Solio solar charger

Solio solar chargerThe impending Live Earth concert just goes to show that environmental concerns are now being taken seriously. We are all being encouraged to watch our carbon footprint, but going green doesn’t have to mean ditching our beloved gadgets. In fact products like the Solio Solar Powered Charger allow us to use our shiny things even more, without feeling guilty.

While you might think a device designed to catch sunlight would be massive, the Solio is actually a pretty small gizmo, even when fully expanded. This is great for anyone on the move as it easily fits into the pockets of your jeans when closed.

It works using the three solar panels in a fan-shaped design in order to store as much energy as possible in its internal battery. According to Solio, around one hour of sunlight amounts to the same amount of playing time when charging an iPod.

And even though there was little sunlight at the time of testing in gloomy London, the Solio did itself proud. It needed around 20 minutes more sunlight to manage the full hour, but this still compares favourably to the conventional way of charging your iPod via a computer or dock.

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Should you need to, the Solio can also be charged via the mains to store power in case of emergencies. Though this may not be the greenest option, the device can apparently store the energy for up to a year before you use it.

Unfortunately, the test unit we received did not have the mobile phone connector tips included (you may need to purchase different attachments according to your phone model), meaning we couldn’t test how much talk or standby time it offers. However, feedback from other users on the Firebox website indicates no problems.

As far as eco-products go, the Solio stands up well to its demands and seems to live up to its promises. It’s versatile enough to charge “all your handheld electronics” according to Solio, including iPods, phones, PDAs, digital cameras, and even Sony’s PSP. The only drawback is you have to buy the necessary connectors to charge these items.

The price of just under £60 is a little expensive with those extra costs in mind. And for that money we’d also prefer the build quality to feel more solid. But its small size, ease of use, mains charging option or standard carbon-reducing ability, make it an essential gadget for those on the go.

The Solio charger is available to buy from the Firebox gadget website.

Score: 8/10