If you’ve ever tried to charge your iPhones/iPads/etc. directly from a small solar panel you probably know it is pretty difficult. Even with direct sunlight, you aren’t likely to be able to charge the device reliably. Most USB-charged devices require a minimum of 5W (5Vx1A) of continuous power to even register a charge. Then a cloud comes or the sun moves and you aren’t charging anymore.

Adding a battery to the mix helps, especially if the battery is big and can charge the device on its own without any sun. But most of the solar/battery combos fall into 2 categories: Either messy because they are a bulky 2 step solution or the solar panel is too small to make a meaningful charge and you are mostly using it like a regular USB battery.

solartab

SolarTab is a breath of fresh air here. It is a relatively big 5.5W solar panel built on a thin 13,000mAh battery enclosure that fits in an included Moleskine-esque case. Size-wise, think the original iPad with a nice leather case and a huge solar panel instead of a screen…

Key Details:

  • 5.5W Solar panel w/dual 2.1A USB ports
  • 13,000mAh battery will provide a few full iPads worth of power when the sun goes out
  • Fits perfectly in bags next to books and iPads
  • Looks great and built to last

This is the perfect large battery for a number of reasons. Because it is so thin, it fits like a book (or iPad!) in a backpack, briefcase or large purse. Most importantly, it always has power. I leave mine on my windowsill  for when I need to go into the city (usually 1-2 times per week). My iPhone and iPad usually die with heavy use so it’s a lifesaver for my trips home. What’s great is that I don’t ever have to plug it in. A few days in the window will have me back to full for my next trip.

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This is a premium product with a Apple-inspired 4-LED battery indicator and solar charging indicator. It will charge a dead iPhone or more times to full. An iPad at least twice.

What’s perfect about the size is that the solar panel in direct sunlight can charge an iPhone or iPad by itself (5Vx1A speed) but you shouldn’t ever need this with the monster 13,000mAh battery. There are 2 separate USB out ports which each give you a relatively powerful 2.1A x 5 V or 11 Watts.  If you need to add charge manually you can do so via Micro-USB.

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What’s more, with a USBA to USB-C cable, you can power (but not charge) the new MacBooks or a Chrome Pixel for about double their normal battery life. If the MacBook is asleep then you can charge the internal battery. It would be nice if on a future version the USB ports could support the 2.4A for the fastest speed on current iPads and more for the MacBook.

SolarTAB-specs

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the SolarTab. It really nails the solar-battery USB charger unlike any other product I’ve used before. You can pick one up at Amazon with $20 off coupon code 9TO5SLTB ($109 total) at Amazon or for $119 at SolarTab direct.

Manufacturer: SolarTab Regular / Pre-Order Prices: $94 with Coupon Code: SOLARTAB35 Compatibility: Any USB charging device

Other products to consider here from (9to5toys.com):

  • Aukey 20W Solar Charger with Dual USB Port $40 w/code 7HP5VBL4 (Orig. $50) 
  • KMASHI 10,000mAh External Battery Power Bank $9.29 w/code YTI7MT89
  • Aukey Car Jump Starter and Portable External Battery w/12V Output and 400A Peak Current $50 w/code EAP8LOB2 (Orig. $70) | Amazon

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