I liked the ZAGG Folio Case with Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple iPad Mini (Folio for mini). It makes typing on the iPad mini significantly faster and really increases the productivity of the iPad mini. There are, however, a few complaints. One is regarding the grouping of keys due to the limited surface area. To ZAGG’s credit, the grouping is clever and well thought out. The default character is what I want to type most of the time. But sometimes, three key presses to type a “+” is just too many (“shift”+”fn”+”-_=+”). This is not a design issue on ZAGG’s part but simply a physical limitation if you want the keyboard to match the size of the iPad mini. The ZAGG Folio Case with Keyboard for Apple iPad Air 2 (Folio for Air 2) does not have this issue. It is pretty much a standard QWERTY keyboard.

The second complaint I have with the Folio for mini is several mushy keys, including “1 !” and “tab caps”. This is not completely fixed on the Folio for Air 2. The “1 !” key is even mushier! The Folio keyboard line has seen at least two iterations after the Folio for mini, so it is disappointing that such a small but vital issue is not fixed. The rest of the keys are all clicky with a clear actuation point. Actutation force is appropriate, too. Key travel is comparable to the mid-2011 11-inch MacBook Air.

On Folio for Air 2 you can use fn+delete to forward-delete, which does not work on Folio for mini.

My biggest complaint was about the construction of the device and build quality. Here the Folio for Air 2 sees no progression. The Folio for mini feels cheap and the Folio for Air 2 has unfortunately stayed that way. The device just does not feel rigid. You can easily bend the keyboard side, not to mention the even-thinner casing side. The whole thing is very light, which also contributed to the cheap feeling. I certainly appreciate its light weight considering it is an mobile device accessory. But personally I am willing to tradeoff some weight in return for a more rigid construction.

The opening angle is 135 degrees for both the Folio for mini and Folio for Air 2, and is sufficient in most cases. Opening angle is less of problem for modern mobile devices (especially Apple devices) because the viewing angle of the device screen is often great, unlike on cheap laptop PCs with TN panels where you have to look at the screen at certain angle in order to get a good result. That said there were certainly times when I wished it could open wider. Although the iPad screen itself is great and tolerates a wide range of viewing angles, sometimes reflections of external light sources off the screen can still throw you off. In places where your ability to adjust your own position is limited (such as in an economy cabin), an extra 10 degrees would definitely come in handy.

I do believe on the current design the openning angle is maxed out. A few more degrees the iPad would tip over and fall on its back. This again goes back to the material choice and lightness of the keyboard side.

I thought I ordered a white one, but Best Buy sent a Folio for Air 2 in a greenish color, officially called “sage”. A bit new at first, after typing on it for a while I actually quite like the color. It is very easy on the eyes, which is what you need when you want to focus on typing and the work at hand. I don’t like the same color being used outside as much. On that note the Folio keyboard would be a little more aesthetically pleasing if it had used some design on the outside. A few lines and marks here and there, some varying texture, etc. The keyboard case just looks boring as it is now. Of course, if you think of it as a productivity booster, the look is not a big deal.

Other minor points:

  • The outside surface picks up dirt very easily.
  • The hinge itself seems to be well made, but again the overall feel is held back by the soft, plastic casing.
  • The Folio for mini I got happens to be a backlit model while my Folio for iPad Air 2 happens to be non-backlit. I don’t find the backlight very useful. Usually the screen is bright enough for finding a key in a dark environment, if you need the sense of sight to find a key in the first place. When it is dark I actually prefer the backlight off since it could be a bit distracting. The multi-color feature of the backlight on the Folio for mini is gimmicky at best.
ZAGG ZaggFolio Keyboard Case for Apple® iPad® Air 2 Sage

The Folio keyboard is unique in that once installed on the iPad, they become one piece. It opens and closes like a traditional laptop, which is exactly what I am looking for because I want it to be a MacBook Air alternative. There are many other iPad keyboard out there, but most of them are more of an add-on to the iPad, as opposed to becoming a complete package with the iPad.

The tradeoff is clear – you can’t use the iPad like a tablet any more without removing the case. Some other keyboard cases allow you to turn the keyboard 360 degrees and rest on the backside of the iPad, making it a tablet albeit thicker. This is useful especially when you need to hold your iPad e.g. on public transportation. For me this isn’t a big deal, since when I use the iPad I am most likely sitting down and have a table in front of me. If I need computing when I am standing or walking, I just rely on my smartphone.

I got the Folio for Air 2 for $50 when it went on sale, and the Folio for mini for less than $30. I would not pay the MSRP of $100/$80 for these keyboard cases because I expect a much better made device at those price points. But for $50/$30, the Folio keyboard is a great companion for your iPad if you find yourself typing a lot.

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