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I've said time and time again that my least favorite thing about the iPad is having to type on it. I bought a mini Bluetooth keyboard in hopes of making things a little easier. It worked okay for me, but it wasn't ideal due to having to carry it around separately. I have also been using the Apple notebook style case with the built-in stand. The problem is, it only props the iPad up at about 25 degrees. Other cases prop the device up at too steep of an angle. The Apple case is ideal for typing but makes you have to lean over the tablet to see the display well. When I caught glimpse of the ZAGGmate, I fell in love.

If you're looking for a way to essentially turn your iPad into a smaller, lighter netbook, ZAGG may have a viable option for you. The ZAGGmate is a new accessory available for both the 3G and Wi-Fi that offers protection, a stand, and a physical Bluetooth keyboard to help turn your iPad into a much more functional device.  Better yet, it's available for the lovely price of $99.99.

What's good

First and foremost, my favorite part of this case is the Bluetooth keyboard it offers. The physical keyboard sort of takes away from the word "tablet," but with the keyboard being built into the case, it doesn't hinder its mobility. The keyboard is a little small, but I haven't had any problem getting used to it. It's actually been rather easy to type on. The biggest plus is, of course, the extra buttons. The very top row of keys (F1, F2, F3, etc.) have special functionality. The top left key is the home key, then search, lock, keyboard show/hide, and a screen on/off key. On the right side, the top row consists of volume control, previous song, play/pause, and skip song. There is a key with a globe insignia on it that you would think is for the browser, but it has no function.

Made of aircraft aluminum, the cover is as lightweight as it is durable. It is also very thin, meaning it won't bulk up your iPad like some other cases do. While I'm afraid it may scratch easily (mainly because the first one I got was scratched when I pulled it out of the box), it does come with adhesive rubber tabs to help prevent scratching and to keep it from sliding around on a smooth surface.

I originally bought the iPad to help me take notes in class and read my textbook PDF's while on the go. Reading the PDF's was never a problem, they were quite a bit easier to scan through on my iPad than on my computer. The problem of course was taking notes in class. I couldn't type fast or efficiently enough to justify using the iPad over a pen and paper while in class, especially in my Math class. With the combination of touchscreen and a physical keyboard, note taking is a lot easier.

The keyboard adds quite a bit of functionality to the simplified tablet too. I can now highlight much easier (using shift and arrow keys) and I can use my beloved hotkey combinations for copy and paste that I'm used to using on my computer. The arrow keys make positioning your cursor painless, and in combination with the alt and command key, can make navigating a breeze.

The one thing I was worried about was the battery life of both the iPad and the keyboard. The iPad battery seemed to drain slightly faster, but nothing major. Turn the brightness setting down a bit and you probably won't notice much of a difference. The battery of the keyboard is a bit of a shot in the dark seeing that there is no battery indicator. It only notifies you with a light when it needs to be charged. Fortunately, the paperwork with the ZAGGmate claims that the battery for the keyboard can last a couple of months on standby. The bad thing is, I don't know how long it will last in use.

What's bad

There are a couple things about the case that I'm not particularly fond of, that I'm going to have to get used to. For instance, the most noticeable drawback you will notice if you ever use a ZAGGmate is how the keyboard is inset about a quarter of an inch. The edges have to be higher to grip the case when it is closed, so there is an edge around most of the cover. It was a little annoying at first, but I got used to it after typing with it for a while.

The second thing is that this case, or cover, is exactly that. It's a separate entity from the iPad itself. It is not attached in any way other than gripping all four edges of the device when it is faced-in. If you wanted to use the iPad without the cover or stand, you would have to sit it down somewhere, which could be an inconvenience in somewhere that you don't have a lot of space, like an airport or coffee shop. Also, the stand is a little awkward to set. It's a bi-folding piece of plastic that I don't think I could describe beyond just that. It folds under and to prop it each time, it's sort of like setting up an easel. It's usable, but I think ZAGG could have come up with a better way of implementing it.

One thing I really don't like about how the cover fastens to the edges of the iPad is that it is just a thin, foam pad that clings onto the iPad, using friction. It works, but I'm afraid that over a period of time, the foam may break down and no longer hold on to the iPad. Again, I think ZAGG could have come up with a better way to do this, especially for the ugly price tag it wears.

Like I said before, there is no battery life indicator on the keyboard itself. There is a status light that will let you know when you need to charge the keyboard, but it's like your gas light in your car. When it turns on the first few times, you have no idea how much time you have left before you will run out of juice.

Being that this is a ZAGG product and it is $99.99, you would expect it to come with an Invisible Shield. However, it does not. Meaning, if you wanted an Invisible Shield and this case, it would set you back roughly $130 plus tax.

Conclusion

The look of this case matches perfectly with the iPad. It's made of similar material (a little more lightweight than the aluminum used by Apple, or it feels it at least), and it's the only case I've seen that looks as if it was made with Apple design in mind. It's a great way to bring a little more functionality to your tablet on the go and not take away any portability. A case with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard and prop is a perfect combination for a tablet.

The price at $99 is a little steep, but it can be justified since a decent Bluetooth keyboard will set you back anywhere from $30-70 and a good case or cover can run from $20-60. You may be able to find a cheaper way out, but there isn't anything out there, that I know of, that works as well as one.

For what it's worth, I typed this entire review on my iPad using the keyboard on the ZAGGmate. I do not feel like chucking my iPad through a wall, and I think I'm in love.


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