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Solartab Solar Charger with Battery Review
      #49313 - 04/11/16 02:59 PM

It would be fair to say that I am somewhat obsessed with solar chargers. Since they've become mainstream in recent years, I've owned seven different ones (that I can remember), and all but one of them have disappointed me in some way or another. In fact, I found the overwhelming majority of them to be functionally useless due to the low output of their solar cells. For this reason, I was more than a bit skeptical of the Solartab. After all, you can only have your heart broken so many times before it hardens.



The first thing I did was top off the internal 13,000mAh battery using the included wall charger. Then, I brought out THE BEAST. Yep, I still have a functional iPad 3 lying around the house. For those not familiar with that device, it was Apple's first iPad with a high definition screen. Unfortunately, to drive all those pixels Apple beefed-up the processor, and then had to increase the battery size to power it. Clocking in at over 11,000mAh, the internal battery was a power hungry monster that could bring all but the biggest backup batteries to their collective knees. The Solartab charged it from less than 10% to 97% before giving up the ghost. It's important to point out here that batteries will never transfer their full capacity to the devices they are charging because the transfer of electrons from one chemical battery to another is never 100% efficient. For phase 2, I placed the depleted Solartab in the sun to charge it up. I deployed it at 9:00am and retrieved it at 12:30pm (3 and a half hours later) when some dark clouds rolled-in. Although I live in Southern California and get more sunny days than most, keep in mind that I set the Solartab to charge in a morning in March so conditions weren't exactly ideal for capturing sunlight. I then plugged-in my iPhone 6+, which was at 48%, and it charged completely. The next day, I was able to recharge the device nearly completely as I was lucky enough to have a cloudless day. To translate this into real-world terms, you will likely be able to keep 3 phones fully charged with the Solartab as long as you have steady sunlight. Of course, the solar panel charges significantly slower on cloudy days, but I can attest to the fact that it does charge. So, if it charges on cloudy days, why, you may ask, did I bring it inside on that first day? Because, as it turns out, the Solartab is not waterproof, nor is it even water-resistant. An odd design choice for something that is meant to be left outside.



With its 5.5w output, the Solar panel on this thing is impressive; especially considering the fact that it's only about the size of an iPad Air. Now, I own solar chargers that can beat that, but none of them can do it with a single panel nor do any of them have an internal battery; let alone one that is big enough to charge multiple devices. This unbeatable combo makes the Solartab best in its class. Unfortunately, due to its lack of water/dust resistance I can't give it a perfect score. Perhaps the manufacturer will consider offering rubber USB/Mini USB port plugs in the future, which would at least make it resistant to splashing and airborne particles. If not, you could certainly purchase your own, I suppose.



The last thing I want to touch on is the build quality. The sides of the Solartab are beautiful aluminum (I can't see the back as it's bonded to the cover/stand), and the solar panel is covered in thick glass. On the side, a button illuminates a series of LEDs to let you know the charge state of the battery, and a small white LED lets you know when the panel is charging. Lastly, the presence of two USB ports means you can charge multiple devices simultaneously. This thing screams quality.



Summary

The Solartab is a fantastic solar charger. With its beefy 5.5w output and 13,000mAh battery, even in hazy sunshine this thing can charge your device faster than you can use it. The build quality is excellent, the price is competitive, the cover doubles as a stand, and it can handle two devices simultaneously. The lack of water/dust resistance may be a problem for some, however.



Specs:

Size
9.7 x 7.6 x 0.35 inches

Solar Panel
5.5W nominal power
Mono-crystalline silicon

Battery
13,000 mAh
Lithium-Polymer

Output
2x USB 2.1A 5V (max)
Charges iPhone (6) in 1.5 hours
Charges iPad (Air 2) in 4 hours

Input
Micro USB port for wall charging: 1.5A 5V
(cable and charger included)

Indicators
Battery: row of 4 green LEDs indicating status of internal battery, button-triggered
Charging: One green LED for each USB and micro USB
Solar: One bright white LED to indicate solar charging

Cover
High grade polyurethane
Works as stand and protects the solar panel during transport

In the box
Solartab
Micro-USB to USB cable
10W USBPower Adapter
Documentation

Editor's Ratings (1-5): 4
What's Hot: 5.5w solar panel charges internal battery quickly. 13,000mAh internal battery. Two USB charge ports. Integrated cover protects device and doubles as a stand. Premium build quality.
What's Not: No protection from dust and moisture.
Price: $129 ($97 on Amazon)
Website: Solartab

Reviewed by: Tom Slayton

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