Review: Zagg’s Slim Book More Than Doubles the Weight of the iPad Pro, but Keyboard is Great

Zagg’s newest Slim Book is its first product designed specifically for the iPad Pro. Following in the footsteps of its previous Slim Books for other iPads, the Slim Book for iPad Pro features a protective case that snaps around the iPad and fits into an accompanying full-sized keyboard.

The Slim Book is one of the few keyboard cases available for the iPad Pro, and it essentially turns the iPad Pro into a full-fledged laptop, plus it is versatile because it’s able to serve as a standalone case or a case that offers full protection. That might sound appealing, but as I’ve discovered testing it for the last week, there are some downsides to Zagg’s latest offering.

Design

The Slim Book consists of two pieces: a black plastic shell that fits around the back of the iPad Pro and a matching silver aluminum keyboard with black MacBook-style keys and a matching black plastic exterior. The shell piece that fits around the iPad Pro is relatively slim, snapping into place to protect the back of the iPad. It doesn’t feel cheaply made, but it also doesn’t feel as premium as an Apple product given all the plastic.

All of the ports on the iPad Pro are left open with the shell on, leaving everything from the headphone jack to the Lightning port accessible. Because the shell fits so tightly to the iPad Pro, it’s difficult to remove. This is not a shell that I would want to be taking off my iPad on a regular basis, because it takes a lot of force to get it off. It also makes the volume and the sleep/wake buttons on the iPad Pro more difficult to press because it causes them to be recessed.

For a while after I put it on, I wasn’t even sure my iPad Pro would ever come out, so expect a tight fit there. Given the amount of force it took to get that shell off, I’m concerned about future breakage, especially at weak spots near ports. If you get this case, you’re going to want to leave the back shell on all the time, so that’s something to keep in mind. On the plus side, it does offer some rear protection from scratches and dings.

The shell is thin enough that it doesn’t add a lot of bulk on its own, but the whole setup gets a lot heavier when the keyboard is added. On the left side of the shell, the plastic is slightly thicker, which allows it to fit into grooves on the keyboard portion of the case. It’s necessary for the holes in the shell up with the mounts in the keyboard groove, but this sounds more difficult than it is – things just kind of snap in place when you go to set the iPad and shell on the keyboard, but it can take a minute to line up both pieces.

On the keyboard, the slot that the iPad Pro sits in is attached to a hinge, which rotates forwards and backwards so the iPad Pro can be set at a user’s preferred viewing angle. The hinge action is smooth with little friction, and the hinge itself reliably stays in the correct position. The hinge can be positioned backwards to 135 degrees, but it closes completely in the front to serve as a protective clamshell case for the iPad Pro when not in use. When closed, the Slim Book is approximately three quarters of an inch thick at its thickest point (excepting the hinge area, which is about an inch thick) and with its black plastic exterior, it more closely resembles a bulky Windows laptop than a MacBook. Thickness wise, it’s a bit thicker than a Retina MacBook Pro.

When I first received the package containing the Slim Book, my first thought was „Wow, this is heavy.“ I thought it might just be the packaging that was adding weight, but no, the Slim Book itself weighs quite a bit. The iPad Pro on its own weighs a hefty 713 grams, or 1.57 pounds. Attached to the Zagg Slim Book, my iPad Pro weighed 1814 grams, equivalent to nearly four pounds. For comparisons sake, that’s heavier than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and nearly as heavy as the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which weighs 4.49 pounds. In fact, it feels heavier than a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro simply because the weight is distributed over a smaller surface area.

The iPad Pro can also be positioned backwards in the keyboard, allowing it to serve as a stand for reading or watching videos. When backwards, the keyboard can be folded flat under the iPad Pro, though I’m not sure why you would want to use it this way because it’s just added bulk.

Keyboard

Zagg’s Slim Book isn’t a lightweight solution, but that weight does allow it to sport a full-sized keyboard. The keys on the Zagg Pro mimic the keys of a Retina MacBook Pro, offering excellent key feel and travel. Of the iPad Pro keyboards I’ve tested so far, including the Logitech CREATE Keyboard Case, the Zagg Messenger Universal, and Apple’s own Smart Keyboard, the Zagg Slim Book has the best keys. The typing experience was almost identical to the typing experience on my Retina MacBook Pro (with slightly more travel), and the keys were neither too clicky nor overly noisy. If you like the way a Retina MacBook Pro or MacBook Air keyboard feels underneath your fingers, you will like the keyboard of the Zagg Slim Book.

Like most keyboards at this price point, the Zagg Slim Book offers backlighting. It goes a step beyond some other keyboards, though, allowing users to cycle through a range of different LED colors like aqua, green, yellow, red, purple, white, and deep blue. There are also three levels of brightness to choose from, along with an option to turn the backlighting off. Customizable backlighting was one of the features that I enjoyed most during the time that I tested the Zagg Slim Book.

