Nearly a year ago today, we published our review of the Solio Bolt solar powered USB charging device. It was pretty handy, and we liked the durability and compact size. Twelve months later, it’s still in rotation by the Industryoutsider testing crew. It’s been used to recharge lights and GPS units while camping, phones while traveling or at trade shows, and various other small USB charged electronics under a variety of conditions. But it’s recently been joined by a bigger, better unit – the Solio Classic2.
Big brother to the Bolt, the Classic2 offers a distinct advantage in the form of more capacity. It comes with a battery rated at 3,200mAh, which is a full 62.5% increase in storage. That’s a lot of juice, enough to top up my HTC Sensation twice with power to spare. Fully charging a depleted Classic2 from a wall charger or via USB takes six hours and fifteen minutes, but recharging it via sunlight requires the same amount of time as the smaller Bolt, thanks to its three fold-out panels, each of which is larger than the two found on the Bolt. Of course, that also means a larger physical size. Folded, the Classic2 is 5.8 inches long, 2.8 inches wide, and 1.4 inches thick. That adds up to 10.1 ounces of plastic, solar panel, and lithium polymer battery.
Here’s Solio’s breakdown of capacity for different devices:
- 15 hours of Talk Time or 675 hours Standby Time based on iPhone 4
- 15 hours of Talk Time or 616 hours Standby Time based on Motorola Droid
- 11 hours of Talk Time or 3103 hours of Standby Time based on HTC EVO
- 137 hours of music or 24 hours of video based on iPod Touch 4th Gen
- 8 hours of operation based on Garmin Nuvi 850
Using the Classic2 is easy. Charging it via USB or a wall outlet USB charger is as simple as plugging it in and leaving it for just over six hours. Using the sun requires a bit of user input. Open the panels, then prop it up with the included pencil through the hole in the middle. When the pencil isn’t casting a shadow, it’s pointed directly at the sun. Over the course of eight to ten hours, it will need to be moved periodically, to maintain the most effective angle for charging. (See, even solar energy isn’t totally free – you have to work a little bit for it) Even if it’s not possible to maintain the ideal angle all day, that shouldn’t be a problem. Since the battery will hold a charge for a full year, you can top it up any time before you leave on your trip, then after the first use, use sunlight to top it up again. The 8-10 time is for a depleted unit, but if you are only recharging 1-2 devices per day, you should be fine. Once charge, you just plug your USB cable in to the port on the side, and use the button on the underside to put it in output mode.
If there is a downside, it’s that the single LED button requires us to remember the functions. Although the learning curve is short, it also means you can’t just pick up the device and intuitively use it. When the light is red, it’s charging. Pressing it once will indicate the battery level with a series of 1-5 flashes, then it flashes continuously to let you know it’s charging your device. Press it again to turn it off. Nothing complex, just a minor quibble. Other than that, the Classic2 works great. There’s a rubber cover over the in and out ports, and it’s tethered so it won’t get lost. The unit itself is pretty robust, holding up to rough handling and a bit of clumsiness without missing a beat. We also like the fact that Solio products are being used in places like Kenya to recharge LED lighting, which is replacing kerosene lanterns. This not only saves money for some of the poorest people in the world, but burning kerosene is such a terrible health and environmental issue, we’re glad to see it declining in use. Visit Solio.com for more information.