By Nate Adcock on Tue, 08/05/2014
The Zagg Rugged Folio ($149.99 iPad Air/$139.99 iPad mini) is a practical yet superbly functional folio that protects your iPad with a hard shell and comes with a backlit keyboard.
The Folio is a fusion of tough polycarbonate plastic and silicon rubber inserts, but I can vouch for its protective strength, having dropped it at least once during my tests. The case portion wraps the iPad's back, corners, and edges, but allows access to the Lightning, audio and mute control. The outside texture has a rubbery feel, with a rugged construction to protect the iPad from anything short of direct screen impact. I tested it with my iPad mini.
Outside of the coolness factor of being backlit, the keyboard is pretty standard as Bluetooth keyboards go. I have tested others which have included a few features (like cut/paste) that are missing from the Folio, but overall a very similar albeit somewhat cramped experience (if you are used to a full sized keyboard.). Not much of an issue on the iPad Air version. The Folio offers more horizontal real estate than some I have tested. You can see it in action in the embedded video below.
Pairing is a straightforward matter of pressing the Bluetooth button and connecting your iPad in the Settings app. The usual keyboard shortcuts are available (player controls, home, search, etc.) The backlight color and brightness level can be adjusted, and the keys are the chiclet-style keys expected on a small keyboard. The same sturdy construction used in the case design is repeated in the keyboard, and amazingly, the battery is purported to last two years on a charge (I wasn't sure how to verify this). I do have other low-power Bluetooth keyboards that typically last months between charges, so not so unbelievable.
While the case and keyboard are each solid, the combination of keyboard and case make the Folio really shine. An important design aspect is the unique hinge that rotates open to a 120-degree angle. The case sits snugly in a groove that uses a magnetic bond to attach the case to the hinge, and in the usual clam configuration, the case folds up into a compact hard shell or folds out to transform the iPad into a mini workstation. You can also flip the iPad around in the hinge for use as a video or game stand, or close it and orient the iPad in either a vertical or horizontal mode suitable for reading, viewing, or playing.
The Zagg Rugged Folio is a superior case/keyboard and I highly recommend it. Its rugged design will protect against most major impacts, and its versatile nature is undeniable. My only complaint (and it's a minor one) would be that it adds a bit of weight. But that's to be expected of a rugged case with a keyboard. The Zagg Rugged Folio is a little expensive, but the excellent protection and function mean it's worth it. The iPad Air Folio is not yet available as of this writing, but the iPad mini Folio model is shipping.