Logitech Solar Folio Keyboard Case – My Favorite Tech Accessory Ever


We all have our favorite accessories for our gadgets.  For some it’s as simple as their favorite case for their iPhone or Galaxy.  For others, it’s their incredibly expensive Beats (insert any other brand here) headphones.  For me, it’s an accessory to a piece of technology that I don’t even use that often: iPad 4th Generation.  My iPad was given to me as a gift about 3 years ago.  At first it was used quite a bit for media consumption.  I would watch Netflix, play Flick Homerun, and surf the interwebz with it.  But I quickly lost interest in the iPad because it is not a small gadget, and I had a tendency to get tired while holding it.  Once the iPhone 6+ was released, my iPad was relegated to the corner of my desk and it sat there collecting dust for quite some time.
However, one night I was perusing through Amazon’s website, just looking at accessories for iPads and iPhones when I came across keyboard cases for the iPad.  I Googled what the highest rated keyboard cases on the market currently were and was surprised to see a number of Logitech keyboards so highly rated.  The one that really caught my eye was the Logitech Solar Folio Keyboard Case, for two reasons.  Number one, this case did not require batteries to power the keyboard.  It used a small solar panel located on the back of the case to charge the internal battery pack.  Even better, this solar cell could be charged through ambient light, such as a lamp.  The second reason this particular case caught my attention was its price.  The average keyboard case for your iPad seemed to range from $80 to $180.  The Logitech Solar Folio case was $40, shipped second day with Amazon Prime membership.  So I had to try it.

The simple answer is that I love this keyboard case.  I am amazed at how good the keyboard feels to type on.  Logitech has long been one of the most trusted companies when it comes to making quality keyboards.  The Solar Folio keyboard is a little cramped, like all iPad keyboard cases.  But the keys have fantastic travel to them, and there is very little input delay when typing.  More importantly, the keyboard does not miss key strokes.  Some of the other keyboard cases on the market have weak mechanisms that can result in phantom presses, or completely missed key strokes.  You will notice a slight delay when typing, but every key press registers and it is very possible to type at speed similar to a traditional wired computer keyboard.  And because it uses solar energy, the keyboard will never run out of juice (as long as it has some form of a light source).


There are function keys on the top row, shared with the number keys, that add a good amount of value.  Similar to a MacBook keyboard, you have keys for brightness, volume control, and even a home button that will return the iPad to its homescreen.  But easily one of the best features of the keyboard case is it’s multi-position interface.  When the iPad is positioned upright, the keyboard is used like any other keyboard on the market.  But when the iPad is positioned in the second slot, increasing the viewing angle of the iPad, its turns the bottom row of keys into their own set of function keys designed specifically for media consumption.  The arrow keys turn into volume keys.  The spacebar becomes the play/pause button and the command keys become the forward and back keys for video or audio playback.  A simple design choice, but a truly innovative and useful one.


The Logitech Solar Folio Keyboard case is not all perfect.  It is rather heavy, especially compared to other competitors (some other Logitechs too) on the market.  And the folding mechanism is a little clunky.  There are magnets in the case that can wake and sleep the screen when the case is opened and closed.  But I have found the case does not like to stay closed when in a bag and this will cause the iPad to turn on accidentally, wasting battery life.  A simple change in the settings menu to turn off the smart lock feature remedied this shortcoming.  The case is also pretty chunky, and far from the prettiest in the crowd.  It easily doubles the weight (almost triples) of the iPad when mounted in the case.  My new 12″ Retina MacBook is easily the more portable, light-weight choice if shear portability is the most important requirement for your machine.  Finally, the design to hold the iPad in the case is a little flimsy.  Many times, I’ve had to press the corners of the iPad back into their spots to keep the iPad from falling out (it never has actually come out of the case when in use).


Truth be told these shortcoming are minor annoyances.  None of them truly detract from the typing experience found on this keyboard, and it is an absolute joy to use.  I actually prefer the feeling of typing on this keyboard case than I do to the feel of typing on the new 12″ MacBook (though I do really like typing on it too).  Currently priced at only $34, there is no better value for keybaord cases for an iPad 2-4th generation (sorry iPad Air users).  The design is a little clunky, and it’s not the lightest choice out there.  But the performance is 100% reliable, and I highly recommend you look into this as an inexpensive keyboard case to own.

As always, thank you for reading and please leave a comment.

