A review and gallery of the Zagg Mini 9 keyboard case for iPad mini
I spotted a Zagg Mini 9 keyboard (regular price $90) at Best Buy yesterday and figured I’d give it a spin.
TL;DR: I’ve only spent a day tinkering with the Zagg Mini 9 and used it to write this piece. But compared to my ZaggFolio and my favorite of these keyboards, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the regular iPad, this is a decent option if you don’t mind some of Zagg’s compromises and the “slightly smaller everything” effect of the iPad mini’s display resolution, and you want one of the most capable, compact iPad writing combinations available.
The iPad mini must present a challenge for keyboard makers because, in landscape, it isn’t as wide as even the slightly slimmed netbook-ish keyboards that have become popular for iPads. Zagg got the Mini 9 to market quickly and made a few compromises along the way, and I think one of them is the way the iPad is seated in its upright position. The top half of the Mini 9 is essentially a plastic bin with holes cut out at the top for the iPad’s orientation lock switch (or mute switch) and volume keys, and ridges inside the top and bottom of the bin for holding the iPad in place (see one of my gallery photos). I made a video of the process of fitting the iPad into the Mini 9; you snap it into place. It takes a little getting used to, and you may have to practice getting it out over the long road if you want to minimize wear and tear to the sides of your iPad mini’s bezel.
The Mini 9’s bin is wider than the iPad mini because, for this model, Zagg wanted to include its standard portable keyboard. The setup looks a little weird and requires you to get used to lining the iPad mini’s buttons up properly with the bin’s cutouts, but it never bothered me much. If you want to try your hands at a keyboard case that is sized to match the iPad mini’s landscape width, Zagg makes a Mini 7. Whichever model you try, you prop the bin up with a thin, plastic, Surface-like stand that’s wrapped with leather from the case’s back, and attached to the case with a simple strip of cloth. You could take a little liberty in propping up the iPad at a slightly tighter angle, but I don’t recommend it; go too tight, and tapping the iPad could cause the stand to fold back under, and your iPad will fall. The case is really designed to have one viewing angle, which worked well for me while writing this piece at the dining room table.
One other compromise, or what is really a fit and finish complaint, worth pointing out is the bezel around the mini-USB port for charging is missing some plastic, though I’m open to the possibility that I just got a manufacturing goof. You can see it in one of my gallery photos, but some of the case’s core material is visible under the port. It’s not a deal-breaker and the keyboard works just fine, but if it’s not a manufacturing goof, it just looks sloppy.
As for the keyboard itself, it feels the same as my Zaggfolio. It’s good for a portable iPad keyboard, though if you need a frame of reference for my keyboard tastes, my favorites have long been in Apple’s notebooks and the current wireless keyboard. I’m not one of those clickity clack weirdos, so take that for what it’s worth. The keyboard is also is quite a bit thinner than the Zaggfolio’s, which makes typing more comfortable for me.
The keyboard’s layout is largely the same as the Zaggfolio, though Zagg changed two keys: the lower left corner keyboard language key and right Option key on the Zaggfolio are a battery check and keyboard language key on the Mini 9. Like the Zaggfolio, the Mini 9’s top row includes a handful of what have become standard custom iOS keys, including (from left to right) a Home button, Spotlight search, photo slideshow, on-screen keyboard toggle, cut, copy, and paste, and on the far right, a homescreen lock toggle.
Something which bothers me is that, while the plastic bin for housing the iPad mini works ok, it feels like a rushed, bulky design. Despite the slimmer keyboard and the iPad mini’s insanely thin design, the Mini 9 manages to hit nearly the same thickness when closed of the Zaggfolio and a regular iPad. On the bright side, the entire Mini 9 package, including my 64GB Verizon iPad mini, weighs just 725 grams (or 1.6 pounds).
Still, overall, the Mini 9 is good for what I believe is the first keyboard case specifically designed for the iPad mini, it’s just not great. Because I have a spare Apple keyboard and a Wingstand (thanks to Matt Brian for the recommendation), I’m going to return mine. But if you’re dying to break free from the portable writing shackles of your notebook or regular iPad, the Mini 9 can serve you well. If you can wait a little bit or have an alternative, I’m sure Zagg or someone else will improve on this design, perhaps in time for Macworld/iWorld next month.