The iPad is a great device, but there’s only one way to really improve it: accessorize. A case, a keyboard, some artwork, and maybe the right apps will make all the difference between a tablet you use daily to one you use every other week. Actually finding accessories worthy of the iPad? Let’s just say it’s a good thing we test such things out regularly; otherwise you could spend days, nay, weeks searching for decent equipment. And to improve productivity and usefulness of the iPad, the only accessory you need is a keyboard. Logitech clearly recognized this and developed a number of keyboard cases, and of the bunch, the Solar Keyboard Folio is the best.

Combining the design and thinness of the Ultrathin Keyboard with a full, thick case and removing the need for a battery, Logitech’s Solar Keyboard Folio exchanges a battery for a solar cell that provides eight hours of continuous use per charge while eliminating the need to charge thanks to the sun. And as great of a product the Folio is, it’s far from perfect, even if it is the best of the bunch.

Again, the Solar Keyboard Folio is a thick case, the sort that makes a tablet suddenly feel like a laptop instead of the thin tablet it really is. If you plan on traveling, it isn’t the best choice especially compared to the Ultrathin, which is far slimmer and sleeker for throwing in a bag or carrying around.

But while the Ultrathin has an okay but lacking typing experience, the Folio is excellent for typists. It is on par with the excellent keyboard on the Zagg Keyboard Folio, a highly flawed tablet keyboard built for nothing save typing. The Solar Keyboard Folio has nearly identical keys, which are small and slightly cramped – especially the backspace/delete key – but low profile and bouncy. Typing on this keyboard is better than nearly every netbook that was ever released, and better than most current ultrabooks, even if it is more cramped.

A solar cell replaces the Ultrathin’s rechargeable battery, providing an indefinite charge instead of a six month-per-charge use. For $30 more, the Solar Keyboard Folio removes the battery and need to recharge with…a poorly placed solar cell. The solar panel is under the keyboard, right where the sun don’t shine. Meaning the only time it’ll actually charge is when users leave the case out in the sun, exactly where they shouldn’t so the iPad doesn’t overheat before use. In terms of design, this is questionable at best; at worst, it’ll just help to kill the iPad’s battery faster and, in hotter areas of the country/world, make the iPad unusable until a cooldown.

Then again, this design oversight hasn’t actually impacted the use of the Solar Keyboard in my testing. It has never run out of battery life, presumably because it doesn’t require a direct light source to charge. And perhaps testing in one of the coldest winters in recent memory has kept my iPad away from the effects of overheating. Furthermore, the solar cell will recharge through ambient light and incandescent bulbs, so it’s hard to fully discharge except intentionally.

The actual case holds the iPad in a strange way as well. There is no magnetic slip or closing/locking mechanism to keep the case locked or closed. This makes it very easy for the iPad’s screen to activate when in a bag or being carried around. On two separate occasions, just like on the Ultrathin, the iPad activated and completely discharged the battery. Potential buyers are recommended to set their iPads to not activate on the magnetic strip.

The Folio has two stand settings, one for keyboard use and one for media use. Both hold the iPad in place using mild rubber studs, which aren’t firm but do the job. It makes the case feel somewhat cheap. In general the case doesn’t look or feel like the sort of thing one would use with any permanence; but I wouldn’t say it’s an embarrassment to use.

For everything that it is, the Solar Keyboard Folio is first and foremost an excellent keyboard. In fact, it’s the best mobile keyboard for the iPad that’s also a case. As a solar-powered device it also is much more user-friendly than any competing case or keyboard. The thick size isn’t travel friendly, and neither is the magnetic strip to activate the display.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★½☆

Very Good

Bottom Line: A keyboard case that’s excellent for typing and never needs to be charged, but is thick in the hand and the bag and has some design flaws.

Pros:

  • One of the best keyboard cases available
  • Solar cell is the easiest thing in the world to charge
  • Keyboard feels great to type on, even if it is cramped

Cons:

  • The case is big; not great for travel
  • Slips off of iPad too easily, activating the screen
  • General design and solar-cell placement just doesn’t make sense










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.