The Media Guru

May 13, 2012



A review of the Scosche solBAT II solar powered battery charger.



If you are a heavy smartphone user, running out of battery is a situation you’re familiar with. & unless you have a spare battery or an electrical socket nearby, you are essentially cut off from the world. The solution is an external battery pack. How about a greener solution - a solar charger?

According to the package, the solBAT II has an internal 1500mAh battery with recharge times of approximately 18 hours using solar and 2.5 hours using USB.



These are the package contents. & within the manual, this:

Full Charge (USB): 5 hours

Solar Charge: 4-5 days

I hate false advertising.



You get only one very short USB cable. These days, all smartphones come with USB charging and if you have an older device, you’ll need to purchase a USB adapter. Surely, they could have included some of the cables.




The mounting cradle and suction pads, used for mounting the solar charger to a car’s windshield.



The carabiner is used to clamp the solar charger to a backpack so it can be charged while hiking. That might be useful for me.



The solar powered charger’s best feature is its portability. It’s very light and made of a hard plastic designed for rough handling. It has two USB ports – one standard USB port for charging devices and one microUSB for charging itself.



You can check the battery level on the charger by pressing a button and LEDs will light up giving you an approximation of the percentage charge. There is also a red LED which lights up when being charged and a green LED when charging other devices.



How does the solBAT II fare in real life? 


The expected scenario is that you would charge it with the sun or from USB and then take it with you to supply some extra juice when needed.

Charging the charger? Just as the manual stated, it took 5 hours from a standard USB 2.0 port. I was tempted to use my 900/1100mAh AC chargers, but I’m not sure it would be able to handle that.

Solar charging? 4-5 days according to the manual (more than a week according to the web reviews). I didn’t test that but given the small area of the solar cells, it was to be expected. I should add that solar charging emits a whining noise from the power electronics circuit in the charger.




Well, it won’t charge my N900 and when I connect it to my N9, this message pops up and then it starts charging. According to the manual, the solar charger outputs 500mA at 5V. Given the error message, I reckon it’s much less than that.

Charging time? My N9 comes with a 1450mAh battery and the solar charger should be able to sustain 1 full charge with its 1500mAh battery. Well, it doesn’t.

First, because the output is so low, it cannot bring the phone out of a completely dead battery state. So if the phone is dead, the solar charger is useless.

Second, it takes a massive amount of time to charge devices. 1 hour to charge 7% of battery. I started charging at 6% and some 12 hours later, I found the phone at 75% with the solar charger’s battery depleted. After looking on the web, I found that it does have 1500mAh, but rated at 3.7V. At 5V, that’s 1100mAh.




The solBAT II is useless then? Not really, because I found that when I charged my N9 while leaving the charger in the sun, the charging rate was more acceptable. Situations where this might be handy is when trekking on mountains or sunbathing at the beach or going on road trip on a hot summer day.

Its reliance on the sun for maximum efficiency means it’s not very practical in regions with few hours of sunshine. As a stand-alone charger, it’s extremely slow at charging smartphones. Thus I cannot recommend it when you can get a portable charger with more capacity and faster charging or even an extended mobile phone battery.


Score – 3/10



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Romero said...

You're right. If only it would charge faster and if it came at a decent price.

Metalking said...

Not a good product anyway

Metalking said...

0/10 for me

Paul said...

what a stupid review like most i read regarding charging via sun light, do u understand how much charge u get from direct sunlight??? yes it's not much at all, if it was to charge allot us human's wouldn't be able to live on this planet due to the sun rays. it takes half the time to charge for my brother who lives in hot weather compare to where i live. 

it's best to charge it up than leave it out in the sun while u hitchhike or go camping. I use it for a backup when my phone went dead where i was able to use it in emergencies. 

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