My external keyboard, a Microsoft thing, seems to aspire to being an IBM Selectric, clacking so loudly phone-interview sources get self-conscious. So I went online and found this HP Wireless Elite Keyboard on Amazon for $29.
It was more or less what I was looking for, and I was on the ragged edge of going for it when pre-buyers remorse struck and I bailed on the cart. And what did I find but a solar-powered keyboard by Logitech. Never needs batteries. Great reviews. CNET.com’s Justin Yu, CNET’s headphone and peripherals guru, gave it his editor’s choice, a rave rundown. I’m thinking, yes, and it’ll further bolster my green chops — panels on the roof, panels on the keyboard, what more can you ask?
Well, you ask about the price. the Logitec Solar Keyboard is $60. The HP battery-powered version is $29. The HP keyboard uses two AAA batteries. Looks like you can buy 20 AAA alkaline batteries for about $10. HP says a keyboard goes a year on a pair of batteries. (Keyboards obviously don’t take much energy, which explains how a few square inches of solar panels can fuel the Logitech version such that, in two hours of indoor lighting, you get a three-month charge, according to the company).
So the payback on the extra green for solar-powered typing, in this case, is the cumulative life of however many batteries you can buy for $31 (omitting the productivity losses of me digging around for AAA batteries once a year, which will be hours).
Sixty batteries will last the HP keyboard 30 years, then. Landfilling alkaline batteries isn’t the greatest thing, of course, so I suppose I’ll spring for four Sanyo Eneloop batteries for the same $10 the alkalines would set me back. Eneloops can be recharged 1,500 times each and don’t self-discharge too badly (I use them in a voice recorder). So I’ll be typing effortlessly into the 60th century.
In other words, solar panels on the keyboard aren’t like the panels on the roof at all, because there the payback is real (even if it’s several years). CNET might have factored this into their rating. Logitech’s solar twist makes for a cubicle piece de resistance for sure. But it’s environmentally and functionally meaningless.