The Good: A sturdy, backlit keyboard with a multitude of viewing angles.
The Bad: An odd choice for the layout of certain keys, and the finish on the keyboard could be a little better.
The Bottom Line: With and innovative hinge design, pleasant backlit keys and sturdy build, the Zagg Cover is among the best external keyboards I’ve tried thus far.
As somebody who previously dismissed the need or even validity of an external keyboard, I’m now fully onboard. The more I use them, the more I realise the productivity boost they provide, but I’ve also become more critical of their strengths and flaws.
This week on the chopping block we have the $99.99 Zagg Cover for iPad Air. My previous positive experience with the Kensington KeyCover Plus set the bar high and I’m curious to see how the Zagg — lauded by many as one of the best external keyboards at the moment — holds up.
Design & Build Quality
The Zagg Cover features a clamshell-like design made possible by an ingenious hinge in which the iPad is firmly docked. This hinge allows the iPad to be placed in any position ranging from fully closed (in which a magnetic switch turns the iPad on/off) to a 134º angle.
The hinge holds the iPad firmly in a wide array of angles.
The hinge however is both its best and worst feature. When docked, the side, or rather bottom bezel, is almost entirely covered and swiping up to trigger control center is often an exercise in finding the perfect combination of the smallest possible section of my finger to align with the minute portion of the bezel left uncovered.
I also found the hinge to be so tight that it applied considerable pressure on my iPad’s screen. While I have no evidence that this could harm the iPad, it did leave me a little uneasy. Bear in mind however that I have a Zagg InvisibleShield adding a couple extra millimetres which no doubt accounts for this.
The Zagg Cover sports chiclet-style backlit keys with three different intensity levels and a myriad of colours. Unfortunately, when switching it off, the Zagg Cover forgets whether I had the backlight turned on. This means that every time I switch it off, I have to turn the backlight on again. If I had it set at maximum brightness, that means an additional 3 key presses.
You can see a small scratch and some glue residue on the bottom left corner.
The Keyboard in itself is extremely sturdy and has some heft. The painted aluminium cover is somewhat prone to scratches, but I’d advise against attaching the 4 rubber feet Zagg supply given they quickly fall off leaving undesirable glue residue on the underside of the keyboard.
The Typing Experience
The Zagg Cover features a slim, elegant profile.
Rather than the customary five rows of keys, Zagg takes advantage of the extra space afforded by the hinge design and offers a sixth row with special keys such as undo/redo, copy and paste and media keys. The Fn modifier key is eschewed in favor of one dedicated to checking the Keyboard’s available charge; a decision I’m not particularly keen on since the absence of the Fn key wreaks havoc on my muscle memory. Instead of using Fn+Backspace to perform forward delete, the Zagg Cover resorts to Cmd+Backspace, a key combination I rely heavily on to delete everything from the cursor to the beginning of the line.
The backlight, available in a variety of colours is bright enough even in daylight.
Another minor annoyance is the fact the Enter key is barely bigger than the rest. Having said that however, neither this nor the absence of the Fn key detract from the pleasant experience of typing on the Zagg cover due to its good sized keys with decent travel and pushback, and ample space between them.
Zagg Cover: The Verdict
Despite the quibbles I’ve peppered throughout the review, I feel that the Zagg Cover lives up to its hype. With a reported battery life of 3 months, pleasant backlit keys, an innovative hinge design and it’s sturdy build, the Zagg is indeed poised to be the top contender for best iPad Air keyboard. It’s without doubt the best I’ve tried thus far.