The Arrival: 2015 12″ MacBook Unboxing & Initial Impressions

Impulsiveness took over today as I walked into an Apple store to see if, by chance, any MacBooks were in stock.  I’d placed my order at a different location a couple of weeks ago, and I was quickly becoming impatient.  To my surprise this Apple store had plenty of 12″ MacBooks on-hand, in all configurations.  The associate told me that no one seems to know that they have them, so they’ve only sold a few in the last couple of weeks.  I cancelled my online order and walked out of the Apple store with a space grey, 512gb 12″ Retina MacBook.

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If you’ve ever purchased an Apple laptop, then you know the experience of unboxing one.  Their packaging is top notch, with a simple, white box with small, uncluttered lettering on the back describing which version you’ve purchased.  There is a power adapter and usb-c charging cable in the box, and then some relatively useless paperwork.  The first thing you’ll notice about the new MacBook is that it is a truly gorgeous piece of technology.  Unreasonably small and compact, this laptop looks even better in person.  You get the all-to-familiar Apple cold aluminum touch on your skin, which I always love.  After admiring the beauty of the machine for a minutes I unwrapped the MacBook and booted her up for the first time!

Performance Disappointing…At First

The first few hours of operation were a bit of a disappointment.  I knew with the Core M processor that this was no workhorse the way the MacBook Pro was.  But I was getting frustrated quickly with the rMB.  No matter what I tried to do I would get the spinning beachball and the computer continued to get held up on, what seemed like, simple tasks.  When trying to open an app the icon would bounce on the dock continuously for a few seconds before loading up.  Switching between apps had a very noticeable delay (i.e. lag) and I immediately began to question my choice of purchase.

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However, a few hours passed and the computer really seemed to speed up.  I’m not sure if the poor performance was from the initial boot-up and the programs were indexing, but I saw a complete 180-degree turn.  This computer now seems to fly through the everyday tasks.  Opening apps still takes noticeably longer than the MacBook Pro, but I wouldn’t consider it a detrimental time that ruins enjoyment of use.  The 8gb of RAM and SSD really help with the snappy performance.  When viewing webpages or using Microsoft Office, everything is just as smooth as it is on the MacBook’s older siblings.

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The Keyboard

Easily one of the most polarizing aspects of the New MacBook continues to be the redesigned keyboard.  Here is a quick overview of what has changed.  The truth is, that you do need to take some time to get used to the larger, flatter keys, with their reduced travel.  But you quickly get acclimated to the design and typing has been a joy so far (albeit a unique one).  I seem to be more accurate than on the MacBook Pro that I used.  But I have noticed a slight drop in speed.  Yes it’s different.  But overall, I like it. I’ve typed this entire 800 word post with no issues (if that means anything to you).

  

OMG The Speaker

Put simply, this speaker is amazing!  Easily one of the best laptop speakers I’ve ever heard.  The volume is loud, yet does not get raspy.  What’s more amazing is how rich the sound is.  I’ll admit that I’m no audiophile.  But I do appreciate the quality of these speakers.

Only Time Will Tell

My initial impressions have been very positive.  The performance is better than I had anticipated (after the initial setup), and there really is a lot to like about this machine.  One concern that has recently come up has nothing to do with the hardware itself.  Just this week Apple held their World Wide Developers Conference where they showed off builds of their new operating systems.  I’m excited to see how OSX El Capitan (love the name!) performs on the rMP, but I was more excited to see the improvement to iOS9 for the iPad.  With the implementation of true multitasking on the iPad Air 2 and newer, the cost of the 12″ MacBook might become more questionable again.  Especially if the long-rumored iPad Pro makes a debut later this year.  I just have to wonder if the great improvements in iOS will cannibalize MacBook sales.  Only time will tell…

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Thank you for following my adventure in MacBooks and please leave a comment if there is anything specific you would like me to discuss.  I will have some more in-depth impressions in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, keep an eye out for my experience in an SSD replacement on my Mac Mini.

Why The 2015 12″ Retina MacBook?

When the decision was made to move on to something different from the MacBook Pro Retina, I seriously considered moving back to PC with the announcement of Windows 10.  Since the release of Windows 8, the overwhelming reaction has been less than stellar.  To say I hated Windows 8 would be an understatement.  However, Windows 10 is a step back towards relevance for Microsoft.  But I just couldn’t move back to PC.  So, what computer would work then?  In order to make that decision, the ways in which I use my computer had to be considered.

