Travel Gadget Review: Zagg Rugged Messenger for the Apple iPad Pro 10.5-inch

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Apple just announced the new iPad Pro Generation (2018) with an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch version.

However, I am still using the Ipad Pro 10.5-inch and it is still a very good tablet. As with my travel and outdoor lifestyle, I was looking for a rugged case for the iPad and found the Zagg Rugged Messenger for the iPad Pro.

With the arrival of the new iPad Pro, the old iPad Pro 10.5-inch will drop in price and probably also the Zagg Rugged Messenger Case. As of right now, Zagg sells if for $99.99 on their website.

Zagg makes also a Rugged Book (Pro) which I liked better than the Rugged Messenger, but they don’t build it for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

In the Box

  • Rugged Case for the iPad Pro 10.5-inch with a holder for Apple Pen
  • Keyboard Cover which attaches via magnets to the iPad case
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Charging cable for the Keyboard

Putting it all together

First things first. After unboxing all the pieces I clipped the iPad into the case which was super easy.

Then all you have to do is hold the case close above the keyboard and it will snap in place with the built-in magnets. Adjust your screen angle via the back cover and you are set up.

How to pair

The keyboard can be paired with up to two devices and it has designated buttons to switch quickly and easily between them. To start the pairing process turn the keyboard on by a quick press on the power button located at the top right corner of the keyboard. The backlighting of the keyboard should turn on and this gives you confirmation that it is on.

Now press and hold either Device 1 or Device 2 button for a few seconds until the LED lights above the button start flashing.

Open the Bluetooth settings in your iPad and when you search for new devices you should see a device named ZAGG KEYBOARD. Click on it and the pairing is finished. Also when you are paired, the onscreen keyboard will disappear automatically if you use Apple’s software keyboard.

I paired my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as the second device, which worked exactly the same way as with the iPad. Switching the keyboard between the two devices can’t be any easier. Isuperper convenient if you sit somewhere and are typing text on the iPad. Once I receive a text message on my phone and want to reply, I just switch over to my phone by pressing the button for Device 2 and this will also automatically unlock my phone (Needs to be set up separately on the phone).


The keyboard comes with a few useful features. You can choose from 7 different colors for your backlight and also adjust the brightness of the backlight.

Above the number row are a couple of very useful shortcut keys.

From left to right:

  • Device 1 Selector
  • Device 2 Selector
  • Home Button (works just like the home button on the iPad itself)
  • Lock Key to lock the screen
  • Recent Apps (brings up recently used apps)
  • Key to cycle between the different keyboard languages and multiple keyboards if installed
  • Keyboard Button to hide and show the onscreen keyboard
  • Multimedia Keys (Rewind, Play/Pause, Forward, Mute, Volume down, Volume up)
  • Power Button

To check the charging status of the keyboard hold down the “fn” key and push the “Ctrl” key. The light in the caps lock key will start flashing and indicating the battery charging status of the keyboard.

  1. 4 Flashes > Full
  2. 3 Flashes > 3/4 Full
  3. 2 Flashes > Half Full
  4. 1 Flash > 1/4 Full

Three Ways to use it

The case keyboard combination can be used in many different applications. First of all the obvious.

Tablet Mode

It’s probably best to detach the iPad with its rugged case from the keyboard and cover. Now you have a fully functional tablet with a rugged case. Not as rugged as for example an Otterbox, but better protected as just the bare iPad itself. Of course, you could just flip the keyboard to the back so you have one piece instead of two separate ones. Two problems here. Make sure you turn the keyboard off as otherwise, it will still recognize the keystrokes even tho it’s on the back of the iPad. The biggest problem, however, is that the iPad is not holding very well just with the magnets in the cover piece. It tends to just fall out if you don’t have a good grip on it. This is also what ruins the possibility to tuck the keyboard part of the cover into the seat pocket in a plane and have the screen hang of it to watch movies. The magnets are too weak in that part of the cover and it will just fall out even without any heavy turbulences.

Laptop Mode

Obviously, with the keyboard, you can use the iPad like a laptop. Hold the iPad just above the keyboard and it will snap in place with the built-in magnets. Then use the cover behind the iPad to set it up as a stand and adjust your viewing angle. This setup holds the iPad very stable. Even when you touch the screen the iPad doesn’t move. Also great when you use a stylus to draw on the iPad.

Laptop Mode

Stand Mode

Not very obvious but it works like a charm. I tried it on my last flight. Set the iPad up like you would use it in laptop mode and now flip the keyboard under and behind the iPad and set it on a surface or your lap. It works like a charm. Make sure the keyboard is deactivated to not accidentally push any keys. This is perfect to watch movies. You could, of course, watch movies also in laptop stand, but if you are in confined spaces like an airplane seat, you don’t have a lot of space. This will save you some space and narrows the footprint of the setup down.

Custom Modes

Feel free to experiment with the cover and its possibilities. You can set it up like a standing book on a table. It will be a pain to use the keyboard but if you have to showcase a lot of photos in portrait mode, this makes better use of the screen.


Overall a very versatile setup to use the iPad in different use case scenarios. Quality is great and so far I have used the keyboard quite a lot with the charge it shipped with. I haven’t even recharged it once so far.


As mentioned earlier, iPad doesn’t hold very well on the cover part of the keyboard and will just fall out. Keep that in mind.

Also, I am missing something like an elastic band to keep the Zagg Rugged Messenger Cover closed. Just something which would fold away to the back. It could go right over the middle where you would also attach the Apple Pen. Because of being an elastic band, it would work if you have the pen clipped in or not. As far as I know, there is only one color available for the Zagg Rugged Messenger and it’s a grayish color. Only the rugged case part for the iPad has a black frame around it with the center being gray again. More color options would be great.

Buy the Zagg Rugged Messenger for the Apple iPad Pro 10.5-inch


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