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Zagg Rugged Book keyboard case for iPad Air 2 review

The Rugged Book (opens in new tab) is one of Zagg's newest keyboard case offerings for the iPad Air 2 and boasts great protection with 4 different modes, a backlit keyboard, up to two years of battery life on a single charge, and more. Let's take a look at how it holds up out in the real world!

The good

  • Same great keyboard layout Zagg has been known for
  • Backlit keys
  • Awesome battery life
  • 4 different modes that offer a keyboard and protective case all in one
  • Lots of iOS specific function keys
  • Check battery life right from the keyboard in a button push
  • Multiple layers offer superior shock protection that isn't too heavy or bulky
  • Easy Access to Control Center when in keyboard mode, the hinge doesn't block it, yay!

The bad

  • Book mode is somewhat awkward
  • Top portion detaches too easily and sometimes does this while adjusting viewing angles or opening the case

Zagg Rugged Book keyboard case for iPad Air 2 review

I've been using the Zagg Rugged Book for the past week as the sole keyboard case on my iPad Air 2. My first observation is that for a rugged case, it's not as thick or as bulky as I would expect, yet I feel it protects my iPad Air 2 well.

The Zagg Rugged Book offers 4 different modes; keyboard, case, video, and book. Keyboard mode is obvious. Case mode lets you easily detach the keyboard from the rest of the case so you can use your iPad in tablet mode. For video mode, just detach the top part from the keyboard, turn it around, and re-attach. The keyboard then works as a stand so you can interact with the screen and any media you need to. Book mode lets you stow the keyboard behind the case by attaching the same way you would for video mode. Just close the case with your iPad facing up instead. I never found a particularly good use for book mode and much preferred just detaching the iPad and using it in case mode. Why carry around the extra bulk?

When in keyboard mode, you have a spacious keyboard with several dedicated function keys. The top row of keys has lots of iOS specific keys such as a key for Home button, Siri, Spotlight search, quick toggle for international keyboards, and music controls. Along the bottom row you have a function key off the far left that you'll use to check battery life and toggle the backlight on and off.

Zagg Rugged Book keyboard case for iPad Air 2 review

Zagg boasts that the Rugged Book will last up to two years on a single charge. This estimate is based on using the keyboard case one hour per day with no backlight. Additional usage and using the backlit keyboard requires you to charge more frequently. While I haven't had the keyboard nearly long enough to fully work the battery, I have used it for more than 2 hours per day for a week or so and the battery is still showing as full.

You can quickly test the battery level by using the battery key on the keyboard. It will flash green 3 times if you have more than 50% battery remaining. Three yellow flashes indicates 25-49% and three red indicate less than 25%. In my experience, Zagg keyboards do a great job at sleeping themselves when idle. Both Zagg cases I had for my original iPad Air exceeded battery expectations so i'd expect the Rugged Book to do the same. Realistically, if you use the case each day for a few hours, you can expect to charge every 2-3 months or so.

One thing I'd like to point out that I feel is overlooked in keyboard case reviews is access to Control Center. Typically the hinge of every keyboard case blocks you from being able to swipe up. I was pleasantly surprised to see Zagg took this into account when designing the Rugged Book. The indent under the screen makes Control Center easy to access when in keyboard mode.

The bottom line

Zagg Rugged Book keyboard case for iPad Air 2 review

The Zagg Rugged Book is the case to beat in terms of protection and productivity packed into one. The keyboard layout is great and doesn't feel clumsy. If you need a keyboard that can handle whatever you throw at it, the Rugged Book by Zagg is what you want.