At the top of the keyboard, there are function keys that correspond to specific iPad shortcuts. Using these keys, it’s possible to lock the iPad, access the home screen, open the app switcher, access search, bring up a Siri search, bring up the on-screen keyboard, adjust volume, and control media playback. Missing are keys for controlling screen brightness, so that will need to be done manually on the iPad.

The keyboard is detachable from the iPad Pro, so it can potentially be used with other devices. The Slim Book can switch between three different connected Bluetooth devices using the function key along with the first three number keys. Switching between devices is smooth and quick.

Keyboards like the Logitech CREATE and the Smart Keyboard connect to the iPad Pro using its Smart Connector, but the Zagg Slim Book connects via Bluetooth like any other Bluetooth device. That means it requires charging (via an included micro-USB cable), but according to Zagg, it only needs to be charged once every two years with regular usage. I had no issues with Bluetooth with the Slim Book. It connected quickly and stayed connected.

Bottom Line

The Zagg Slim Book has appealing features like multi-color backlighting, good key feel, and a smooth hinge with adjustable viewing angles, but it’s more than doubling the weight of the iPad Pro. That’s a deal breaker for me because it cuts down on the portability of Apple’s larger tablet. If I’m going to carry four pounds around, I might as well be carrying my Retina MacBook Pro.

For customers who purchased an iPad Pro for its portability or to use in place of a MacBook while traveling, this case probably isn’t the best option, but for customers who are using the iPad Pro as a complete laptop replacement, it may be more viable. The Slim Book is heavy, but it turns the iPad Pro’s tablet form into a MacBook-style design. Figuring out whether the Zagg Slim Book is for you basically comes down to deciding if you want to sacrifice portability for a keyboard.

As someone who is thoroughly invested in the Apple ecosystem and prefers products that match the aesthetic of Apple devices, the Zagg Slim Book would not be my first accessory choice. I am not a fan of the overwhelming black plastic, but the look may not bother those who are looking for function over form.

Pros:

Great keyboard

Multi-color backlighting

RMBP-style key feel

Connects to and switches between multiple iOS devices

Hinged design with multiple viewing angles

Cons:

Super heavy

Shell is very difficult to remove

Black plastic design doesn’t really match Apple devices

Makes volume/sleep/wake buttons harder to press

How to Buy

The Zagg Slim Book for iPad Pro is available from the Zagg website for $139.99.

Tags: review, Zagg
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Review: SwitchEasy’s CoverBuddy Protects Your iPad Pro and Holds an Apple Pencil (Plus Giveaway)

Apple offers protection for the iPad Pro in the form of a Smart Cover and a Silicone Case for the back of the device, but Apple’s products are priced rather high at $59 and $79 respectively, for a total price of $138 for complete iPad Pro coverage.

Luckily, third-party manufacturers have already started coming out with some clever cases and covers for the iPad Pro, and one of the first available rear shells comes from popular accessory maker SwitchEasy. The iPad Pro CoverBuddy is SwitchEasy’s first product for Apple’s tablet, and it’s designed to work alongside Apple’s own Smart Cover and Smart Keyboard.

SwitchEasy funded the iPad Pro CoverBuddy through Indiegogo, but now it’s ready to ship out to customers. While the Indiegogo campaign was still ongoing, SwitchEasy sent me a prototype CoverBuddy to check out, which I’ve been using for the last week.

Made of a thin but rigid polycarbonate, the CoverBuddy snaps onto the back of the iPad Pro. Since it’s only 1.5mm thick, it adds very little additional weight and bulk. The polycarbonate of the CoverBuddy is textured and it’s super grippy. The grip on the CoverBuddy is probably my favorite aspect of the case because it makes the unwieldy iPad Pro a lot easier to hold on to.

CoverBuddy’s polycarbonate material isn’t going to protect the iPad Pro from serious damage, but it feels sturdy enough to protect it from the scratches, dings, and minor drops that occur from day-to-day use and travel.

The CoverBuddy leaves all of the ports and the rear camera accessible with precise cutouts, and it has a Lightning port cutout that’s able to accommodate the Apple Pencil for charging purposes. On the back, there’s a removable plastic Apple Pencil holder, which is actually quite versatile.

It keeps the Apple Pencil in place on the back of the iPad Pro so it doesn’t get lost, and when used on a desk or a lap, it props the iPad Pro up at a slight angle that’s ideal for drawing or playing games. SwitchEasy’s calling this „Sketch Board“ mode, and I found it to be useful for writing and sketching.

It’s fairly easy to get the Apple Pencil in and out of the built-in holder to use it because it’s open at the middle. A quick slide with a finger is enough to remove it, and putting it back is as easy as sticking it into the holder.

When an Apple Pencil isn’t in use, the Pencil holder snaps off of the back of the CoverBuddy and can be replaced with a thin strip of plastic that covers the holder. The holder itself can be used on a standalone basis to keep the Apple Pencil safe in a bag, but it’s not the most elegant solution when not attached to the case.

