Provides: Solar powered computer input
Minimum Requirements: Mac OSX 10.4 or later, USB port, light source from sunlight and/or indoor lighting
Back in July I reviewed the Wireless Solar Keyboard K750, a Windows PC keymapped ‘board that works fine with the Mac, provided you can get along with the Windows keyboard layout and no support for the lux meter software that comes bundled with the device. I had no problems with either, and quite liked the keyboard, but noted that a Mac version of the K750 was rumored to be in the works.
That version as now materialized, and in some respects it’s a more attractive product than the Windows model, although in one aspect it’s not. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But first, the good stuff.
The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac is nearly identical to the PC version in its engineering and form factor, other than having Apple–mapped keys. At 1/3 inch (7.5 mm) in section, the K750 is claimed by Logitech to be the thinnest freestanding computer keyboard ever made—even thinner than Apple’s current keyboard offerings. Because it’s so thin, the lack of a wrist rest area shouldn’t be much of an issue. You can just rest your wrists on the supporting table or desktop.
You can say goodbye to battery hassles thanks to onboard solar cells that power the keyboard using ambient light. However, unlike the PC model, the Mac version is available in five different color schemes, including the PC ‘board’s piano black, but also blue, red, green, and Silver. Piano black generally suits me fine, but I have to admit I liked the blue and white on the test unit even better. The Piano Black model would be my second choice.
The K750 uses Logitech’s 2.4 GHz wireless interface technology, which I mostly like better than Bluetooth since establishing and maintaining connections is less tedious. A plug-and-forget USB Unifying receiver dongle is so small it can usually be left in the port when you’re operating in mobile mode with your laptop, so the keyboard is always ready to use. Interestingly, I discovered that the USB receiver dongles for the PC and Mac versions of the K750 boards respectively are not interchangeable, at least on my MacBook, even though they are identical in appearance and supposed to be “Unifying” receivers. The Mac ‘Board won’t work with the PC ‘board’s dongle and vice versa. You also won’t be able to use The Solar Keyboard K750 with an iPad, thanks to Apple’s obstinacy about including a USB port on its tablets. Another disadvantage of 2.4 GHz wireless is that you need a USB receiver dongle plugged into a USB port on your computer or hub. Happily, the one supplied is a low-profile unit.
The lux meter and battery charge monitor solar power app software has also been ported to the Mac, featuring a lux meter to provide a visual readout on available light falling on the K750, keep track of how much energy is currently stored, and evaluate current light level for charging purposes, plus provide at-a-glance information about battery levels and alerts you when you need more light.
It’s nice to have the software, although in several months of using both versions of this keyboard, I found the charge level has rarely dropped below 100 percent. It doesn’t take very much light to run the thing, and the fact that the fully-charged keyboard has a reserve capacity of up to three months in total darkness means you’ll never have to hassle with changing batteries.
One point to note: the K750 has no palm rest surface, with the keyboard’s keypads shifted down from the top three-fifths of the unit’s surface area to the bottom three-quarters, and the balance occupied by two 7-element solar panel clusters (which have a projected service lifespan of 15 years before there is any substantial degradation in performance) to power the charger. Because the K750 is so thin, the lack of a palm rest area shouldn’t be much of an issue. You can just rest your wrists on the supporting table or desktop.
The keys on the Mac solar board have the same laptop–style short travel and light touch action as the PC model’s. I find that for some reason I can type significantly faster on these keyboards then on others.
Also, the somewhat stiff on/off switch I complained about as a minor flaw in the PC K-750 is much smoother in its action on the Mac ‘board, so possibly that was an anomaly on the other test ‘board or Logitech has made a running improvement.
Now for that unfortunate matter I mentioned. On the Mac version, Logitech has for some reason decided to make the F-keys’ alternate functions (audio volume, screen brightness, and so forth) the defaults, with the standard F-key functions requiring depression of the fn-key. It’s a clumsy, two-handed operation I find a pain, being a heavy user in some programs of F-keys to toggle AppleScript macros. Adding insult to injury, the fn-key key on this keyboard is in an oddball location—part of the navigation keypad high and to the right of the main keypad. Ironically, the F-keys work the way I prefer and the fn-key is more conveniently located on the PC version of this keyboard. Go figure.
Aside from that matter, the only other significant complaints I have are that there is still no caps lock warning LED, and to say the documentation that comes with this keyboard in minimal is an understatement. In keeping with the Wireless Solar Keyboard K750′s claim to “green” credentials, it ships in a fully recyclable box with a no-larger-than-necessary footprint, and what documentation there is in the form of instructional diagrams is printed on the inside of the plain brown recyclable shipping box.
The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac presents Logitech’s typical high standard of finish and materials, and feels like a finely crafted kit—very much like, say, a MacBook. It has a suggested retail price of $59.99 (U.S).