Posts Tagged cell phone chargers
If you’re going off the grid for a while or just want to have a reliable power source when outlets are scarce, this Goal Zero solar charging kit really delivers.
I’ve reviewed a lot of different solar chargers over the years, from the good to the almost useless. This is the best kit I’ve tried for people who want outlet-strength charging for their gadgets that won’t require two days in the sun. You get a ray-catching fold-out solar panel, a 4-AA battery pack (batteries included), and various cords for different scenarios.
When I tried this out for the first time, I was amazed how fast it worked. Accustomed to small panels that take 6-8 hours to charge up in full sunlight, this Goal Zero Nomad 7 panel charged up my smartphone from 20% to full in 2.5 hours. It took less than four to charge up the battery pack of dead batteries, whether using theirs or four of my own rechargeables.
That Guide 10 battery pack is one of the key benefits of this Guide 10 Plus kit. You can charge up the ones that came with it and use those to power up other devices later when you need to, like in the middle of the night or early morning on the move. Or you can use those batteries or others in your super-zoom camera, lantern powered with AA batteries, travel flashlight, etc. Bring enough spares with you and you’ve got days of ready power at the ready—just put the AAs into this Goal Zero pack and you’ve got an instant charger.
The battery pack even has its own built-in LED flashlight to help you find what you need in the dark. It also charges up AAA batteries.
Without it you can charge directly from the solar panel. I did this with two smartphones, and iPod Touch, and a Windows Asus Vivo tablet. I would plug them into the USB port in the morning and be fully charged up before I was done with lunch. There’s a netted pouch in the back of the panel that holds these items (keeping them shaded from the sun) and all the accessory cords.
One cord is USB to micro USB, another is a car adapter that will charge up the battery pack. Yes, you can charge the batteries with good ole electric power and use this as a regular travel charger as well, for trans-Pacific flights on the way perhaps.
With continual improvements in the design over the years, all of this together weighs less than 1.5 pounds and since the panel fold up, it all takes up very little space in your backpack. Heck you can even strap the the panel to your pack as you’re hiking and charge up the batteries on the move.
The Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Adventure Kit lists for $120, which is a fair price for a solar panel set-up with this output plus the battery pack and cords. Get it direct from Goal Zero, at many retail stores, or online at Summit Hut, Backcountry, or Amazon.
(See Ramsey’s take from two years ago on an earlier version of the Guide 10 Adventure Kit.)
When you need a burst of power to revive your phone or crank up the music again, this little Eton Boostbloc 2000 will get you going without taking up much room.
We’ve reviewed quite a few portable chargers suitable for travel on this gear blog because there’s just one problem with using your smart phone so much. The battery—especially in an iPhone—isn’t nearly as good as the rest of the device. On a good day you might make it through the daylight hours without recharging. Often you’ll run out before happy hour. (My family’s Motorola and Samsung phones are both good until bedtime, but my thin iPod Touch has seldom been able to make it through one plane ride if I’m playing a game.)
Enter the Eton Boostbloc 2000, a little cube that recharges by USB in an hour and a half. With it fully charged, you can get one good charge to fully restore your smartphone’s battery, maybe with a tad to spare. There are other larger chargers on the market that will do more than this, plus Etón has its own 4000 and 6600 models. If you’re just moving around on vacation or business from airports to hotels, however, this small cube is enough to get you through the trans-ocean flight or to bedtime when you can plug into an outlet.
This BoostBloc is elegant and simple, with no buttons and just two inputs/outputs: USB and micro USB. The included cord has the corresponding male connectors, so you can use this alone if you’re lucky enough to have a micro USB connector like many Android and Windows phones have. (Not mini USB as you see in some photos of this device.) Otherwise you’ll need to use your own charger cord or get an adapter. So this is not quite as handy as the more expensive Innergie charger with 3-in-1 cord I use a lot, but close.
One cool feature with this charger: you can shake it to see how much power is remaining. There are four tiny blue LED lights on the bottom. These will tell you how much juice you have left or, if you’re charging it, when it’s full.
In my tests this 2000 mAh lithium ion polymer battery did what it said: charged up one smartphone that was close to dead. It doesn’t have the capacity of larger chargers that can store 5,000 mAh (milliamps), but this Etón BoostBloc is small enough to toss into any bag and it only weighs 2.2 ounces (63.5 grams).
I do it all the time. I think that my iPhone battery will last long enough for the ride to the hotel from the airport or for that lengthy delay while sitting on the plane, but each and every time I am wrong. Once in Tahiti, I roamed around the Papeete airport searching for electrical outlets to charge my phone and was chastised by airport workers at no less than five different outlets being informed it is not permitted to charge personal devices at the airport’s electrical outlets! Huh?
Enough is enough. Devices like the Digital Foci battery porter external battery charger are the perfect answer for travelers to far-flung places where electricity shortages are common or the lack of electrical outlets (either while on a train or plane) or simply at one’s location are not convenient.
This device is easy to charge in advance and is lightweight enough to carry by hand and use when needed. It supplies extra power for everything from smart phones to tablet devices and becomes extra helpful on long-haul flights on older aircraft where electrical outlets are not available.
In the short time that I have had this device, it has come in handy twice saving me from lengthy lines at the customer service counter and helping me to get what I needed in a flight cancellation when nary a seat (much less electrical outlet) was in sight.
The device is designed for items that use USB charging stations and even doubles as a portable flashlight. It can help to increase the battery life of some phones by more than triple or quadruple percent when used with iPhone 4/4S/5.