Having an additional piece of plastic that covers the Apple Pencil cutout area is a bit of an imperfect solution because it’s easy to misplace or lose. I’m fairly well organized, but I still have a tendency to misplace the odds and ends that accessories sometimes ship with. I also had some trouble getting the plastic cover to stay in place, but SwitchEasy has told me small manufacturing issues like this will be ironed out with the final release of the CoverBuddy.

Along with leaving the ports uncovered, the CoverBuddy also has an opening on the left side that’s designed to work with the iPad Pro Smart Cover or the Smart Keyboard. The cutout is sized perfectly for the Smart Keyboard that I have, and the CoverBuddy worked well alongside it. The CoverBuddy doesn’t get in the way of the keyboard and it keeps the Apple Pencil out of the way at the top.

The CoverBuddy is designed to stay on the iPad Pro at all times, but it’s easy enough to take it off if you want to use the iPad Pro sans case. It snaps off at the corners and takes only a couple seconds to remove. Given the rigidity of the material I worry that it could crack from the force of removing it, but that didn’t happen during the time that I tested it.

I tested an opaque white version of the CoverBuddy designed to match the white Apple Smart Cover, but it also comes in translucent black to match the charcoal Smart Cover and the charcoal Smart Keyboard and a clear translucent color that’s perfect for the gold iPad Pro.

Bottom Line

SwitchEasy’s CoverBuddy isn’t quite as premium as Apple’s own Silicone Case for the iPad Pro, but it offers full rear protection for the tablet in a slim form factor that preserves its thin design. At $39, the CoverBuddy is reasonably priced and it works well with existing Apple accessories.

The add-on Apple Pencil holder is useful because it keeps the $99 accessory close at hand and it provides a comfortable drawing angle when used in a lap or on a desk. I do wish SwitchEasy produced a version without the Apple Pencil holder for those totally uninterested in it, but the existing CoverBuddy is convertible and suitable for use with or without an Apple Pencil.

If you’re looking for a rear shell solution that’s more affordable than what Apple offers, the CoverBuddy is definitely worth checking out.

It’s worth noting the CoverBuddy is a product that’s been around for awhile, so it’s not something that’s untried and untested. SwitchEasy has been making CoverBuddy cases for Apple’s iPad lineup for some time, and it’s received largely positive reviews from media outlets and buyers.

How to Buy

The CoverBuddy for iPad Pro can be pre-ordered from the SwitchEasy website for $39.99. Orders are expected to ship on December 14.

Giveaway

We’ve also teamed up with SwitchEasy to give away six of the iPad Pro CoverBuddy cases to MacRumors readers. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prize.

You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page. Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest will run from today (December 10) at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on December 17. The winners will be chosen randomly on December 17 and will be contacted by email. The winners have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen. The prizes will be shipped to the winners for free.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.

Tags: review, giveaway, SwitchEasy, CoverBuddy
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Jony Ive: Why Apple Pencil won’t replace your finger on iPad Pro

Given that Apple Pencil critics love to whip out Steve Jobs’ quote about how, “If you see a stylus [on the iPad], they blew it,” it was always going to take a require a good reason for Apple to adopt the stylus, as it did for the iPad Pro. In a new interview for design […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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iMessage could power Apple’s peer-to-peer payments system

Apple is considering using iMessage to make it easy for iOS to transfer users money to one another, according to a new report. Given iMessage’s high level of encryption and existing popularity among users (particularly millennials), it makes perfect sense that Apple would use the software — rather than developing a completely new app — to further […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Apple Hires Engineer From Digital License Plate Company for Car Project

One of Apple’s recent hires is Rónán Ó Braonáin, who previously served as Director of Engineering at Reviver, a company that makes digital license plates. Braonáin joined the company in August, and as seen on his LinkedIn page, he’s working on Apple Special Projects as a „Secret Agent.“ Presumably that means he’s part of the team working on Project Titan, the codename for the Apple Car.

The profile, discovered by Electrek.co, says Braonáin led the Reviver engineering team for five months. Before that, he worked at Vision Fleet, building fleet management software to read data from electric vehicles, and prior to that, he was a software engineer at BMW working on connected car apps.

Reviver has produced Slate, a product dubbed „The World’s First Digital License Plate.“ The Slate is a connected plate that’s able to do things like monitor vehicle location and maintenance records and digitally send payments for tolls and parking fees. It also alleviates the need for physical stickers and manual registration processes.

Given Braonáin’s short time at Reviver, it’s not clear if Apple hired him for the work he did on digital license plate technology, but it’s possible it’s something Apple is considering for the Apple Car.

Braonáin is just one of dozens of hires with car-related expertise Apple has made in recent months. Apple has been hiring employees from companies like Chrysler, Tesla, NVIDIA, Volkswagen, and Ford, along with researchers who have expertise in autonomous vehicles and connected car systems.

Development on the Apple Car has sped up as of September of 2015, when the project reportedly received a „committed“ label. Apple is said to be targeting a 2019 completion date for the project and will make additional hires in the coming months and years as work on the car continues.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
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