The iPad Bluetooth keyboard/case race is starting to heat up. The newest entrant, the Zaggmate, features a sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum shell, responsive keys, and a thin and light design. But is this $99 accessory worth the effort it takes to use?
Design and Setup
The Zaggmate is barely larger than the iPad itself, and at 12.8 ounces, is about 4 ounces lighter than the KeyFolio. You'd be surprised, but that makes a lot of difference. The device has a power switch and a Bluetooth button for easy pairing. A small microUSB port on the left side is used to recharge the device.
Instead of completely enveloping the iPad, the Zaggmate is designed to cover just the screen when stowed. When traveling, simply insert the iPad, face-down into the case. As it's the same color as the iPad, it looks like you're carrying around a hunk of aluminum. Just keep in mind that this case doesn't protect the back of Apple's tablet.
In order to use the keyboard, you must pry the iPad out of the case, lift open the plastic tab and bring it forward, then rest the iPad vertically in a slot above the keyboard. That's a pretty lengthy process just to use a physical keyboard. You can use this accessory in your lap, but the whole thing bounced around as we typed; the Zaggmate just doesn't feel secure when not being used on a desk.
Like the Kensington Keyfolio, we liked that the Zaggmate reversed the function keys and let us perform tasks, such as controlling the volume, without having to press the Fn key first. Other useful shortcuts include buttons to launch a slideshow, Search, and return to the Home screen.
Unlike the KeyFolio, the Zaggmate's keys are not covered in a rubber membrane. It's more like a traditional keyboard, which made this layout easier to type on. The keys were responsive and snappy, not to mention in the right place. However, the keys are smaller than those found on a typical netbook.
Unfortunately, our fingers brushed up against the metal case when pressing keys positioned on the outer edges of the keyboard (such as the Fn, Control, and arrow keys). You'll definitely make some errors until you get the hand of the layout.
Zagg says that the Zaggmate should last several weeks without charging.
Like the tablet category itself, the tablet accessory market is in its nascent stages, and companies are apt to get as much right as they do wrong. The $99 Zaggmate, like the similarly priced Kensington KeyFolio, is a perfect example. While we like the Zaggmate's sleek and sturdy design, not to mention its responsive keys, we were put off by the fact that you can't use this combo securely in your lap, and that the layout feels cramped. Although our hunt for the ideal iPad keyboard continues, the Zaggmate gets the job done.