The iPad can be easily used with the virtual keyboard that Apple integrates into the operating system, but there are some situations in which a comfortable, if not indispensable, physical keyboard. Numerous accessories that offer a classic mechanical keyboard with "real" keys meet this need; Among the most original and, as we will see, well-built and functional is Logitech's Solar Keyboard Folio that Macitynet has tested these days.
THE POWERED KEYBOARD CASEThe Solar Keyboard Folio has two peculiarities that differentiate it from a traditional keyboard: it integrates a case (which is not too original; the keyboards that also act as a case are different) and does not need to be recharged (which is much less common). Its real little secret in two solar panels that are located on the back of the keyboard case; these are the two components that collect the light, even that of an office environment, not only that actually of the sun, which recharge the internal battery that powers the keyboard and the Bluetooth module for direct connection to the iPad by deleting the hassle of recharging the internal battery using a USB cable and a wall socket or a computer
THE OPERATIONThe operation of the Solar Keyboard Folio is as simple as imaginable. Once the iPad is placed in the edge that keeps it fixed, just place the iPad in position, a green light will turn on on the edge of the keyboard and at that point it will be sufficient to pair the iPad via Bluetooth. From that moment we can use the keyboard to type text but we will also have special keys such as the Home one (to send the iPad to the home screen), cut, copy and paste, two keys to highlight text (left and right) and multimedia keys. There is also a button to put the iPad to sleep, with the same function as the mechanical button that we find on the top edge of the iPad. A peculiarity of the Logitech keyboard is the possibility to choose between an iPad position for writing, and in this case we will see and we can use all the keys to write, and that for viewing movies or listening to music. In this case we will only have a row of keys by pressing which we can access directly with a single touch, to play, stop, fast forward and volume. The control buttons are on the bone: we have a button that is used to check the battery charge status and one that makes the keyboard for Bluetooth pairing visible. The LED may have a green or red light to indicate the battery status or problems in pairing the wireless connection.
TECHNOLOGY AND CHARGINGThe Solar Keyboard Folio uses some peculiar technologies that make it particularly functional. A detection of the position of the iPad. When the iPad closed on the keyboard it turns off and does not consume energy; when placed in position, probably due to some magnetic sensor, it turns on. This determines a convenient automatic operation with the immediate pairing of the keyboard with iPad. The keyboard also has the ability, as mentioned above, to understand what we want to do with the iPad, type text or watch videos by reading the inclination of the device. The immediate recharge of the keyboard and the feeling of being infinite, this is because six hours in full light are enough to recharge the two built-in AAA batteries (and unfortunately not accessible and therefore not replaceable) placed in a tube located at ends of the lower part of the cover, but to completely download them, 2500 hours are needed, in practice more than 100 days of continuous use 24 hours a day, completely in the dark. This means that it is enough to expose the solar panels to the light of a lamp for a few minutes a day to recover a couple of hours of use of the keyboard. In practical terms, using the keyboard intensively you can run out of charge of the iPad with the keyboard still "vital" and while charging iPad, just expose the keyboard to light for a time much less than that of charging the tablet to recover all the energy lost from the batteries of the Logitech accessory. Under these conditions it was impossible to measure whether the Logitech specifications correspond to reality; for our part we can only say that in a few days of use we have never specifically exposed the solar cells to light and we have not had any low battery signal.
WRITING The technically very good keyboard. We used the keyboard for a few days in partial replacement of a MacBook Air to write text; this same review was also written with the keyboard using Pages, and we must say that the response of the keys and the little or no speed have to envy to a traditional keyboard. One of the things that is appreciated more than the virtual keyboard of the iPad is the immediate accessibility of the accented letters, which with the "soft" keyboard are rather complicated to type. We have available, as mentioned, some special keys that facilitate functions such as copy and paste and also the same call of the virtual keyboard; excellent also the cursor keys that allow you to move as we like in the text and position ourselves precisely anywhere in the text we are typing. Logitech warns that not all applications support cursor keys; the main application for writing on iOS, Pages, perfectly compatible. The writing speed thanks to the keyboard becomes completely comparable to that of a normal laptop and even if the dimensions are slightly less than that of a laptop, it takes just a few minutes to become familiar with the layout.
THE COVERThe keyboard in its cover function does its main duty: it protects the iPad very well. The robust and pleasant to the touch material, the tablet held firmly in place by a rubbery and elasticized edge that leaves the keys on the edges, the connectors and the camera accessible (even if slightly sunken); it also has an output grid for audio. Once closed, the keyboard also turns off the iPad in Smart Cover style. It is necessary to pay some attention because it is easy to misalign the upper part with respect to the lower one (as we demonstrate in our gallery) and at that point the iPad does not turn off. Clearly, since it was a case, a keyboard, Logitech had to come down to some compromise, as is also demonstrated by the size and weight (about half a kg). As a custody, in practice, you could find better, even considering the cost. But we are not talking about a simple cover …
SOME LIMITSThe main limit of the Logitech accessory, in our opinion, the weight. 500 grams to carry around together with the iPad (which weighs 650 grams) brings the combination over the weight of an 11-inch MacBook Air, although it is true that the two devices do not do the same things and do not turn the same applications, therefore difficult to consider them an alternative to the other. The cover also makes it rather inconvenient to use iPad as a tablet. We can, yes, turn the cover so as to use the iPad as a touch screen, but under the fingers or on the table there will be the keyboard and this is rather uncomfortable. Finally, the location of the solar cells on the back makes it essential to remember to turn the iPad upside down once you close it to recharge the battery. And this could become for some the main problem in terms of recharging even if, as mentioned, before you run out of autonomy you must forget for days if not weeks to turn the iPad upside down. Most likely, even by mistake, in such a long period of time the cells will remain exposed for enough time to recharge the battery.
CONCLUSIONSThe Solar Keyboard Folio in our opinion the ideal solution for all those who need to write long texts with iPad which is transformed into a real small MacBook Air with touch screen and iOS operating system. The quality of superb typing, with perfectly responsive keys and an almost perfect layout. Some technological solutions such as activation and shutdown according to the iPad position or the difference in operation according to the same position of some keys are excellent and functional. Already as a simple keyboard, Logitech's Solar Keyboard Folio would be if not the best of its kind, one of the best among those with covers; the fact that it is not necessary to recharge the internal battery but you can count on a battery powered by a solar panel, makes it even more comfortable and functional and as such completely recommended for those looking for a device of this kind with the only warning of prepare to carry around an iPad that weighs as much as a MacBook Air.
COST AND AVAILABILITYThe Solar Keyboard Folio is already in pre-sale on Logitech for 130 euros and free shipping. The actual availability expected for the current month. You will then arrive at APR, online stores and large retailers.
PROExceptionally precise and comfortable keyboard Intuitive operation Does not require batteries or power supply Excellent quality materials Effectively protects the iPad
VERSUSConsiderable weight Potentially problematic arrangement of solar cells Makes it inconvenient to use iPad as a simple tablet Challenging cost