Make hay while the sun shines

Oct 14, 2012, 12:19 IST | Nimish Dubey

Logitech's Solar Folio keyboard for the iPad gets all its power from light. But it is not exactly a worthy investment for the tablet typing crowd

There is a school of thought that insists that tablets are only a tool of consuming information and cannot be used for any sensible productive activity because they lack keyboards. As people who have edited videos and films on our tablets, we are not sure we agree with that, but what cannot be denied is that the tablet revolution has been accompanied by a surge in the popularity of portable keyboards that can be paired with them — either via a dock or over Bluetooth.

Logitech has been one of the frontrunners in the tablet keyboard segment — its Zagg aluminum keyboard for the iPad was a thing of simplistic beauty last year. And this year it has hit the headlines with its Solar Keyboard Folio. It works as both a cover and a keyboard — you can place your iPad (sorry, it is iPad only, folks) inside it and carry it around, open it and prop it up and type away.

It looks like a normal folder-type cover with a decent (but not exceptional) finish and provides enough padding to save the device from none too heavy falls, but the real magic is in the dark brown panels at the back. These allow you to charge the keyboard by sunlight, or any other light that is bright enough — it got charged by the CFLs in our living room. And once fully charged, it can last for more than seven hundred hours of typing even if all of it is done in total darkness. This is one keyboard that you are unlikely to need to charge multiple times — just keep its charging panel turned up when you are not using it, and it will juice itself up using whatever light is available. That said, the cover itself is not lightweight at 460 g — with the iPad in it, the whole package will weigh a bit more than a kilo.

As a keyboard, the Solar Keyboard Folio does pretty well too. We are not huge fans of the slightly rubbery stands which rest the iPad on the keyboard, but they seemed solid enough. Viewing angles of the iPad with the keyboard out are limited — you can type with the iPad in only one position (very notebook like), although there is another that is for viewing videos, when the iPad is laid over part of the keyboard. The keys themselves are large enough and well spaced for a good typing session.

And in a neat touch, there are a number of shortcut keys designed specially for iPad functions. Incidentally, the cover itself is a smart cover — so when you shut the Folio, your iPad goes to sleep, and 'wakes up' when you open it. There is even a handy slot for the camera lens so you can take pictures without removing the cover.  All of which is pretty good, but what is not, is the price — at Rs 8,990, the Solar KeyBoard Folio is one of the most expensive tablet keyboards out there. We love its ‘charge from light’ utility it does a decent job, but the price is a major turn-off, especially since the design is not exactly rave-worthy.  

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