This week, Darren Murph, the man of many bags, is at it once again, trying out a charging backpack we got to handle for just a few minutes back at CES. In addition, we'll give you a peek at Logitech's suspiciously Surface-like FabricSkin keyboard case. Find it all after the break.
TYLT Energi charging backpack
We had a chance to check out the Energi backpack back at CES, and at long last, it's shipping to consumers. I've spent the last couple of weeks attempting to fit it into my daily life, and I've found quite a few things that I dig. For one, it's super comfortable. The straps boast a wildly padded shoulder brace; it looks a little weird, but I've found myself longing for something similar on every other pack. Then there's the flexibility. The company was wise enough to not permanently install the 10,400mAh battery pack, so when you're using it sans gadgetry, you don't have to lug around extra weight.
The cell is capable of charging a trio of USB-based devices (tablets, phones, mobile hotspots, etc.), but not a laptop. As a self-proclaimed HyperMac fanatic, I definitely found myself longing for laptop charging capabilities, as outlandish as that may sound. It's also worth noting that this pack is on the small side. Of course, I'm the type of guy who doesn't accept anything much smaller than a Mountain Hardwear Agama (which is crazy spacious, for those unaware), but I'm also the kind of guy who needs as much backpack space as possible in order to prevent the need for checked luggage.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is the price. At $200, it's hardly a bad deal -- after all, the Agama will run close to $100, and a 7,200mAh HyperJuice will set you back another Benjamin -- but unless the size is ideal for you, you'll probably find yourself starved for space. In general, I appreciate what's on offer here, but I'd be way more likely to wholeheartedly recommend it if a larger version were made available at a similar price.
-- Darren Murph
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio
Surface-like. There, I said it. There's really no avoiding a comparison between Logitech's new FabricSkin line of keyboard covers and Microsoft's Touch Cover add-on. Both do double-duty as tablet protectors and ultrathin QWERTY keyboards. Also like the Surface, the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio props its host tablet (a second-gen or newer iPad) on a kickstand-like support at a roughly 22-degree tilt.
There are certainly unique traits here, like the fact the FabricSkin envelops an iPad, rather than attaching to one side. Cutouts in the rubbery frame allow access to the camera, speaker grille and all the usual ports, including the 30-pin connection on older iPads. A micro-USB charging port is embedded on the right side of the base. In the landscape-only productivity mode, a magnetic connector grabs hold of the iPad and plunks it down right above the keyboard. Once that hookup is made, the keyboard powers up and attempts a Bluetooth sync. Setup occurs without much fuss and you should be pecking those full-size keys in short order.
The FabricSkin one-ups the Touch Cover by adding a bit of travel to its keys, thanks to what feels like a membrane-based keyboard hiding just below the slightly rubbery, water-resistant surface. That subtle feedback makes touch typing a surprisingly pleasant experience. And yes, that water-resistance claim holds up.
Naturally, there are some drawbacks. In order to fit full-sized keys on an iPad frame, Logitech had to assign multiple functions in places. Notably, the Q and A keys double as the Tab and Caps Lock functions, respectively, when you hold down the Fn button. The extra-wide A key (sized like a typical Caps Lock button) takes quite a bit of getting used to. There's also the question of software compatibility. Pecking out messages in the Notes and Facebook apps is fairly intuitive. Typing docs in Google Drive (which is how I wrote this IRL) works as expected, too. However, the arrow keys don't function when working on spreadsheets in Google Docs, making navigation a bit of a hassle.
Overall, the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio seems a solid choice for those looking for both protection and increased productivity with their iPad. At $150, it's worth trying out first to see if you can overcome the slightly odd layout.
-- Philip Palermo