ZAGGmate keyboard serves double duty

Update: The ZaggMate has been replaced with the ZaggMate keyboard companion for iPad2. It’s a far better design. I haven’t tested it because I went with the Kensington KeyFolio to replace my ZaggMate when a small coffee spill fried the board. This looks far better than its predecessor but the keys are still unprotected.

I have to downgrade the ZaggMate below from best buy to three stars because there are a number of better options out there now.

Spoiler alert! In spite of a few limitations, the Zagg/Mate keyboard iPad case is well worth the money. It’s far from perfect, but still a best buy.

Even though I love both my Bluetooth and iPad dock keyboard I couldn’t resist showing the ZAGGmate case with keyboard to Carol. To my surprise she said I should order it. No questions, no arguments, no hinting or prodding on my part; just order it.

Any one who’s been married for several years knows that when your spouse or partner thinks you should buy something, order it immediately before they change their minds. If they decide later you made a frivolous purchase they have to keep quiet about it.

You can’t find it at the Apple Store and if you search for it online you will find it spelled ZAGGmate™ with keyboard, Zagg Mate and ZAGG/mate. But sooner or later you will find it for anywhere from $80 to $100 (plus shipping). The price fluctuates at Amazon.

It’s a case. It’s a keyboard.

The ZAGGmate combines a hard shell case built from the same materials as the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. It isn’t a complete case, so much as a half case with the keyboard recessed into the shell. Your iPad fits snugly face down over the keyboard with the back exposed.

The ZAGGmate includes a fold out stand that props your iPad at an optimal angle for typing.
Photos courtesy of Zagg.

Click image to see full size

Zagg, the developer, claims the case is military grade, but I have a hard time believing that. It certainly wouldn’t stop a bullet or RPG. Still, the case with iPad embedded is only a quarter inch larger than the iPad itself, and theoretically more impact resistant than a softer case. The fit is snug so the iPad isn’t likely to pop out should you drop it by accident.

With the iPad snapped snugly into place the case provides a sturdy and durable cover

Click image to see full size

The keyboard sells the case, however. The case without the keyboard (which is an eighth of an inch slimmer) has a lot to recommend it, but I’m not sure it has any more to offer than a dozen other hard shell cases, plastic or aluminum.

The keyboard combines the best elements of Apple’s dock and bluetooth keyboards. The ZAGGmate is bluetooth with its own power source so it doesn’t drain the iPad battery when being used, nor does it require a physical connection. The Apple bluetooth keyboard requires AA batteries for power, however, while the ZAGGmate has a battery that can be recharged with a powered USB connection. You can even recharge both the iPad and the keyboard if you have more than one power cable with USB adapter.

ZAGG, the product developer, claims the battery will hold its charge for several weeks, which is comparable to the life span of two AA batteries in the Apple keyboard. I haven’t had several weeks to test the claim, but recharging is more convenient than changing batteries on the bluetooth keyboard (the screw post is hard to insert and easy to drop).

The ZAGGmate’s fold out stand allows you to type with your iPad in portrait or landscape mode. The dock requires portrait position and the blue tooth requires a separate case or stand for your iPad to prop it up.

The standard Apple case only holds the iPad in landscape mode at 30 degrees, and the upright landscape position (which is the only one that allows you to type and see the iPad comfortably) is unstable. Mine frequently toppled over if someone bumped or shifted the table.

Why is position important? Because Keynote requires you to type in landscape mode, and word processors work better in portrait. The ZAGGmate keyboard comfortably poses the iPad in both positions.

The keyboard also features full function keys and iPad control keys, making the actual keyboard more functional than both of Apple’s products. You can quit programs, bring up the multitasking bar and invoke the search screen from the function row. Zagg also included a numeric keypad that can be enabled with the function key.

The ZAGGmate provides the most fully functional keyboard on the market. The battery lasts several weeks and is easily recharged with a micro-USB cable.

Click image to see full size

Minor bummers

The ZAGGmate with keyboard still has a few wrinkles that we can hope they work out for the second generation iPads. There’s no light to indicate the caps lock is keyed and the arrow key arrangement is awkward (the up down keys are positioned to the far right of the side keys).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the case isn’t recessed another quarter inch to allow the iPad to be tucked in face up. If you just want to read or play games, you have to remove your iPad from the case altogether.

You will also discover the military grade casing is highly susceptible to scratches, or so Zagg claims in the accompanying literature. Their first recommendation is that you buy InvisiShield protection at close to $40. They include four rubber feet with the case, but their size and adhesive practically guarantee you will lose one or more within weeks.

Is the keypad case still worth the money? Absolutely. If you do a lot of typing—especially if you type and travel—this is the best accessory I’ve seen so far.

Jenny Manytoes rates the ZAGGmate™ with keyboard

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over the ZAGGmate. And she does. She’s already jumped on it twice while chasing moths that Carol lets in when she opens the window leading to our outdoor kitty habitat. Apparantly the cat door into the other room isn’t good enough, they need a wide open window to find their way inside.

And what better way to chase the moths than to launch yourself from a brand new iPad keyboard?

Take Jenny’s word for it. The ZAGGmate™ with keyboard is a best buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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