Daily MacBook Use

My every day job calls for a fair amount of travel.  I travel out of state two weeks out of the month, living out of a suitcase.  The other two weeks are spent on the road visiting customers.  A light, portable laptop is an absolute necessity.  The MBPr served this purpose perfectly adequately.  At only three-quarters of an inch thick and about three-and-a-half pounds, the MBPr is more than portable.  But the allure of a two-pound, incredibly thin ultraportable laptop was even more intriguing.  When I began this job, I was given a Dell laptop by my company.  An adequate machine, it quickly began collecting dust in the closet.  The battery could barely last five hours off of charge, and spending entire days in the field required something that had the stamina to last all day.  Carrying around a spare battery quickly became tiring, as I would always forget to charge the extra one at night.  So portable but still with strong battery life.  What else?

A typical use case for my computer consists of surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos during my downtime.  For work, the only real requirement was a machine that could handle numerous emails and operate Excel spreadsheets.  Beyond that, my computers do not get overly taxed.  There were days that my iPad with a Logitech Solar Folio keyboard (fantastic product) was the only device that I took with me, and it suits 95% of my day just fine.  However, I’ve always preferred a clamshell design with a full fledged operating system, so the iPad is relegated to a media consumption device.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, hard drive space was discovered to be a big necessity.  Similar to “range anxiety” that electric-powered car owners experience while driving, I had what we could term “hard drive anxiety.”  I have seen many Tesla car forum members describe the overly anxious feeling they get while driving any long distance because they are afraid of running out of juice.  Although I’ve never run out of hard drive space, seeing that I only have 30% remaining (after only 3 months!) was too much to handle.  So there you have it: light, portable, strong battery life, and plenty of storage.  Those are the requirements.

Why the $1,600 Model?

I’ve heard it all too many times already: “Why would you pay $1,600 for a glorified Netbook?”  Truth is, if you begin to crunch the numbers, the price turns out to be very similar to most other options.  The 12″ Retina MacBook starts at $1,299.  And for that you get a svelte ultraportable laptop with 8gb of RAM, a 1.1GHZ Intel Core M processor and 256gb of SSD storage.  It might seem steep, but let’s compare against Apple’s other options.  Sure, the MacBook Air 13″ starts at $999, but you’re not getting a great machine for that price.  The Intel Core i5 processor is clocked at 1.6GHZ (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHZ), which is solid.  But you only get 4gb of RAM and a 128gb hard drive.  When built to match the 12″ MacBook with 8gb of RAM and a 256gb hard drive, the 13″ MacBook Air costs the same $1,299.  You do get a more powerful Core i5 processor, but not by much when looking at Turbo Boost (at least on the paper): 2.4GHZ vs 2.6GHZ.  And the MacBook Air has an antiquated and low resolution screen.  The potential trade-off for processor speed is well worth it when compared to the Grand-Canyon-sized chasm in screen resolution.

To compare against the PC competition, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 is a stiff competitor.  It runs the same Intel Core M processor, is just a hair over two pounds, and has a similar 12″ high-res screen.  Also, when spec’d with the same guts as the MacBook, the Samsung costs the same $1,300.  Now we’re only talking about personal preference; PC vs. Mac, Samsung vs. Apple… You get the idea.  I will choose Apple over Samsung every single time.

When comparing the $1,299 model MacBook against the $1,599, you’re really only paying for hard drive space.  The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both cost an additional $300 to upgrade from 256gb SSD to the 512gb variant.  And you don’t get a bump in processor speed.  Any additional performance bump from the 1.2GHZ Core M processor is just an added bonus.  And some early reports show a significant performance jump from the 1.1GHZ model (I know, no benchmarks).

MacBook Shortcomings

To say the announcement and subsequent release of the MacBook has been polarizing would be an understatement.  If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’ve read all about the cons to owning the MacBook.  But do they really affect you?  Using the MacBook for it’s intended purposes, an ultraportable computer shouldn’t require so many ports.  If you’re the user that plugs in USB hubs and Thunderbolt peripherals, then no, you should not consider the MacBook.  I only ever connect a thumb drive or an external hard drive.  And the added inconvenience of carrying an adapter, or buying new, compatible options doesn’t outweigh the portability and aesthetics of this machine.

The Core M processor is essentially out of a tablet.  Yes.  But as I stated earlier, I don’t need an overly powerful processor.  The Core i7 processor in my MBPr was being completely wasted.  And based on early reviews, I’m willing to take a chance on this processor.  Which brings me to my final point.

