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The ZAGG Slim Book is the best keyboard for the iPad Pro I have tested. In this article, I compare it to Apple’s Smart Keyboard that I had used with my 10.5-inch iPad Pro before.
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With iOS 11, Apple has introduced a slew of new features that made the iPad more powerful than it ever was. I am talking about improved multi-tasking, drag and drop support and, of course, file management via the Files app. As a result, I find myself carrying the 10.5-inch iPad Pro more often while traveling as compared to my 12-inch MacBook. Apple has reinforced the situation by shipping macOS 10.13 High Sierra, which I consider one of the buggiest releases I have used.
Six months ago, I bought the 10.5-inch iPad Pro together with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. I feel like an external keyboard makes typing on an iPad much more comfortable than using my fingers.
Apple Smart Keyboard vs. ZAGG Slim Book
Before I go into the review of the ZAGG Slim Book, let me set the baseline by talking a bit about Apple’s Smart Keyboard and its pros and cons. That will give us a reference point to some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Slim Book that I will be talking about.
Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro
Honestly, typing on Apple’s Smart Keyboard has been a pleasure. I can type pretty fast on it, and I like how the keys feel. Compared to my iMac’s Magic Keyboard and my 12-inch MacBook’s butterfly keyboard, I’d say the Smart Keyboard is somewhere in between. I love the Magic Keyboard, and I dislike the first-generation butterfly keyboard that Apple uses in its older MacBooks.
The Smart Keyboard combines advanced technologies to create a keyboard like no other. It’s a full-size keyboard that’s fully portable, and it connects to iPad Pro with the Smart Connector. Just attach the Smart Keyboard and start typing. And when you’re done, it folds to create a slim, lightweight cover.
Benefits of the Smart Keyboard
Besides how it feels using the Smart Keyboard, I also appreciate that it doesn’t have a battery that I have to recharge. Instead, you connect the Smart Keyboard to the iPad Pro via the iPad’s Smart Connector. The Smart Connector is a three-pin interface on the side of the iPad. As a result, the Smart Keyboard draws its power from the iPad.
- No battery to recharge
- Light and thin
- Comfortable to type on
Apple has designed the Smart Keyboard in a way to prevent any opening between the individual keys and the rest of the keyboard. Instead, Apple covered the keyboard in fabric that acts like a skin. As a result, the Smart Keyboard can withstand spills because no liquid can enter the inside of the keyboard through the usual openings around the keys.
The Smart Keyboard is incredibly thin and lightweight, and so it doesn’t add a lot of bulk to the iPad. While folded, it only doubles the thickness of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is already ridiculously thin.
Disadvantages of the Smart Keyboard
As much as I like the Smart Keyboard, it has drawbacks that, I think, are worth mentioning.
The most significant gripe I have with Apple’s keyboard is that the keys are not backlit. That makes it almost impossible to use the keyboard in the dark or challenging lighting conditions. I have had issues a couple of times while traveling on an airplane with limited overhead light.
- It’s a cover, not a case
- Offers limited viewing angles
- No backlit keys
- Not sturdy enough to use on lap
The second problem I ran into is related to viewing angles. Apple has designed the Smart Keyboard with only two possible viewing angles in mind. That means you can either prop the iPad up in typing mode, with the keyboard fully exposed, or fold the keyboard to the back in viewing mode. On occasion, I wished I could push the screen further back like I sometimes do when the iPad is on my Yohann stand.
Additionally, you cannot comfortably use the Smart Keyboard on your lap because it is not sturdy enough. That means you need a stable surface to rest your iPad on while typing on the Smart Keyboard.
Last but not least, it’s important to understand that the Smart Keyboard is only a cover that protects the iPad’s screen when the keyboard is not in use. It offers no protection for the back of the iPad.
ZAGG Slim Book iPad Pro Review
The disadvantages of Apple’s Smart Keyboard that I have mentioned above motivated me to look for an alternative. If nothing else, I wanted a keyboard with backlit keys so I could type in the dark.
The stylish Slim Book includes a fabric weave exterior, black matte frame, and satin black keys. Not only does it look great in any environment, the stiff rubber overmold absorbs impact and can withstand drops up to one meter. And the spill-proof fabric exterior doesn’t show wear and tear, so you can look professional in the office, even if you’ve been working in the wild.
At the beginning of December, I reached out to ZAGG, and they were kind enough to send me a review unit I could put through the paces. Since I received the keyboard, I have used it with my 10.5-inch iPad Pro nonstop and here are my findings.
Benefits of ZAGG’s wireless keyboard
Overall, I am impressed by the ZAGG Slim Book, and it delivered everything that I had hoped for and more.
- Backlit keys with seven different colors
- Multi-angled viewing
- Holder for Apple Pencil
- Detachable case
- Two-year battery life
- Pairs with up to 2 devices
What I like most about the Slim Book is that it has backlit keys. It offers seven different colors that you can change by pressing the FN and right cursor key. Unlike MacBooks, which have a light sensor, the Slim Book doesn’t turn on backlighting automatically. Instead, you have to use the FN + cursor down keys. If you continue pressing that key combination, the brightness of the LEDs changes. If you press FN + cursor down four times, the LEDs turn off.
