Ah, the great outdoors – the perfect place for getting in touch with nature, but not so great for charging gadgets. That is, unless you have a solar charger like the Solio Mg. This handy little scamp converts solar rays into juice or, if you prefer, charges up from the mains.
The new Mg edition improves on the first Solio by adding a magnesium alloy casing. This gives it extra strength without adding weight, and earns it more style points into the bargain.
Just like before, the hand grenade-sized charger fans open to catch the rays, and then collapses to fit into a pocket or backpack, or indeed the little hemp pouch that’s supplied in the box. The whole unit weighs less than a pack of AA batteries.
Sunshine, lollipops and batteries
London isn’t exactly the sunshine state, but even a relatively dull August day managed to provide a full charge for our flat HTC smart phone. It’s simply a case of pointing the solar array directly at the sun.
A pencil is provided to push through the central hole and prop the Solio up on a windowsill, or you could suspend it on a stick if you’re out in the field. Outside in direct sunlight is best as glass can block the best rays and on a fine day you can fully charge the internal battery in 10 to 12 hours. On a cloudy day, though, it’s difficult to achieve a 100% charge.
Even a half charged Solio holds enough power to fully re-juice a mobile phone, or provide about 20 hours of music playback on an iPod. One hour of charge gives you 20 minutes of talk time, or 50 minutes of music.
There’s no display on the Solio Mg and only a single button, but by pressing it, you can find out how much power it’s currently holding. If it blinks once on pressing, then it’s 20% full, while two flashes means 40%. When it goes red, then you’re out.
It’s a hybrid charger, which means that you can also cheat and top the Solio up from the mains overnight. This takes about 6 hours and, impressively, it’ll hold that charge for over a year.
You also get a generous supply of ‘tips’ in the box. Virtually every model of Samsung, LG, Blackberry and Nokia phones are supported, and there’s also a female USB for MP3 players.
We thought the first Solio charger was a great, if fragile, outdoors accessory, but the extra tough Mg version has definitely cemented its place in our travel bag.