LED lights indicate how much remaining battery capacity is left, and a power adaptor for car usage is also included (a welcome addition for traffic jams!). The 8000 model offers more juice, but clocks in at a bit more weight. Clocking in at 4 to7 ounces, both items would add a fraction of heft to the already-packed carry-on items of international travelers who often find their bags being weighed at check-on or the gate to see if they meet the stringent 8-10 pound limit of carry-ons overseas. Throw in a laptop, charger, and a few books and magazines and you are already at that limit so extra devices add weight.
For me, this kind of device is more than useful since I often find myself in places with no power. The life-saving qualities of this device are unmentionable for those who are addicted to their phones, and the variable $50 price range is well-suited for those who would cut off their arm for a power outlet at times. It is available at Digital Foci’s website or on Amazon.
This lightweight external charger from Fat Cat offers supplementary charging power via a USB output port making them convenient any smartphone or tablet user, especially those who travel.
I have often found myself in situations on airplanes or sitting in taxis where my battery is dwindling fast and I still have important emails to answer! There are even some apps on my phone that suck the life out of my batter but are still essential to my work. I am talking to you Last Alert app.
FatCat’s power chargers are ideal for just those moments where there are no power outlets readily available. The FatCat charger comes in a variety of stylish colors so that it can match with your own personal fashion. Some chargers are designed with higher voltages more ideal for tablets and iPads, but they are still perfect for smartphones.
They are extremely lightweight making them a reasonable addition to my compact carry-on bag. I have even taken to tearing the pages I have finished reading out of magazines to reduce weight thanks to stubborn airlines like Air France and South African Airways that will literally weigh your handbag at the gate to see if it is allowable on board. And, don’t flinch, a bag that is packed with a laptop, charger, book, magazines, and toiletries is barely permitted on board.
Once while in the Papeete airport in Tahiti, I was prohibited from charging electronics in the airport outlets. I am not sure how people stay connected during lengthy layovers there. The neat thing about FatCat chargers is that they maintain the majority of their charge even when not used for extended periods of time. It would have been the perfect solution to not being able to use an airport outlet.
There were a few occasions where irritable flight attendants thought it was some sort of cell phone (presumably because of the logo on the back that makes it look like an iPhone) and insisted I stow it in my bag, but otherwise this is an excellent, lightweight resource for frequent business travelers and costs roughly $80 at the FatCat website or Amazon.
This funky little Solio Bolt looks cool and and the price is right, but it delivers underwhelming performance on its main purpose: solar power gadget charging.
Contractors and carpenters are fond of asking customers, “Do you want it fast, cheap, or good? Pick two.” With portable solar chargers, there are only two choices. “Do you want it tiny or do you want it to really work?”
With a few very rare exceptions, a solar charger that’s small enough to fit in your pocket—tiny—is not going to be very good. I’m afraid this Solio Bolt one is not one of the exceptions. It’s tiny alright, but is hard to take seriously as a solar device.
I’ve had less than impressive results with other Solio chargers in the past and have always wondered why they’re so popular. My guess is that the intriguing design quickly gets the attention of photo-centric magazine editors and TV show hosts, so each new release always gets lots of publicity. But based on my tests it seems like the designers are getting the bulk of the budget, with little left for maximizing the small solar panels to really capture and store some energy.
First the design, which is quite fetching. This Solio model is a bit smaller than a sandwich with the crusts cut off (or a bit larger than a pack of cigarettes), so it’s easy to pack. It’s got two panels that stay together when not in use, but swivel apart to become two sun-catching panels when open. The odd shape with the rounded back makes it kind of hard to prop up on anything, so there’s a hole in the middle where you stick a pencil through and then you can face it toward the sun. Hey, they even include a pencil with it!
It follows the minimalist trend of just having one button. That would be fine if all you had to do was turn it on and off. But they advise you to hold the button down to switch from regular mode to Apple mode, something my other chargers haven’t required but it could be handy for iPods like my wife’s that give an annoying error message when plugged up to anything besides a computer USB port. You hold down the button again to switch back and the LED light color changes to tell you which mode you’re in (red or blue). Then the LED flashes are supposed to be your status indicators. When they blink five times you’re fully charged. They blink twice you’re running out.
Then there’s a constant blink while your unit is charging, which is where this unit performed the best: it charged up the iPod Touch in less than an hour, a smart phone in about an hour and a half. One big fault with the output though is that there’s no cut-off built in. So once your device is charged, the Solio unit keeps cranking out power until it runs out of juice. So unless you keep checking on your device to see when it’s done, you’ll never get more than one charge out of it.
In my tests though, that wasn’t much of an issue since I never got much more than a charge out of it anyway, from a Kindle to a Touch to a Motorola Atrix Android phone. And that was after it taking an average of 12 hours to fully charge under the blue-sky Florida sun. I never managed to get it fully charged in just one day, even a full day with no clouds and me moving it every few hours to directly face the sun. If you’re in a cloudy area, it could take you days to charge back up.
So in the end, this is more of a cool-looking solar toy priced to move than a useful solar charger that can be your go-to device on the road. Sure, you can always recharge it with the USB cord instead (which still takes an inexplicable 4 to 5 hours), but if you’re going to use fossil fuels instead of solar energy, you might as well carry something smaller and more robust, like the Innergie PocketCell I reviewed recently. It works faster and is half the size. If you just look at specs this Solio Bolt has a 2000mAh capacity and 1000 mAh output, which is equal to the Brunton Restore charger I reviewed two years ago. But that one charges up twice as fast and routinely is able to charge multiple devices before running out. So while this Bolt is smaller and cheaper than many rivals, I’d advise paying for something more robust, with larger panels, unless you’re going to be traveling in very sunny places and staying put in one location for enough time for this to charge.