For whatever reason, accessory companies commonly send out review samples of solar-powered Apple accessories late in the year — rarely if ever in July, when the sun is at its peak pretty much everywhere in the United States. So even though I’m a fan of solar power, my ability to make the most of these accessories is naturally limited by the modest sunshine available for testing. The wisest solar-powered accessories I’ve tested hedge their bets by storing energy in batteries that can be used (and wall-recharged) even when the sun’s not out. Others become worthless when the sun goes away.

Anker’s 21W PowerPort Solar Charger ($55) and RAVPower’s 15W Solar Charger ($50) are portable solar panels connected to USB ports. They’re extremely similar to one another, each hiding two USB ports in a pocket to the right of three solar panels. Unlike Solartab (reviewed here), neither has a built-in battery, so you can only use them when the sun’s out — and optimally, directly overhead. One strikes me as a slightly better pick than the other, but unless you live in a frequently sunny climate and have hours to spare under the sun, or plan to travel somewhere with sunshine and no wall outlets, there are better-priced and more practical ways to keep your devices fueled up…

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