Solar power doesn’t have to be the preserve of tree-hugging hippies, and it can have practical uses in modern life. If you want to save a little money, or you just want a last-ditch backup for your device, then you might be interested in a solar powered charger like the Choetech 19W to supplement your needs. (Then again, we would always advise you to use a portable charger as a backup, and never your main source of battery power.)
The Choetech 19W will charge any 5V item, including the latest Android devices (and iPads if you’ve been given one as a gift). It has two USB slots so you can charge multiple devices at the same time. No assembly is required; simply take it out in the sun and wait. (Or so we hope.)
It’s not going to be as fast as plugging your phone directly into a wall socket, but just how well does it work?
Is it worth your money if you’re set on getting a solar device?
We’ve got our hands on the 19W variation, so check our review to find out everything you need to know.
What you get:
1x 19W Portable Solar Charger
1x Micro USB cable
Unboxing & First Impressions
One of the first things I noticed after unboxing the package was that it was lighter than I expected, which is no bad thing. That’s not to say that the charger is small, but it’s not as unwieldy as you might think.
That being said, the panels are reasonably high quality and there were no design faults I could find after inspecting it for the first time. When closed, it’s smaller than a piece of A4 paper, and it’s roughly as thick as a wallet when folded away.
It’s not going to fit in your pocket, but portability does seem to have been a factor when it came to the build. It’s neither large or small, and it weighs in at 480g so it won’t weigh down your rucksack.
Ideally, it would be useful for charging your phone in a park on a hot summers day, and that was clearly what they went for in the (heavily photoshopped) advert they use on their website.
That isn’t to say that the product doesn’t work as it says it does, and most of the user reviews on the Amazon page seem to reaffirm that there have been no issues in the long term. (Although they’re not always the most trustworthy resource.)
The (3) panels are located on the front of the shell, and it folds and unfolds to take up a larger surface area when charging. It wraps up into a neat package and it also closes snappily enough, thanks to the magnet located on the flap which keeps the whole thing closed. Overall, it’s pretty nifty, and weighs roughly the same as a tablet.
There’s an external port at the back where you connect your device via cable, and it’ll support nearly anything that can be connected by USB. (But always make sure to double check.)
It doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart under the first sign of distress, although the mesh zip at the back is a little flimsy when compared to the rest of the product. It does come with a USB wire, so you won’t have to rummage around for a spare if you want to put it to use right away.
Overall, I was pretty impressed when I first got my hands on it, but would solar power be enough to charge my phone?
Solar Power Charging
Solar power has come on in leaps and bounds since natural supplies of energy have become more scarce. If you live in a hot city, a solar powered charger could be a viable way to get some extra juice, and the technology has improved in the last few decades. You’ll need direct sunlight to get the most from the panels, and it won’t work through clouds.
Panels are now smaller and more efficient, and they’re starting to supplement the older forms where possible. Harnessing the sun’s rays is actually reasonably effective, and the charger is supposed to be able to handle multiple devices at one time. (More on that in the next section.)
It’s not going to replace a wall socket anytime soon, but how does it match up in comparison?
It was simple enough to get working, and after I found a way to lay out the solar panels my device did start charging.
So it works!
I decided to leave my Xperia to charge for half an hour whilst it played music as a stress test. (Obviously, charging multiple devices will take more power.)
I expected it to retain the 60% or so of battery life it already had, but the device did start to trickle down slowly, indicating that it just couldn’t handle being used on solar power alone.
(It wasn’t the nicest day, but each of the three solar panels was on display, and they became warm to the touch, indicating that they were getting a reasonable amount of power.) The sun was shining, but it didn’t seem to be enough to charge whilst in use. When I turned the music off, it did go up, but it was slow.
A red light will flash on the charging box to let you know that the panels can charge your device, and for the most part I had no issues with getting the panels to receive power.
(A couple of clouds did pass by during my time testing, and the charge dropped instantly. It’s to be expected, so bear that in mind if you’re interested.)
Of course, the charger won’t retain any of the power because there is no place to store the energy on the device. It would have made the charger even larger so it’s understandable that they went for this design.
It’s a shame that you can’t store any of the solar power you collect, but you could buy an external power bank and connect it to one of the USB slots if you really wanted to. This represents extra expense, which isn’t really advisable if you’re working on a tight budget. Nonetheless, it’s still an option if you’re desperate to store the energy, but you could always try and find one with a battery pack attached.
I connected a second device and it was even worse, leaving me with no choice but to watch and wait as the battery slowly trickled down. The charging light stayed on throughout on the charger itself, but it just didn’t have enough of a boost to push the numbers up while the phones were being used. To it’s credit, it did charge both phones when they weren’t being used. (Albeit very, very slowly.)
While both phones were being used to browse the internet, instead of sustaining the charge, the battery life for both devices slowly started to drop. It was disappointing, but the point is the device should be fine if you plan on leaving it to charge.
It’s questionable as to whether or not a charger like this will be right for you. It depends on the climate and just how much you’ll be able to use it, as well as what you expect from a ‘charger’. If you’re willing to leave your device alone it could be a good choice.
If you think you’ll be able to get solid use out of the charger, it’s probably worth the purchase. There are lots of alternatives on the market in the form of portable options, but the solar power features are enough to separate it from most of the pack.
That doesn’t mean that it’s unique when it comes to solar powered chargers, but it’s one of the smallest on the market that actually works. There are lots of others that will work just as well, though it is worth noting that they do all tend to float around the same price range. There just isn’t anything to set it apart from the rest, despite the positives.
I dropped it a few times from five feet, and it managed to survive without even denting the panels. It’s a different story if you step on it, but it should be fine as long as you store it in a safe place after use.
It also comes with a 12-month warranty as long as you buy directly from the company on Amazon.
If you live in a sunny climate, there’s no reason why a solar charger can’t supplement your needs, but you have to make sure to lower your expectations accordingly.
- It’s actually one of the few items that looks better in real life when compared to the photos
- Solid design and pretty durable
- Panels are good quality
- Opens and closes easily – and stays shut
- Simple to use
- No way to store energy without spending more money
- It didn’t charge my phone properly while I was using it (though it did charge when the phone wasn’t in use)
- Some parts feel a little cheap in comparison to others (the edging and the mesh at the back)
Once you get past the fact that it actually works, you’ll see why we still rely on traditional methods to get power. It does charge devices, but you’ll need the weather to be on your side and there are lots of others on the market that will do exactly the same thing.
There’s nothing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack, and the claim that the charger can identify your device for fast charging seems ridiculous. That being said, it does do the job and it’s a resilient device. Nothing more, nothing less.
JOA Rating: 3.5/
(Note: The charger was provided for review by Choetech.)
What’s your experience with different types of portable chargers? Would you choose solar power over traditional methods? Let us know your experiences below.