Here at BGR, we’ve learned several truths over the years: What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas, you really shouldn’t eat yellow snow and most importantly, there is no such thing as a phone with a big enough battery. Discounting those first two for the time being, we’re long-time Proporta portable battery users as having that extra 3400 mAh of juice in reserve can be a life saver. Last month however, we were made aware of an alternative option from London-based Devotec Industries and our interest was immediately piqued. While Devotec’s offering holds 47% less juice than our Proporta battery, we couldn’t help but get reeled in by a key feature that no other portable charger we’ve come across in the sub-$40 price range can tout — solar. Needless to say we scooped up a handful of them and went to town. Hit the jump to read our impressions of the Devotec Solar Charger after a few weeks of abuse from the BGR staff.
First things first – what exactly is this thing? Devotec’s Solar Charger is a small pocketable battery that will charge your mobile phone or other portable devices on the go. It holds 1800 mAh of power, more than enough to give just about any handset one full charge with a bit left over just in case. The entire face of the charger is a solar panel, thus allowing the battery to be charged by the sun as opposed to sucking power from the grid. This also means if you’re out and about for an extended period of time, using the unit for multiple charges is possible without having to stop and find a power source. Just leave it sitting on the dash in your car or anywhere else it can see the sun and a few hours later you have a full 1800 mAh waiting for another go. Leaving it in the sun as it’s charging a device will also drastically reduce the battery drain of course, stretching that 1800 mAh cell out much further than any non-solar portable charger could dream of.
The unit is built quite solidly; the area surrounding the solar panel is standard black plastic while the rear half of the case is metal. Admittedly, we’ve dropped the unit a short distance several times already and there isn’t a scratch or scuff to be found. One end of the charger is home to a single DC-out port and the other end holds two LED indicators and a USB port. Why a USB port, you might ask? In the event you have a trip to Seattle or just want a quick burst of juice, the charger can be plugged into a wall outlet or any computer with a USB port (Extended pack is available with a multi-country travel charger).
Devotec’s Solar Charger ships with a short cable and a variety of tips that should be able to charge just about any handset along with any portable device that can be powered with a standard USB cable — as you can see above, the center tip on the top row is a standard USB port. It also comes with a small leather-like case which, oddly, is the cause of our only real complaint. The case is nice and it keeps the unit from getting scratched or scuffed while in transit but it’s only big enough to house the charger itself, and barely. We would have preferred a case that could also hold the tiny charger cable and maybe even a few tips so that everything is kept together and organized.
In terms of performance, a portable charger is the type of thing that either works or it doesn’t. There’s really no room for middle ground so in short, the Devotec Solar Charger works. Surprisingly however, we found that it works a bit better than the Devotec Website states. The company’s site claims charging the unit from empty will take approximately 12 hours of sunlight, while the documentation included with the unit claims 4-6 hours. During our testing we found the reality to be somewhere around 4 hours in direct sunlight. The other thing you might notice is that in each of our pictures of the unit there is a blue LED shining, indicating that the unit is currently charging. That’s no mistake — we were very surprised to find that artificial light charges the Devotec charger as opposed to just sunlight. Of course we doubt a standard house bulb will charge the unit anywhere near as quickly as sunlight, but it’s still nice to know.
In the end, we would definitely recommend the Devotec Solar Charger to anyone in the market for a portable charger. The $39.99 price point puts it exactly in line with our Proporta unit and while its capacity is 1800 mAh compared to the 3400 mAh of the Proporta, the green-factor and convenience of solar technology more than make up for it. Whereas the Proporta or a similar non-solar unit might be able to refill your handset twice before having to be refueled by a wall outlet or computer, the Devotec charger can keep refilling your gear without touching an outlet as long as the sun keeps rising every morning. If the sun stops rising, well, you’ve got bigger problems to deal with than recharging your phone. With that, we’ll leave you with a few comparison shots to give you an idea of the size of the unit, along with a link to Devotec’s product page.