I’ve often said that Zagg’s ZaggFolio — an iPad case with a really comfy built-in keyboard — changed my life. I still use it every day. But I have to say that Logitech’s new Solar Keyboard Folio for the new iPad and iPad 2 looks like it might out-Zagg the Zagg, for one simple reason: its Bluetooth keyboard replenishes itself through solar power, eliminating the need to plug it into an AC adapter or USB cable for periodic recharging.
Now, I’ve found that the ZaggFolio can go for at least two weeks on a charge, and I’ve never actually run out of juice. So recharging it isn’t that much of a burden. But I do need to remember to keep a Micro USB cable on hand. And I devote at least a few brain cells to remembering when I last charged it and worrying that it might conk out. Using the magic of solar energy to eliminate that stress sounds appealing.
Designwise, the Logitech product is similar to the Zagg, though a bit less clever and stylish. It’s a hinged case with a built-in keyboard — unlike Zagg’s keyboard, it isn’t removable — and a ridge that lets you angle the iPad into a laptop-like configuration. (A second angle is designed for video watching: it covers most of the keys but leaves the bottom row, with media-playback keys, exposed.)
One nice feature of the ZaggFolio is that it’s a cinch to remove the iPad and use it sans keyboard, since it’s just held in place by a lip that grabs the iPad on three sides. With the Logitech case, the iPad sits inside a snugger-looking bracket, and without further investigation, I’m not sure how easy it is to pop it out.
The solar panel is on the back of the case; it can draw power from interior lighting as well as the sun. Logitech says that if you use the keyboard for two hours a day, you could type for two years in complete darkness before the battery ran out.
The $129.99 Solar Keyboard Folio is one of two intriguing new iPad keyboards from Logitech. The other one is the recently-announced $99.99 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which builds a keyboard into a Smart Cover-like device that snaps onto the front of the new iPad or iPad 2 with a magnetic hinge. (That one doesn’t have solar recharging.) And then there’s Brydge, a Kickstarter project that does its darndest to make an iPad look like a mini-MacBook.
With all iPad keyboards, the most important question is simple: how’s the keyboard? Logitech showed me the Solar Keyboard Folio and Ultrathin Keyboard Cover this week, and based on my cursory examination, they look good — the keyboards are wide, with a decent amount of travel and shortcuts for tasks such as cutting and pasting. I’d want to try both of them and the Brydge out for real work before I declared a new victor in the iPad keyboard wars. But as a lover of iPads and the click-clacky feel of real keyboards, I’m tickled to see all the ingenuity going into these new designs.