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Soladec Hybrid All-in-One Portable Solar Power Charger and External Battery Pack with Integrated Ultra High-Flux LED Light for iPod, iPhone, iPad and Other USB Devices
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- Latest generation ultra efficient monocrystalline solar cell module.
- Charge most of USB-compatible portable gadgets
- Built-in high-flux LED lamp for indoor/outdoor activities and SOS use.
- Built-in rechargeable lithium battery will hold a charge for up to 2 years, making it suitable for emergency use
- Can be charged from sunlight, USB port or a wall plug
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Never be caught without power again. The Soladec is a versatile all-in-one hybrid solar powered charger allows to charge most of USB powered portable electronic devices from your smartphone and MP3 player, to tablets, e-reader, GPS and camera, including iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Blackberry, GalaxyS, Galaxy Tab and more. It has built-in high flux LED lamps with a power level indicator for indoor/outdoor use and can work as a SOS lamp blinker by choosing the SOS function from its power button. Designed to maximize functionality to meet the demands of the most tech-savvy outdoor enthusiast; perfect for camping, fishing, boating, hiking and any emergency. Easy to use and lightweight to carry. Intelligent charging system automatically shuts off when a device is at full charge extending battery life. At full charge the battery will provide most smartphones with at least 2.5 complete charges (actual performance will vary by device). At full charge, it takes about 2 hours 40 minutes to charge a smartphone (actual charging time will vary by device). Charge time to full capacity: approx. 11 hrs via Sun, 7 hrs via USB (actual solar charge time may vary greatly depending on atmospheric conditions, amount of sunlight, etc.). Built-in easel for easy stand and easy lighting. Included are Soladec Hybrid Solar Powered Charger, USB Charging Cable, Carrying Case, Wrist Lanyard and User’s Manual. Technical Spec: Solar Modue-5V, 330mA (1.65W), Shatter Resistant Tempered Low-Iron Glass; LED Module-0.8W (High Flux LED), Life Span of 50,000 hours; Internal Battery-Li-polymer, 3.7V, 4000mA (14.8WH)
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Since I'm an engineer, I just HAVE to open the case to see what's inside. I'm quite impressed by the high-quality components found (see the photo I uploaded to 'Customer Images' section):
- The internal Lithium-ion rechargeable battery is rated 3.7V 4100mAh (the product description says '4000mAh')
- The LEDs are mounted on an aluminum-backed PCB. This is great for thermal dissipation (but you don't see this very often due to high cost)
- The battery charging/discharging operation is controlled by an 8-bit microprocessor (again, you don't see this often due to high cost). This is very important because, without the correct charging algorithm, a Li-ion battery can be easily damaged by over-charging.
I then tested the unit electrically, and found it to work more or less as expected:
- When you recharge the internal battery through a computer USB port, the charging current is at 500mA. This is limited by the current capacity of a standard USB port. So the charge time is around 8-9 hours.
- When charging through an external 5V 1A USB power adapter, the battery charging current increases to 0.69A. That means the charge time is reduced to around 6-7 hours.
- When charging with the solar panel, the highest charging current I can get is ~350mA. This is under optimal test condition of bright summer sun at noon time, with the panel perpendicular to the sunbeam. In real life, it will take at least two full days of direct sunlight to recharge the internal battery. Also note that if you place the solar panel inside your car, the charging current is cut by half because the car window filters out most of the UV light.
Next, I tried to use this Soladec unit to recharge different types of USB-powered devices. The outcome varies according to the power requirement:
- When charging a low-drain USB device (such as the Philips GoGear Aria MP3 Player), the USB device is powered up correctly, but the Soladec's LED indicator light does not cycle to show 'charging in progress'
- When charging a medium-drain USB device (such as the Nintendo DSi XL), the device is powered up correctly, and the Soladec's LED indicator cycles to show charging in progress.
- When powering a high-drain USB device (such as the VIZIO 8-Inch Tablet VTAB1008), the Soladec's LED indicator still cycles normally, but its output current fluctuates wildly because the maximum current limit is exceeded. This may cause the receiving device to get confused as it constantly enters and then exits charging mode. Actual maximum output current I measured is around 0.81A, even though the product manual says only 0.5A. So at least the product is performing better than specified.
- When ON, the LED light draws 200mA from the battery. This means a runtime of 20 hours. However, I'm skeptical about the advertised light output of '170 lumen', as it requires an amazing efficacy of over 200 lumens per watt.
On the other hand, I have noticed some major design flaws with this Solardec charger:
1. There is no on/off switch. The push button switch beside the LED light does not turn off the whole system, only the light. The system is constantly drawing a 3mA standby current from internal battery. Simple calculation shows that this standby current will drain a 4100mAh battery in less than 2 months. So although the product description says the built-in battery will "hold a charge for up to 2 years", in real life you have to recharge it every single month, if you intend to use it in case of emergency.
2. The case is not weather-sealed in any way. In particular, there are no rubber caps for the two USB ports on top. So if it rains, water can easily get in through those openings. That makes it dangerous to leave this solar charger outdoor exposed to direct sunlight. The only safe way is to place it underneath your car's windshield. But doing so also cuts down the solar power by ~50%. So now it takes 4 days to fully recharge the internal battery by solar panel.
The Soladec SD4000LP is a good attempt with quality components inside. But unfortunately, the two major design flaws mentioned above make it less useful either as an emergency power source or as an outdoor solar charger. It does work well as a LED work light, but that can hardly justify its high price tag. That's why I can only give it a 3-star neutral rating, meaning "It's Okay".
[Side note on capacity]
Is the capacity of internal battery (4100mAh) sufficient for you? That depends on the USB device you intend to recharge. For example, my POLAROID 7" INTERNET TABLET has an internal 3000mAh Li-ion battery. So on first glance, the SD4000LP contains more than enough energy to charge up my tablet from empty to 100%. However, the battery charging process has to go though two conversion steps. First, the 3.7V from internal battery is boosted to 5V at the USB port. Next, the 5V is stepped down to around 4V to recharge the tablet battery. Even if each conversion step is 85% efficient, you still lose 30% of energy in the process. That's why you always need 1/3 higher capacity than the device you want to recharge.
I'm a hiker and I'll use the GPS on my iPhone 4S to navigate through to wood in the Sierras, and for all of you iPhone 4S users out there you know how short the battery life can be, it actually drops off on average a percent a minute so I needed a heavy duty solar charger. Even with the high power consumption, as long as I stay plugged in my phone never drops below 100%, even at night when I'm using the GPS and the rediculiously bright light all nigh long. The light is also amazing, from a 12 hour charge it will run 18 hours and will stay bright the entire night. So to sum it all up, I actually couldn't pull more power than it could put out, it always felt like there was a wall outlet in my tent becouse no matter what I did I couldn't kill the thing! It was well worth every penny spent