If you’re the type of person that is outside more than inside then this maybe a great product for you. Today I’ll be reviewing a solar charger from Aukey. This is the top of the range 42W variant which will set you back £69.99. If you don’t need that much power or you want one more compact then they offer a 14W model that costs £17.99, if you need slightly more power then they make a 20W model which is priced at £43.99. Finally for this series they also make a 28W variant which will cost £49.99. If you want bigger than the 42W then they also make a 50W and 60W which cost £74.99 and £114.99 respectively.
But the question is, do they actually work and are they worth it over a traditional powerbank?
We’ll start this review by talking about what you get included with it.
In the box
- 4 x carabiner clips
- 1 x micro USB cable
- The manuals
- The charger itself
Design and Build
The charger itself is mainly all Black and features quite a lot of Aukey branding on it. For a product like this it is what it is. Its not the prettiest tech item you’ll ever own but for products like this its always performance over looks. Its also got some tricks up its sleeve in the design department, this is in the form of built in USB hub that is stashed away inside a pocket. Its actually really useful. For example you could plug your phone or powerbank into it and store it away inside the pocket so that it doesn’t get damaged. Or you could use it to store all your charging cables for all the devices that you might take with you on a camping trip. Or you may find some other creative way to use the space on offer.
Lets talk about its actual size now and it measures in at 1315mm long (4.3ft) when fully opened or 310mm (1ft) when closed, its 180mm wide (0.5ft) and 62mm deep (0.2ft) so it can made to go pretty compact as well as have a large surface area for the solar panels. It achieves its compact size by being able to fold up on itself to make it easier to transport. Now it is still quite thick but it still should fit in a large bag and possibly even a cars glovebox. It weighs in at around 1.3kg (46oz) so its actually not too heavy, well considering its size and the tech inside it.
The design of the charger is pretty clever and quite versatile. You can use it in quite a few ways. Some that come to mind are
- In tent mode – so you could fold it up and keep it compact. This wouldn’t give you the same power output as it would at full length but if you’re charging something like a pair of Bluetooth earphones, it would save some space if you’re short on it.
- Full length – this gives you the max 42W and would be better for charging powerbanks, phones, tablets
- Hung up – with the included clips you could hang it on a wall or tree and place it directly in the sunlight for optimal charging. Again this would save some space too.
- Booklet mode – again designed to save space this would not give you much power but it would free up some room if needed.
Its nicely made too. Its constructed from a combination of plastic, durable weather resistant fabric and the solar panels. The stitching is strong and even during some outdoor use its held up well. The fabric has marked a little but nothing major and it still works very well. The PB-P7 has no official IP rating that I can see but it is splash proof. So as long water doesn’t get into the USB hub. It should be alright in a light rain shower but anymore and you’ll want to bring it inside. All in all its not pretty tech but its very functional, useful and well made.
Specification and Power
- Transition Efficiency: 23.5% – this means that it has enough power to charge two devices simultaneously given you have enough natural sunlight to do so.
- 4 USB 2.0 outputs
- Output: Up to 2.4A per port
- 5V per port
So to test it I tried it both indoors and outdoors, so let take a look at the results.
Indoor first and I tried to charge a pair of Bluetooth earphones. This worked very well and even without direct sunlight there was enough power to charge them fully in 1 hour 21 minutes. I then tried a Bluetooth speaker in the same conditions and it couldn’t muster enough power to charge it. It was the same story with my phone too. There just wasn’t enough light to power it.
Outside was a different story. I managed to charge the same Bluetooth speaker as before in a time of 1 hour 49 minutes. This was impressive and on a par with my 20,000mAh battery bank. It was slower than the mains but still pretty good. Next was the phone test which has a 2500mAh battery and on both occasions the UK weather hampered the test a little but it was still successful. Even with the UKs unpredictable weather I did manage to get the phone from 0% to 100% in 2 hour 28 minutes.
I then charged a 10,000mAh battery bank which took 4 hours to get to 75%. Keep in mind that it was a little bit cloudy at the time. After it hit 75% the cloud coverage became worse and made it charge at a slower rate. Final completion took 5 hours 52 minutes. This would have been quicker given better weather. One final thing to note that these times will vary depending on the amount of light you have available.
A good use scenario for this would be to keep it at your camp site and use it to top up powerbanks and phones before you go on a hike, that way you’ve always got plenty of power and if you do run into trouble. Or you could take it on your hike and top up as needed. Yes its heavy but it could just be life saving. Also like mentioned earlier there are smaller alternatives that perform similarly to this one, so if you like the idea of this but don’t want the extra weight, look at a smaller variant.
Another use case could be if you live in a place that suffers from power outages frequently, you could use this to top up your devices, batteries and torches for an emergency situation.
So I’m pretty impressed, it manages to keep pace with a powerbank in terms of charge speed and its capable of charging a few smaller items at the same time. It does have one big drawback that powerbanks do not and that is the sun. If you live somewhere where its sunny all the time it wouldn’t matter as much but in the UK the weather can be really hit or miss.
Should you buy one, well that depends. If you live in a place with nice sunny weather and you go camping a lot then it would be ideal to take with you. Its small enough to fit in a bag and you can keep your gadgets topped up while ever there is sunlight.
If you live in a place like the UK with weather that is not great, its a tougher sell as this product is very weather dependent. Yes it works great if its sunny but its very rare that we get that sort of weather. I will say thought that when we do get that brief bit of sunshine it worked well and performed better than expected.
So to finalise Should you get one….
well yes. I understand that this particular one is not that cheap, but even if its the smaller cheaper ones, these types of products are always handy to have, even if you don’t use them all the time there is likely to be a case when you could need one and they could just get you out of a tricky situation. I know I’m not letting mine go anytime soon.
Get the featured one here – www.amazon.co.uk/aukey42
Get the smaller variants below