What if you could charge pretty much any gadget, from iPhones to Blackberries, with a pocketable solar panel? Well...you can now with the solBAT II.

Price

$30 MSRP, but as low as $20 on Amazon.

Verdict

I like the solBAT II for eco geek purposes and ease of use, but it has so much room to grow.

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A small plastic box that's far lighter than any cellphone, the SolBAT II is essentially a solar panel connected to a battery connected to AC and USB ports. On its back, one light glows red when it's charging, another glows green when it's charging something else.


And let me say, that red LED is great. It lights up dynamically, meaning you can tell the difference between just enough sunlight to draw a charge and ann all-out solar fiesta. Completely switch-free, the interface couldn't be much simpler.

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The catch is that the solBAT II takes a long time to charge—4 to 5 days in all, according to the package. After sitting that long in my window, the device still hadn't reached its 1500mA capacity. And the whole time, I was considering how much faster the process would be if a second solar panel flipped out from the device, butterfly-style.


In terms of actual power output, its 1500mA battery, when charged in just two hours over USB, actually filled my 1150mA iPhone about halfway.

Still, if I were the outdoors type, I could really see the appeal of the solBAT II as an emergency backup option, especially as it comes with its own carabiner clip (plus a suction cup mount) so it can hang easily from a backpack. But it's not hard to imagine the next solBAT as a much more refined product, with additional capacity and faster charging. [solBAT II]

Very simple to use

Truly portable

Priced competitively

Slow charging

Somewhat low capacity in actual testing