  • $149.99 - Buy now (opens in new tab)

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

20 Comments
  • IMPOSSIBLE TO BUY! I have been on the Zagg waitlist for at least 3 months! Amazon also has an order from me and will ship when they get them! Looks like a great product!
  • Tell me about it! I contacted Zagg customer support back in November, and they told me it would be available before the holidays. I've sent two or three more customer service emails since, and they still have nothing to tell me in regards to a release date. I was starting to get worried it was vaporware. Still a bit skeptical to be honest. I'll believe this puppy's real only once I can finally slide my naked iPad Air 2 into its rugged covers.
  • I'm back! And I can confirm that this product does indeed exist! After contacting Zagg AGAIN about this elusive product, they informed me that it would be releasing "in April." Not extremely useful. They did, however, also tell me that select Best Buy and AT&T stores might have a few models in stock early. I checked in with my local Best Buy, and they didn't have any. When I went to the AT&T store, though, they finally had answers! Turns out, they already have the case in their online inventory and you can actually order one! For real! Purchasing from the store got me a $20 discount as well, for what it's worth. So if any of you are still wondering about the Rugged Book for iPad Air 2, that's the info I have. The product does exist and my iPad is finally enjoying its rugged embrace.
  • I saw your comments and I have also been looking and waiting since the air2 came out. I love the one on my mini 2. I found it on line at the AT&T premium store (had to do a search) to find it and it said my local store had it in stock. So I ran over there and they had them. As it turns out my sons account to which we are on gets a 50% discount on all accessories. I got it for $81.00 out the door. I'm glad I didn't order on line and pick up in store. It would of cost me $162.00.
    My lucky day.
  • I would say is just as rugged as anything made by Otterbox and is more functional and it doesn't have that ridiculous built in screen protector that makes the screen unusable. I paired it up with a tempered glass screen protector on my Ipad mini 2 and love it. For 99% of what I use a computer for I just use my Ipad now. I'm practically running my small business on it. Sent from the iMore App
  • I assume the keyboard flies off if you drop it?
  • If it's closed, no. If it's open, it may come disconnected, sure.
  • Very interesting. I just got me a new iPad Air 2 and am looking for a keyboard. The Logitech, though outstanding quality, is not an option as I do a lot of work in the dark (planetarium, star gazing) and it has no backlit keys. Next option was the BrydgeAir as its hinge is sturdy and leaves the back of the iPad free to use a Hand-e-Holder. Minor detail is that it has only white backlight while the ZAGG range has al colours. The ZAGG versions with detachable keyboard however had very flimsy hinges last time I looked. But this rugged version seems to do better, although the detachment seems to a bit easy at times.
    My first choice is now the ZAGG rugged. I assume the availability issue is a production ramp up problem that should go away.
  • If it's like the one for my mini, the color of the backlit can be changed. There are 7 selections I think and you can change the intensity. Sent from the iMore App
  • OK, I just got the ZAGG Rugged Book and all looks fine, rugged indeed. But I can't find the backlight settings beyond on and off. No manual seems to exist.....
  • For the rugged book for the air 2 there is no multifunction color besides the standard on and off button. I know because I just got off the phone with zagg customer care and we're both under the impression that it had different colors but the new keyboard only comes with one color.
  • Thanks for the info. This is hard to believe! It's is not mentioned on their site. I had seen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPf9gs8aljs where from 7m the colours are demoed, but that is a review for the iPad Air 1 model. So they made a lemon, specifically for the iPad Air 2, and told nobody about it? I just checked and the specs on the ZAGG site for the 1 and 2 models show no difference, just that they have the backlight. Prices are identical too. It might not even have been a problem, but the backlight on this one is way too bright for use in the dark! I think I need and go raise a stink!
  • Yes the zagg site claims that both the rugged book for the Air1 and the Air2 are exactly the same but in actuality the Air2 does not have 7 seven different colors to choose from. It isn't a big deal to some but I personally am bummed out. I think thAt feature would of been awsome to have. Zagg please put that feature back!
  • I just sent this to ZAGG: On 08 May 2015, at 18:24, ******** wrote: <indent on> I just got the Rugged Book for my iPad Air 2 and as I expected it's great. Very solid stuff.
