Solar Phone Chargers Review
Why Use a Solar Phone Charger?
The top performers in our review are Voltaic Amp, the Gold Award winner; JOOS Orange, the Silver Award winner; and Voltaic Fuse 6W, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a charger to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 solar cell phone chargers.
A solar phone charger is not just another charging cable. If you're like most people, you keep a phone charger anywhere you know you're going to be for extended periods of time. There’s likely one for your home and another in the car. There’s probably in your desk or locker, and another that you keep with your laptop. Add to that something like an eReader, tablet computer, or mini-HD camera and you’ll see that you have quite a collection of charging cords that at $5-$20 each looks like a habit that costs more than the most expensive solar phone charging solution. A single solar charger can replace all of these.
Understanding a little bit about how a solar panel works is a good place to start when choosing which one will be the best solar phone charger for you. On the most basic level, a panel left in a well-lit area converts light energy into electricity that charges an internal Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery. The battery then stores the energy from which you can charge your phone or other mobile device. You can check out our articles about solar phone chargers for more information.
We looked at a number of solar phone charging technology and reviewed the 10 best in detail. From our short list, you might like the Voltaic Amp, which is perfect for people on the go. The JOOS Orange features durable construction and watertight electronics that make it perfect for prolonged outdoor use. The Fuse 6W – also from Voltaic – is a bit larger but fits well into any active lifestyle.
Solar Phone Chargers Review: How we Tested, What we Found.
Solar panels seem simple, but using one to charge a battery takes more than just leaving one out in the sun. These devices perform best in direct sunlight on a clear day, which sometimes left us at the mercy of the local weather. We tested each solar phone charger both outside on a clear day and in a windowed office to evaluate how each handled diffused light. In determining the best solar phone chargers, we've also considered what’s new in photovoltaic (PV) technology. While they all might look alike, not all are made the same or of the same quality.
Most of the panels we looked at are of the crystalline silicon variety, which is the standard of first-generation solar technology. The base material is a crystal that’s grown in a lab for its incredibly conductive properties, which is why it’s the same material used silicon chip production. This high conductivity is also what gives it the highest efficiency rating of any photovoltaic cell type on the market. Among these we found varying efficiencies in creating electricity from sunlight, ranging from the highest at 10 percent to the lowest at 4 percent.
We also got a look at a few second-generation devices that were pretty interesting. These are thinner than first-generation panels, and they're made of Epoxy Resin and Copper Indium Gallium DiSelenide (CIGS), the latter of which is actually a film that can be applied to flexible surfaces. Even under low light, over-cast conditions, all of these panels produced a minimum of 1 volt. While these are not as efficient as the crystalline-based panels, they still create an adequate trickle charge for the Lithium Polymer (LiPo) phone batteries we were charging.
What Is Important in Selecting a Solar Phone Charger?
The size, type and overall output of the battery for each device is as important as the panel. A few of the devices have different functionality. Where most are charged directly from the battery, not all of them have the same relationship with the panel. Of those that had a battery, all are able to be charged from the panel. Integrated circuitry within the battery though dictates how that relationship occurs, including allowing you to charge your device while the battery charges.
Solar Panel Details
Efficiency is a good indicator of quality, and the efficiency in part depends on the type of panel the solar charger uses. Most commercially available solar chargers for cell phones are first-generation crystalline silicon, which is known for having higher efficiency ratings than second-generation panels. These panels do better at generating electricity, even in low-light conditions.
All of the panels we tested generated at least 1 volt in poor conditions, and a few exceeded the manufacturers reported output under optimal conditions. The conditions do affect how a battery is charged, but protective circuits in the battery prevent over charging at higher voltages. Be aware that low-voltage charging does result in longer charging times.
It’s important that whatever device you select both meets your needs and has good portability. You’re mostly going to want something that isn’t too much larger than your cell phone for your everyday use, but larger devices are better if your needs go beyond charging a phone or simple commuter for work or academia. A few of the devices we tested are designed around durability with metal frames and thick panels, and with a few are keen on the idea of being environmentally friendly with recycled materials.
Help & Support
A solar cellphone charger may not be a big investment, but it's important to know that the manufacturer stands by its product long after purchase. Knowing how long the warranty is good for, and how to contact customer support if you have any issues goes a long way. Some manufacturers offer product manuals online in case you lose yours. Some of them also have an online knowledgebase that you can look through for more information on their products. The more information available to you, the better.
Solar Phone Chargers: Our Verdict and Recommendations
We went looking for the 10 best solar-powered cell phone chargers, and we found them. Each one is perfect for someone. Whether you need one for day-to-day use in suburbia or for rugged outdoor use in the middle of nowhere, there is virtually something for everyone. The batteries in the top Voltaic chargers are detachable from the panel making them just like any other external pack. The Chinavasion Power Bank is designed to be solid and portable, and it features the highest milliamp-hour rating and two USB ports for people that are serious about their electronics. The Sunlinq 1 is made of waterproof, thin film technology, and since it doesn't have a battery, it is perfect for emergency storage in your home or car.