If, for some reason, the processor is not powerful enough to be my one and only computer, I picked up a used Mac Mini for cheap (~$300) to use in the office.  From my time using my MBPr as my only device, I have a 27″ 4K monitor and Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse already.  The new (to me) Mac Mini is powered by an Intel i5 processor, 16gb of RAM, and a 256gb SSD hard drive.  If the MacBook can’t handle it, this will.

I’m willing to take a bit of a gamble on the New MacBook and I will continue to document my experience along the way.  I’m hopeful (confident?) that I will come out of this impressed and satisfied.  Please tag along for this journey and thank you for reading.

Current Set-Up & Initial Thoughts

What Is It?

I chose to begin documenting at this specific time because I have been deciding on whether or not I should purchase a new computer.  As I stated in my first post, I am currently using a 2015 13″ MacBook Pro w/ Retina.  This laptop was purchased roughly 3 months ago, when the new 2015 model was announced at the Apple Keynote.  I had been wanting a new computer as the Mac Mini that I was using just wasn’t what I was looking for, but I wanted to wait to see the much-rumored MacBook Air Retina.  Following the keynote, I decided that the MacBook Pro was the way to go and I travelled to my local Apple store and placed my order for a custom laptop.

The model that I went with was a custom build that took about two weeks to be delivered.  I chose to begin with the base model 13″ MBP, which had 128gb of storage and 8gb of RAM.  After much debate, I decided to upgrade to the Intel Core i7 processor.  My reasoning for this was that I will be using this laptop for both work and everyday normal tasks.  With work, I am consistently using Excel spreadsheets and they had a tendency to run poorly on my Core i5 2014 Mac Mini.  I figured the added processing power would help remedy the sluggish performance (more on this later).  I decided to make no other customizations and placed the order.

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Initial Thoughts

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new MBP.  I had never placed a custom order and the 14 days that it took to be delivered were excruciating.  I was really excited to try the new Force Touch Trackpad and the portability was going to be a nice feature when compared to my Mini (not that traveling with the Mini is particularly difficult).

In my time with this computer, I have been able to form some initial impressions: some that could change, and a few that I’m confident will not.  The first thing you will ever notice about an Apple laptop is that they make the most beautiful hardware on the planet right now.  No other company puts as much time and energy into crafting such a meticulous piece of art.  The aluminum body looks great and has a tendency to give you a nice cold jolt on your wrists if it has been sitting unused for any period of time.  The glowing Apple logo on the back is great too.

The next thing I noticed within the first few weeks is that I honestly can’t tell a difference in speed between this Intel Core i7 processor and the less powerful Intel Core i5 that’s found in my wife’s 2013 MBPr.  There is no question that this MBP is a faster performer in day-to-day use when compared to my Mac Mini.  But I’m almost positive that has more to do with the SSD (which is blazing fast!) in the MBP compared to the HDD in the Mini.  This is one fast computer!  But I would recommend saving your money on the processor as the base model Core i5 in the 2015 is plenty fast enough.

Where I would recommend spending the extra money is on hard drive space.  There is no possible way that 128gb of space is enough for somebody’s only computer.  I’m a fool for thinking I could make due with the space and this is the single biggest reason that I am back in the market for a new computer.  I can’t stress this enough: DO NOT BUY THE 128GB MODEL AS YOUR ONLY MACHINE!  I did purchase a 64gb Transcend SD card to help, but it’s so slow to transfer files when compared to the SSD that it is not a viable solution.  The Transcend SD is a pretty slick product though as it sits flush against the side of the MBP and doesn’t stick out the way other SD cards do.

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The Force Touch Trackpad was a topic that Apple spent a good amount of time promoting during their keynote.  It is a great new product that works just as well as the older, click-style trackpads that Apple has been making for years.  I’m not sure that I see the value of the Force Touch itself though.  In my time with the MBP, I have only used this feature maybe twice.  However, it is fun to turn off the computer and press the trackpad.  Nothing happens!

What’s Next?

I think the MacBook Pro is a fantastic computer and I can see why Apple sells millions of them.  However, I have decided to move onto a different computer because I made a huge mistake and purchased a primary device that has too little storage (my iPhone 6 has as much storage as my laptop!).  Sticking with Apple, I have decided to purchase the new 12″ Retina Macbook.  I placed my order this past Friday for the space grey, 1.2ghz, 512gb version.  I know that this computer has been polarizing since its announcement, but I decided to move forward with this experiment to see if it will work as my primary laptop.  I’m being told the expected delivery is 2-3 weeks and it can’t come soon enough!

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Thanks for reading and please leave a comment!