much like a traditional iPad portfolio case — slide the iPad in, secure it, fold a flap over to close the case — but has a bluetooth keyboard built into the inside of the fold-over cover.

While the concept was great, I found this case less useful than I had hoped. The keyboard was small and had a non-standard layout on the right side (no right Shift key; several other keys in different locations), which was frustrating for me, a touch-typist. Furthermore, it had a tendency to lose bluetooth connectivity with the iPad while I was using it; I’d be in the middle of typing, and suddenly the keyboard I was using would stop working and the on-screen iPad keyboard would appear. (Looking at the reviews of the Kensington unit over on Amazon, I found that I was not alone in having this problem.) I passed it to my wife, who encountered many of the same problems, and it generally got set aside.

However, a week ago, I spotted a new iPad case with keyboard on ThinkGeek: the ZAGGMate with keyboard, from ZAGG, Inc. I ordered it; it showed up; and so far, I’m very, very happy with it.

Unlike the earlier black-folio case, the ZAGGmate is an aluminum shell with a keyboard inside. For carrying purposes, you place your iPad face down into the shell, and you end up with what looks like a solid aluminum unit (the ZAGGmate aluminum matches the back of the iPad). To use your iPad, you simply pull it out of the case (which is notched along one side to allow you to pry the iPad out). You can then either use your iPad as you normally would, or you can prop it in a trough inside the case and use the keyboard.

This approach has several immediate advantages over  the earlier iPad keyboard case. First, the folio case only allows one orientation for the iPad: horizontal, with the home button to the right. The ZAGGmate not only allows you either horizontal orientation, it also allows you either vertical orientation as well. I personally find writing on the iPad more pleasant and productive in horizontal mode; I can see more of the text at once.

Second, the iPad rests in a trough that’s more than a full inch in from the back side of the case. That means that an iPad + ZAGGmate has an overall smaller footprint (depth + height) than most netbooks, which can be critical if you’re trying to get work done seated in coach on an airplane.

Third, since the iPad is just sitting in the trough (with a plastic prop behind it), you can easily pick it up and use it sans keyboard (such as for games), then set it down when you want to use the ZAGGmate keyboard again.

Fourth, the ZAGGmate with the iPad stored is only about half the thickness of the folio case with the iPad inside.

Unlike the keyboard in the folio case I bought earlier, the ZAGGmate keyboard has a near-standard layout, including a Right shift key and all the other keys in expected places. The only real problem I’ve had with this keyboard — aside from the size, which is the same problem I’ve had with my Acer netbook and the folio iPad case — is that the space bar is flush with the bottom edge of the case. This means I have to use a different motion with my right thumb do actually get the space bar to go down.  As a result, I still sometimes either miss spaces or hit two.

That’s a small complaint, though. On the other hand, several of the function keys across the top are mapped to iPad functions: home, search, slideshow, black screen, play/track, volume/mute. There is even a key to bring up the iPad on-screen keyboard, should you want to pick up the iPad and still do typing. Note that the ZAGGmate keyboard is still active as well, so you don’t have to reconnect.

I haven’t had a single bluetooth dropoff to date with the ZAGGmate. In fact, the only bluetooth problem I’ve had was figuring where the ‘bluetooth button’ was. Yes, it is that little LED right above the bluetooth symbol — it’s actually a tactile switch underneath the surface, and you need to be brave enough to press hard enough until you hear it click.

Note that this review is for the iPad 1 version of the ZAGGmate (and, for that matter, of the black folio case). Both ZAGG and Kensington have iPad 2 versions that are coming out.

Recommended.  ..bruce..

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About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

Comments (5)

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  1. Jess says:

    Thank you for this review. We just got our first iPad, and gratefully didn’t get the Think Geek one in store, but decided to do a little research first. I like the idea of the folio, but your review shows the reality of it’s challenges.

  2. Joey says:

    What do you think of portenzo? They make custom notebook style cases.

  3. bfwebster says:

    Joey: Haven’t tried one, and besides, they appear just to be iPad cases (instead of keyboards).

    I’m still using the Zagg/Logitech keyboard, though now the iPad 2 version (with an iPad 2, obviously). So far, it’s continued to work flawlessly. On the other hand, my wife’s Zagg keyboard had its plastic pop-up stand pop out, and I haven’t been able to get it to snap back into the little holes at the back (one of the plastic pins keeps bending instead of snapping into the hole). Other than that, we’re both quite satisfied.

  4. Joey says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m reall interested in the notebook style cases. They are so cool. Thanks though. I’m going to order a composition style case. I’ll let you know what I think.

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