GUEST ARTICLE: There are gadgets which you see in stores and think “how cool is that” and they go straight on the to buy list. Granted my to buy list is quite long but I have managed to get my hands on one of these bits of technology … a Solar Battery Charger, specifically the Varta Solar Charger.
This device works by trickle charging a pair of batteries with electricity generated from a small solar panel. Once the batteries are charged, you flick a switch and charge your device/s via the charge stored in the batteries.
Also this Varta device can charge the batteries via USB as well and then you just plug in your phone or iPod (but if you have your iPod why not just charge it via USB!) and charge away.
It comes with all the major adaptors, with the Nokia only coming in the “small” version though, but has Sony, Samsung Blackberry and the Micro USB that many new devices are starting to use, esp. given that it is the new EU standard.
The packaging says it can be used straight out of the box, which of course I did. It is a simple case of plugging in your correct adapter for your device into the USB port putting the batteries in the back and flicking the switch on the side to “out”. When the device is charged, you open the charger, stick it in the sun and switch it to in.
So that would be the review… but then you run into some problems.
Firstly charging a pair of 2100MAh batteries takes 18 hours via the sun…. So great if you are in Antarctica during the summer (when there is plenty of daylight 24 hours/day) . Realistically you are looking at 2 days to charge the batteries to full.
Test charging was on a N95-8gb (whilst still on), when it was nearly flat. 3 hours later I had 2 extra bars of battery, so you can say this device works as advertised.
I guess I was wanted the laws of physics to be thrown out the window and 1 hour later have my phone fully charged like it is when I plug it into a power socket at home.
I almost feel sorry for this product as it suffers from Holodeck syndrome which is where the expectations of technology are let down by it’s abilities in reality.
Then I started to think when would I use this device? In the car, but then I have a lighter adapter for that which fully charges my phone as fast as at home. In the office, I have a charger at work for that. Certainly, for the cost of this solar charger ($50) I can buy extra chargers for my device at these places.
The only real place I am going to use it is on my road trips across Australia.
Next time I’m in the outback with my phone and dead car battery, I will get out my solar charger wait a few hours then fire up my phone. At this point I will realise of course my phone doesn’t work because there is no coverage where I am
If you were thinking about hiking perhaps it would come in handy as it certainly it light enough to go in a pack and certainly would be enough to keep your music going or give a phone a quick charge if you had coverage.
Yet still this is a great device, one that I will be leaving in my tool kit for camping that is for sure, but still I’m left wondering what the real market is for it. It is a stepping-stone on a road to self powered and solar powered devices, but there are many steps left to take.
The Varta USB Solar Charger for Batteries, Phones and Gadgets costs roughly $50.
NOTE: The Varta USB Solar Charger used by Wolfcat to write this review was supplied by Varta Australia.
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