    <indent off> <indent on> But where are the settings for the backlight? I can turn it on and off, but there are no obvious granular options (brightness, colours) that ZAGG is renowned for and it's not in the small manual. I looked for a manual on-line, but that seems not to exist.
    <indent off> <indent on> I’m sure it’s simple, but I can’t find it.
    <indent off> I just got this information from the iMore Forum: <indent on> For the rugged book for the air 2 there is no multifunction color besides the standard on and off button. I know because I just got off the phone with zagg customer care and we're both under the impression that it had different colors but the new keyboard only comes with one color.
    <indent off> This is hard to believe! It's is not mentioned on your site. I had seen
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPf9gs8aljs
    where from 7m the colours are demoed, but that is a review for the iPad Air 1 model. So you took out the backlight settings, specifically for the iPad Air 2 model, and told nobody about it? I just checked and the specs on the ZAGG site for the 1 and 2 models show no difference, just that they have the backlight. Prices are identical too. It might not even have been a problem, but the backlight on this one is way too bright for use in the dark! I planned on using it (besides work) in a planetarium, where it is essential to be able to tone the backlight down, otherwise I won’t be able to see what I’m doing on the dome. This is all very disappointing! My original search criteria for an iPad Air 2 keyboard were: 1 - iPad can be handled independently from the keyboard with its Hand-E-Holder strap
    2 - Keyboard has to have adjustable backlighting For my iPad v3 I had a Logitech keyboard, which was very thin, but met point 1 very well. Point 2 it didn’t, but at that time there were no backlit keyboards around anyway. For protection I had a thick neoprene sleeve to carry the set around in. Point 2 made it onto the list because of the various backlit keyboards that are now available. In the planetarium dome I had been using small external lights to illuminate the Logitech, but that remained very clumsy. The ZAGG Rugged Book seemed to meet the new criteria, with the protection as a huge bonus. The colours were also a big bonus. Now I have to return it (incurring costs for me) because point 2 is not met after all. If this change in backlighting had been mentioned on your website I would not have purchased it in the first place. Unless you can advise me a ZAGG product that meets my criteria, I’ll have to start looking around again. The BrydgeAir (three levels of key illumination brightness), which I had considered until I found the ZAGG Rugged Book, may be back in view again. I just found the ZAGG Slim Book, but no mention of what the backlit keys do on that one either. Are the multi-function backlights taken out of all ZAGG keyboards? I’m beginning to get that impression. It makes the backlighting from a big ZAGG selling point into a problem. I hope to hear from you, Sig.
  • I put the RuggedBook back into its original packing for return shipment next week. The BrydgeAir is beginning to grow on me more and more: http://www.brydgekeyboards.com/collections/brydgeair/products/brydgeair_...
  • I just found a coupon code at http://beterrific.com/gear/ for 10% off of the BrydgeAir :-)
    Video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_No3XYe6tI
  • Haven't heard back from Zagg yet. Went and ordered the BrydgeAir. It's more expensive, plus I had to order from abroad, while the Zagg had a local dealer. But I'm OK with it. ETA two weeks.
  • My wife and I have these on our minis. We love them. We have not had any easy detach instances. These are a great compnion to any sized iPad and would highly recommend them to anyone that asks. The magnetic hinge is what really sold me on them. There are alot of cases out there, but I wanted to be able to use my iPad without the keyboard. I typed this comment out on it. Thank you iMore for the great review. Looks like we made a good choice.
  • I have the keyboard and when you write something it does to the next sentence. Is there a way then you go to message on an iPad it will send the message and not go to the second line
  • I got lucky and they had a memorial 1/2 off sale. I wasn't sure at first after initially unboxing and using it due to the weight. But when i have projects that require lots of typing this is the only way to go. I am bumbed about the non-existen multi color and brightness settings like the other Zagg products. I did find it hard to adjust the angle with out the iPad coming out of the keyboard rest but found out it's much easier to tilt the unit back and make the adjust ment with the keyboard portion if that makes sense. Try not to push the ipad back theres too much weight anb force. Hope this review helps.