Much like the screen of my MacBook, I can change the viewing angle of my iPad while I am using the Slim Book. Just be careful not to tilt the screen too far back, as shown in the screenshot, because that will make the iPad tip over. It does go back quite a bit, but maybe not quite as much as the screenshot may suggest.
Holder for Apple Pencil
I also appreciate that the Slim Book can hold my Apple Pencil. With the Smart Keyboard, I carried the Apple Pencil in my backpack. That worked too, but it is more convenient to have it close to the device that you can use it with.
Frankly, I don’t use the Apple Pencil much; even though, in my opinion, it’s an incredible piece of technology. I am just not into handwriting or drawing. Isabella, my four-year-old daughter, on the other hand, uses it quite a bit with the Pigment app.
Apple’s keyboard doubles as a screen cover, but it doesn’t protect the iPad if you accidentally drop it. ZAGG’s wireless keyboard, on the other hand, also includes a detachable case.
That’s incredibly handy for when you would like to read on the iPad without needing a keyboard. Just snap the case off the keyboard, and you are good to go. While testing the Slim Book, I had forgotten entirely that I could detach the case from the keyboard. One day, when Isabella asked me if she could draw on my iPad and I handed it to her, she replied: “I just need the iPad, please take it off the keyboard.”
In case you wonder, ZAGG conveniently located the Apple Pencil holder on the case and not the keyboard.
Two-year battery life
I mentioned before that one significant advantage of Apple’s Smart Keyboard is that it doesn’t have a battery. ZAGG’s Slim Book does have a battery that you need to recharge from time to time. Fortunately, if you use the Slim Book an hour or less per day, the battery is supposed to last up to two years. But even if you use the keyboard more often, the battery will still last months. Since I got the keyboard a few weeks ago, I haven’t charged it.
To check the charge of the keyboard’s battery, just go to iOS’s Today View by swiping right on the home screen.
Pairs with up to 2 devices
You can pair the ZAGG Slim Book with up to two devices via Bluetooth. I have the keyboard paired with both my iPad Pro and my iPhone X. I don’t use the keyboard with my phone a lot, but there are occasions where that functionality comes in handy.
For example, when I am in an airplane, I usually connect both to the onboard Internet. While I would use the iPad for most of my work, I have apps (i.e., Instagram) on my iPhone that I don’t have on the iPad. As a result, I can easily switch back and forth between my two devices using the same keyboard.
I do want to mention that I had some issues pairing the keyboard with my devices. But since I am using beta versions of iOS 11 on both, I can’t blame the keyboard because the problems could have easily been caused by a bug in my beta version. Besides, I just had to toggle Bluetooth on and off a few times to complete the pairing process.
Other observations I have made during my testing include:
- I like the additional function buttons
- Slim Book is not (as) spill-proof as the Smart Keyboard
- Typing on it feels comfortable but different as compared to the Smart Keyboard
- The keyboard offers less distance between buttons as compared to the Smart Keyboard
- You can easily take the iPad out of the case because the material is soft and flexible
Additional buttons and distance between buttons
The Slim Book comes with a bunch of buttons that provide additional functionality, such as:
- Switch between BT connected devices
- Show home screen
- Lock the device
- Change keyboard language
- Adjust screen brightness
- Playback controls
- Adjust volume
Overall, the ZAGG Slim Book has one additional row of keys compared to Apple’s Smart Keyboard. Because of that extra row, and a smaller vertical footprint, the keys on ZAGG’s keyboard have less spacing between each other. That makes typing just a tiny bit less comfortable because there is an increased risk of hitting the wrong key.
The way ZAGG implemented their keys requires an opening around each key. That’s where liquids could potentially enter the keyboard’s electronics and cause damage in case of a spill. As a result, the Slim Book appears to be just as vulnerable to spills as most other keyboards on the market.
Ease to take iPad out of case
We have an Otterbox for the kids’ iPad that we use when traveling or going to the beach. I can tell you, that it is a pain to get on and off. You almost need a screwdriver to take the iPad out of the case, if you don’t want to ruin your nails. The Slim Book, on the other hand, is super soft and flexible and you can take the iPad out of the case (and put it back in) with no effort. I appreciate that!
ZAGG Slim Book iPad Pro 10.5 Review
The ZAGG Slim Book is the best keyboard for the iPad Pro that I have tried so far. It offers all the features you could ask for, and at $120, it’s less expensive than Apple’s Smart Keyboard. That doesn’t make Apple’s wireless keyboard a lousy choice. In fact, I have enjoyed using the Smart Keyboard for months and highly recommend it. It’s just that the Slim Book fits my workflow better and it offers more features that I can rely on, especially while traveling.