Thursday, October 1, 2009






When disaster strikes how would you charge your handheld electronic devices? Better Energy Systems may have the answer with their line of Solio pocket size solar chargers. Three models are available, the Classic, the H1000 and the Magnesium Edition, with the main differences being in charging capacity.

How do they work? Each model has it’s own built-in battery. This user replaceable battery is charged by direct sunlight, an eight to 10 hour process, or by a supplied universal AC power adapter. Once the battery is full you are ready to charge your device at any time. Shelf life is up to one-year. A basic set of tips and USB adapter is supplied, quantity and type determined by model selected. Additional optional tips are available to interconnect numerous other devices and brands of mobile phones, MP3 players, GPS units and a SOLIO LED light. A suction cup holder is included allowing mounting on a window so it can be aimed directly at the sun. An LED indicator/switch, when depressed, sets the charging cycle in operation. It also indicates the amount of charge stored in the unit. Five rapid flashes and you’re 100% charged. A fully charged Classic will charge a typical cell phone more than twice, or give over 20 hours of iPod music. In many cases just 1 hour of sunshine equals twenty-minutes talk time, or fifty-minutes of MP3 music. Once again, performance varies depending on the type of device, device’s battery capacity and intensity of sunlight.

I tested the Classic, a three-blade set of small panels that neatly folds up into a compact stack and easily fits into your pocket. This model was supplied with numerous tips, and a USB adapter accommodates a single tip. Note only one device may be charged at a time. As my luck would have it, a Palm Treo PDA adapter was not one of those included, so I ordered one from Solio’s web site at a cost of $9.95. Since the Treo’s power consumption is rather high, a 50% charge was only possible over about a four-hour period.

In general the Solio Classic worked as promised. The plastic suction cup mount, however, leaves a bit to be desired. I would like to see a better mounting system even if it becomes an optional extra. Since direct sunlight is required, window mounting becomes essential, unless you are outdoors for the period of time required to fully charge the unit. Naturally, if you use the AC power adapter, a mount is not required. This method is quick and easy and desirable for pre-power-outage storage. It’s interesting to note these solar charging devices have become standard issue by disaster relief agencies in many natural disasters worldwide and have even found their way in the extremes of the Arctic. Unfortunately, Solio chargers are not designed to charge or operate laptops. I give it two thumbs up.

Solio products are available worldwide at airports and other retail stores, and on line. For more details contact:

MSRP: Classic $99.95; H1000 $49.95; Magnesium Edition $169.95

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer who may be contacted at or