The Environmentally-Friendly iPad Case: Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio
Logitech's environmentally-friendly Solar Keyboard Folio is both a case and a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad tablet, and it doesn't need cables or electric power to charge. Unfortunately, the price tag is a bit of a turnoff.
By Paul Mah, CIO
The Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is a case for Apple’s iPad 2 and new iPad that comes with an integrated Bluetooth portable keyboard, and it’s unique because it has a rechargeable battery that’s powered up via ambient light. When fully charged, Logitech claims the Solar Keyboard Folio can deliver two hours of daily usage for two years–even if it is used in complete darkness.
I did a side-by-side comparison with the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover I reviewed in April, and I found the sizes and key placement to be the same. As such, users can expect the same superb usability that impressed me when I reviewed the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. The Solar Keyboard Folio also has some additional media shortcut keys along the bottom row that work along with a Function key. And the shortcuts are valuable when the Folio is used in entertainment mode–more on that later.
The Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio deployed in “entertainment mode”
Embedded magnets in the Folio switch your iPad off automatically.
The cylinder in the center houses a couple of NiMH rechargeable batteries. They are not user-replaceable.
Pairing the keyboard is simple thanks to a dedicated Bluetooth connect button located along the edge of the keyboard. A power-check button beside the Bluetooth key triggers a status light that flashes green when he Solar Keyboard Folio is charged and red when the charge drops down to 20 percent or lower.
A magnet switches your iPad off when the folio is closed and turns it back on when the case is flipped open. The Solar Keyboard Folio notably has no power button. While the Bluetooth radio automatically powers off when the Folio is closed, this could be a problem for frequent air travelers who have no way of disabling the keyboard to use their iPad when in the air.
The Solar Keyboard Folio offers excellent protection for an iPad tablet. A band fits on easily and extends all the way around the iPad. The case should adequately protect your tablet from the inevitable hard knocks when on the road or even the occasional fall. And the Solar Keyboard Folio is designed to be used in two angles: a typing angle that’s great for typing on the keyboard; and an entertainment angle that is ideal for watching a movie.
A close-up of the single row of keys that’s exposed in entertainment mode. Note the various multimedia controls.
Note the solar cell on the right of the photo above.
The design of the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is well thought out. Note the holes for the iPad audio.
Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio: Room for Improvement
I can’t help but question the durability of the case’s solar cell. The clear plastic surface does not appear to be scratch resistant, and shallow scratches appeared shortly after I peeled off the protective adhesive sheet and started using the case. It doesn’t help that the solar cells face down when the keyboard is in use. I don’t expect the scratches to significantly degrade the power capture capabilities of the solar cells, but they’ll probably start to look unsightly after a few weeks of use. (Update: According to Logitech, the solar cells are protected by a transparent Mylar window)
In my experience the Solar Keyboard Folio’s recharging mechanism worked as advertised, though it would have been nice to be able to access additional details on the battery’s charge level. The Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio uses NiMH batteries, and the manufacturer suggests you keep the cells facing upward when it’s not in use, to help ensure it remains charged.
Finally, it would have been great if the Folio was held shut by magnets, which isn’t the case currently.
Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio Review: Conclusion
Logitech’s Solar Keyboard Folio converts your iPad into a mobile workstation capable of handling intensive data entry when on-the-go. One inevitable downside of integrating a keyboard into a case is that it will be significantly more bulky than your typical keyboard-less case. (Check out my five favorite iPad cases.)
For folks who perform extensive data entry and who want a “physical” keyboard however, the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is a well-conceptualized and well-designed option. It doesn’t come cheap, though; Logitech is selling the Solar Keyboard Folio for $129.99.
Note the Bluetooth Connect button and the Battery check button.