Scorecard for ZAGGmate

In a recent post, I announced the arrival of a ZAGGmate case for my iPad. In the past few weeks, the ZAGGmate has followed me to work. How did the ZAGGmate perform in an office environment?

First of all, the ZAGGmate created quite a stir among my colleagues and fellow meeting attendees when I popped the iPad out of the case and set up the ZAGGmate keyboard. But, other than it’s good looks, what was the bottom line?

The primary reason I wanted a Bluetooth keyboard capable case for my iPad was to improve my ability to capture important topics during meetings. Since April of last year, I have been using my iPad with different handwriting applications such as PenUltimate, First with my finger as the pen and then later with a stylus.  By far, the stylus performed much better than my finger, but still, my penmanship is “temporal” to say the least (I can read it after I write it, but that ability degrades quickly as time elapses).  I had attempted to use the on-screen keyboard, but my touch typing technique was replaced by a hunt-and-peck which was cumbersome and slow.

In this area, the ZAGGmate performed much better than I anticipated. Although small in size (think Net-book keyboard), I was able to acclimate quite nicely. In no time, I was touch-typing away. The tactile feedback was excellent.  I was concerned with the raised outer rim of the case, but that proved to be a non-issue.

When typing, there was no noticeable lag between the key strike and the appearance of an on-screen character. And, since the iPad is not locked into the case when in use, it is quick and easy to grab the iPad and stylus  when a handwriting task pops up such as sketching out a quick  graphic to get an idea across. The ZAGGmate provides a solid typing base with just the right angle between keyboard and iPad. As I stated in the earlier post, I like the keyboard flat and the screen at an angle.

One concern is the plastic flip-up clip used to position the iPad in a upright position within the case.  I don’t know how durable this movable piece will be. For that reason, I use great care when positioning the clip.

For storage, the iPad is mated to the ZAGGmate by placing the device face down and pressing into the case. A “gasket” inside the case edge does a nice job in holding the iPad. I admit that I was a little skeptical at first, but the case convinced me that it had everything under control.

Battery life is excellent. More than once, the ZAGGmate saved me by placing the keyboard in sleep mode when I failed to turn it off. The downside to this is that I failed to turn the keyboard off because there is no visible cue other than the position of the power switch as to the on/off state of the device. A power light does come on when you first power it on, but that light goes off one or two seconds later. A blinking LED at some slow cycle rate would be nice.

I would not classify the ZAGGmate as a true iPad case. It is more a bluetooth keyboard enclosure that allow the user to store the iPad when not in use. For that reason, I purchased an inexpensive slide-in case into which I place the ZAGGmate-iPad combo.

Another non-case aspect is  access to iPad controls. When stored in the ZAGGmate, the only iPad port available is the 30-pin connector. No access is available for other iPad controls. One of the other jobs my iPad has is a portal to internet radio and music sources, but lack of access to the headphone jack puts a crimp in that activity. I have started using a bluetooth stereo headset, but I miss direct access to the iPad controls.

All in all, I give the ZAGGmate an “A” for keyboard functionality and battery performance. As a case, I give it an “A'”for looks, but a “C” for  iPad protection and access to iPad controls.

Is ZAGGmate The Answer?

Honestly, one of the challenges I have faced with my iPad is the chore of extended typing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the iPad experience and wouldn’t trade my iPad for another tablet device. But for typing more than a few words, I have shunned the iPad on-screen keyboard.

There are reasons for this. Chief among them is my low vision handicap. I would love it if Apple would provide the ability to switch the keyboard to white on black. With the current keyboard color configuration, reading the letters is difficult at best. I  know that the colors can be reversed with one of the accessibility features, but that feature corrupts the screen colors so horribly that I refuse to use it.

Other shortcomings include

  • The lack of tactile feedback.: I can’t seem to train my fingers to hover above the keys. Those pesky, inadvertent touches are frustrating.
  • Screen Real Estate: The screen is small enough when typing a document. I don’t need the keyboard taking up a large portion of it.
  • The difficulty in attaining just the right typing position: I know that a number of cases slant this way and that way, but I like my keyboard flat, or nearly flat and the screen at a slant. Maybe you can attain that position in Yoga, but not with an iPad case and on-screen keyboard.

Well, today, I purchased the ZAGGmate case/keyboard combo at Best Buy. In fact, I am typing the first draft of this post on it right now.

The keyboard is very similar in size to those on the 10″ inch net books. As with those devices, it will take my stubby fingers a little time to adjust. Even as I type this post, my spedd is increasing.

One thing about the ZAGGmate. The keys are white letters on black, Take that Apple!

Now that I am actually typing on the iPad, I have noticed a few other things. The spell correction is a good aid. I never typed enough before to notice it. Just get close to the right spelling and, more times than not, the suggested word pops up for you to select with the Space key.

Another thing is the Zoom feature. In order to see what I am typing, I have to “zoom” in on the screen. Not the pinch motion, but the three finger tap and push to zoom the displayed image. As I typed my first line, I fully expected the cursor to run off the right edge of the screen and disappear. But as I reached the edge of the screen, the display shifted so that the cursor position remained in view. I didn’t have to reach up and move the screen with my finger.  The world isn’t flat after all.  Another “thumbs up” to Apple.

The tactile feedback from the keyboard is a wonderful change from the on-screen experience. This will open up a whole new area of use cases for my iPad. Before, the iPad was chiefly a consumption device; viewing email, checking Twitter and Facebook, surfing the Web and watching Netflix and other media outlets. Now I can see it as a productivity device. Even more of a reason to leave the laptop at home. That aspect will be tested more fully on Monday when I take the ZAGGmate to work.

I had expected to post a review of the MWave iPad keyboard case, but the first unit proved to be defective and had to be returned. Still waiting for the replacement.