Review: Solid Line Products Flight Case for iPad 2/iPad (3rd-Gen)
Although they were never terribly prevalent to begin with, iPad keyboard cases designed to make the device look like a laptop have been even less common lately. Solid Line Products is picking the torch back up with Flight Case for the second- and third-generation iPad ($109). Available in either silver or black, the former is clearly designed to mimic Apple's current MacBook line. It's thicker and heavier than competitors, but there's a reason for that: packed underneath the keyboard is a 4,000mAh battery pack for recharging the iPad or other devices. It may sound like a winning combination on paper, but we were let down by the overall experience.
Unlike a MacBook Air or Pro, Flight Case is made of plastic that’s only painted to look like aluminum. From a distance it looks pretty good but once you get closer and lay your hands on the case it feels cheap. Your iPad is held in a shell and it’s one of the few we’ve seen that is clearly better suited for the second-generation tablet. The current iPad doesn’t rest perfectly flat due to it’s slightly thicker body and as such you can feel it rattling around a bit. Body coverage is good with the exception of the 2-inch circular opening around the Apple logo. Solid Line didn’t even center the hole properly around the fruit.
The shell is attached to the 2/5” thick bottom slab by a hinge on the iPad’s left side—part of it is painted black in another effort to be like a Mac laptop. Opening it up automatically wakes the tablet up thanks to magnets embedded in the palm rest. With square black keys slightly recessed into the silver plastic, there’s no question as to what Solid Line Products wants this accessory to look like.
Although the keys feel quite small—certainly in comparison to a Mac’s keyboard, but even in side-by-side against most of the keyboard cases we see today—typing is a surprisingly good experience. It’s partially attributable to the space between the keys, but we found ourselves touch typing immediately with very few mistakes. Thankfully the layout is the same as most people are used to, eliminating the need to learn a different setup. We don’t like that pressing even a single key causes them to all depress though; it’s another knock against the overall quality. It’s not our favorite keyboard ever, but the typing experience is respectable. Pairing is also good. Just flip the power switch, and hold down the Bluetooth button until the device pops up on your iPad.
What doesn’t work so well is the battery, at least not when it’s used to juice up the iPad. 4,000mAh is pretty small compared to the reported 11,666mAh cell in the third-generation iPad, but could be useful to get a little extra power to the tablet. The battery is charged through a Mini-USB port with an included cable, but requires a self-provided USB cord to push out power through its full-sized port. Based off of past tests, we estimated a 20%-25% boost to the battery. Connected to Wi-Fi and with the screen of, our third-generation iPad only received a 15% charge. Even worse, it took almost three full hours. The label on the bottom of the case claims 2A charging, but this result took way too long for that to be accurate. It’s also surprising that there’s no remaining battery indicator of any sort.
Executed properly, Flight Case could be a really successful iPad accessory. If Solid Line Products were to use aluminum or at least higher quality plastic, adjust the shell so that it fits the third-generation iPad properly, and fix its battery, we could see a broad appeal. There are simply too many misses in the current state. The company built up expectations, and didn’t live up to them. Flight Case escapes a C-range rating for two reasons: it still types well, and the battery can be used to adequately charge an iPhone or iPad.