The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a lot of computer packed into a slender shape, with more than enough power to be a good PC for work or personal use. But there are plenty of people who insist that their main computer have a keyboard. Fortunately, there are lots of options for added a keyboard to Apple’s tablet, with the ZAGG Slim Book being among the best. It’s certainly one of the more attractive picks.
This $119.99 accessory also functions as a case for this iPad, plus it has clips for the Apple Pencil.
Note: Those who have the larger version of this tablet should read our ZAGG Slim Book for 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro Review instead.
Unlike many rival keyboard cases, ZAGG’s doesn’t include a kickstand. Instead, it converts the 10.5-inch iPad Pro into a true clamshell, which has advantages and drawbacks that we’ll discuss throughout this review.
The Slim Book is composed of two parts: a case that wraps around the back and sides of the tablet, and a keyboard for typing that also covers the screen when the clamshell is closed. These two parts can separate so that the iPad becomes a detachable 2-in-1. They join at the hinge.
The Slim Book includes a polycarbonate shell to protect the edges, corners, and back of the iPad Pro. Most of this is covered with polyurethane with a fabric texture, which looks far better than it sounds. In fact, it’s this feature that makes this one of the best-looking keyboard cases we’re ever used. This accessory is available only in black so the overall impression is professional more than fun, but we still liked the exterior very much.
There are openings in the case for the tablet’s ports, cameras, and microphones. Even better, the bottom edge of the case is shaped to guide the sound coming from the speakers toward the user. The iPad’s buttons can still be used thanks to depressible button covers.
As mentioned, the Slim Book doesn’t have a kickstand, so the shell is very light weight: just 0.25 pounds (4.0 oz.). The downside of this, of course, is that there’s no kickstand. When the iPad Pro is being used without the keyboard, there’s no way to prop up the screen to watch video.
On one long edge are a pair of clips to hold an Apple Pencil. These are fairly firm, but not tight. Even though this stylus never slipped out over several days of use, the clips are just loose enough to make us nervous. Alternatively, these clips can be used for any kind of stylus, or just a pen or pencil.
The case is 10.0 by 7.5 inches, just a bit bigger than the iPad but with the stylus clips adding about 0.4 in. to one side.
The raison d’être for the ZAGG Slim Book is the keyboard that’s set into the base. The key area is about the size of many laptop ones: 9.0 by 3.8 inches. That’s smaller than typical desktop keyboards, which run about 11 inches wide.
Most keys are 0.6 by 0.6 inches, with 0.1 inches of space on each side. Not surprisingly, that makes them just a bit smaller and more tightly packed than the keys of a desktop keyboard.
We asked people with a range of hand sizes to type on the Slim Book’s keyboard. Those with small and medium-size hands had no issues, but those with large ones found touch typing to be a strain. People who hunt and peck had no issues. In our tests, there were absolutely no problems with the keys not registering a tap, or mistaking one tap for two.
The version sold in the U.S. has the traditional QWERTY layout in five rows of keys. There’s as extra sixth row of half-size function keys across the top. This includes an alternate Home key, as well as a set of multimedia controls, making it easier to play music in the background while working.
The keys are backlit, and ZAGG went whole hog with this feature. Not only are there three illumination levels, the user has seven different colors to choose from. When using the backlights for real, red is the best option, but purple, blue, green, and more are also available.
This keyboard is integrated into a base that’s 10.0 by 7.1 inches, the same size as the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which makes sense because it acts as a cover to protect the tablet’s display.
ZAGG’s product lives up to it name: with the top closed the Slim Case is 0.7 inches thick, or 0.75 at the hinge.
The keyboard base weighs 1.1 pounds, slightly more than the iPad. That’s necessary because because of the Slim Case’s clamshell design: the base has to be heavy enough to support the tablet when it’s being leaned back past 90°.
The total weight of the keyboard base and case without the iPad is 1.5 pounds. Add the computer and the weight reaches a mere 2.5 pounds.
Just as the back of the case is covered in the fabric texture, the back of the keyboard is similarly covered, continuing the professional appearance.
The joining of the case with the keyboard base is a critical feature. ZAGG’s design includes both a clamp to hold these two pieces together, as well as a hinge to enable them to function as a clamshell.
The Slim Book’s clamp grips the iPad in its case quite firmly because it doesn’t depend only on friction: there are strong magnets in both the base and the case. During our testing period, the two sections never came apart accidentally. Even so, it’s not difficult to separate the two halves of this accessory, as a firm pull will free the iPad and case, allowing this computer to be used as a traditional tablet.
The hinge offers a very wide range of viewing angles. The iPad can be rotated from completely closed across a full 180°, to the point where it’s lying back flat, or set anywhere in between. This flexibility is a significant advantage over some of its competitors, such as the Apple Smart Keyboard, which offer a much more limited selection of viewing angles.
In addition, the iPad and case can be removed from the clamp, flipped around, and then reinserted, putting the tablet’s screen into the right configuration to play video.
Another advantage of this design is that the hinge rotates under the iPad so that the farther back the screen is tilted, the more the top of the keyboard is tilted upward. This only works out to be a few degrees, but it does make typing a smidge easier.
It’s worth noting that the outside of the hinge is also covered in the fabric texture.
Apple added the Smart Connector to one edge of the iPad Pro line specifically to communicate with external keyboards, but ZAGG decided to not use it with this accessory. Instead, the Slim Book’s keyboard communicates over Bluetooth.
The iOS operating system was designed to work with Bluetooth keyboards, so there aren’t any compatibility problems. And pairing the tablet with this accessory is a snap.
On the other side of the coin, using this short-range wireless tech means that the Slim Book needs to run off its own battery, as it can’t use the iPad’s. And to keep the battery from running down too quickly, the keyboard will automatically shut itself down when it hasn’t been used for a few minutes, which means it needs a couple of seconds to wake back up. This isn’t a huge hassle, but it is a bit irritating.
Using Bluetooth does have at least one significant advantage: the Slim Book’s keyboard can be used with more than one computer. It’s even designed for that, as there are two buttons on the row of function keys to easily switch between a pair of devices. This allows the user to also type on their iPhone, or any other Bluetooth computer.
ZAGG says that a single charge of the battery will last for up to two years of use, providing the keyboard is only being typed on for one hour a day. Putting it another way, the manufacturer’s promise indicates that the Slim Book should be good for up to 720 hours of use. Naturally, we can’t test that, but we can say we’ve typed on the Slim Book for several hours over multiple days and it’s till close to a full charge.
Just be aware that the backlights will drain the battery much more quickly than just typing.
There’s a power button to reduce unnecessary drain, and to shut down the keyboard to allow the the user to type on the screen. ZAGG also built in a key combination that indicates the remaining battery level through blinks of an LED.
The battery is recharged through a micro-USB port on the right edge of the keyboard base. The necessary cable is included, and this can be plugged in to the iPad’s wall charger.
This company has been in the business of making iPad keyboards for many years, and its long experience shows up in the ZAGG Slim Book for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The accessory looks professional and functions very well.
Still, the decision to use Bluetooth rather than the Smart Connector is likely to turn some potential customers away.
- Fabric-covered exterior looks very professional
- Clamshell design offers full 180° of viewing angles
- Backlit keyboard
- Uses Bluetooth rather than the Smart Connector
- Heavier than some rival keyboard cases