The Good: Lightweight universal keyboard with great tactile feedback.
The Bad: Falls victim to spotty pairing and missed keystrokes at times.
The Bottom Line: The Zagg Keys Universal is an affordable and versatile keyboard. With it’s physical on/off switch and protective cover it’s the perfect companion to have in any travel bag.
Some time ago I wrote a piece in which I argued the merits – or rather lack thereof – of an external keyboard. The advent of iOS 7 and it’s introduction of keyboard shortcuts has made me rethink my position.
As somebody that relies heavily on keyboard shortcuts on the Mac, having them on iOS was just too good to pass up and so began the hunt for the ideal keyboard to pair with my iPad.
First on the list is the Zagg Keys Universal Keyboard. The Zagg Keys Universal is, as the name implies, a versatile keyboard that can work with iOS, Android or Windows devices.
Design & Build Quality
The Universal is a lightweight chiclet keyboard with a curved design providing a comfortable and ergonomic writing position. Although entirely made of plastic, the Universal not only looks good but it feels good too. They keyboard is very sturdy and held up well to the rigors of day to day use (ok I admit, I did try bending and twisting it too).
The iPad rests securely in the cradle
Accompanying the Zagg Universal is a protective cover that doubles as a stand. The small cradle in which the iPad is placed is large enough to hold my iPad with the STM Studio Case and at the same time secure enough that I felt safe poking my iPad even without the case.
Setting Up & Reliability
Initial setup was simple and painless: switch it on, press the pair button located on the right edge and connect your device. All that’s left is to toggle the switch located at the bottom of the keyboard so it’s set to your platform of choice: iOS, Android or Windows.
In general, connecting was quick and reliable. There were however a few occasions when it wouldn’t connect (especially after being turned off for a while). The only solution was to unlock my iPad, go into settings and forcefully connect from there, not ideal but then again it didn’t happen too often.
I wasn’t able to track down why this happened, but there were times when typing would lag and even miss a few keystrokes. As with the connection issues, this wasn’t a constant, but frequent enough that I took notice.
Barring the issues I’ve pointed out thus far, typing on the Universal proved to be quite pleasant. Keys were well spaced and provided great tactile feedback.
The Universal doesn’t disappoint when it comes to battery life. After a couple dozen hours of typing and even more in standby, it’s still above 50% capacity (there is a small indicator light that provides a rough indication of charge capacity). Having a physical on/off switch helps avoid unnecessary battery drain too.
Small indicator light above Fn key shows approximate battery charge
In terms of layout and special keys, there are a few things to note:
- A few of the special keys, namely Siri and Photos don’t work. This is possibly due to changes made in iOS 7;
- Since it’s universal, it requires keys for other operating systems and therefore, the left option key is missing. This meant I often hit the Windows menu key instead, wreaking havoc on my muscle memory;
- Despite having a Fn key, the traditional forward delete (Fn+delete) doesn’t work. Instead Zagg provided an additional key for just this task.
Slide the cover on and protect the keys while inside your bag.
Zagg Key Universal: The Verdict
Despite it’s few faults, the Zagg Keys Universal is a great entry level keyboard. It’s form factor won’t chain you to a specific device or platform for that matter.
So if you’re in the market for a versatile and sturdy keyboard, the Universal provides great value for money.