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March 28, 2013 • News

Gomadic SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station Review

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

Last year my congregation became the first Reform synagogue in the country to attain certification in environmental leadership from GreenFaith, a nationally recognized interfaith environmental coalition. This winter our Pre-School completed a nationally certified outdoor classroom. The goal is to help kids, and parents, better balance “screen time” and “green time”. It should be no surprise then, that I love the idea of using the sun to charge and run my many mobile devices. After all, if the sun can fuel plants, then why not have it fuel my iPhone, iPod touch and various accessories? That’s where the Gomadic SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station comes in.

The SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station harnesses the power of the sun and lets you charge two mobile devices at a time when the sun is shining. The SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station has a powerful monocrystalline solar panel that is protected in a lightweight water-resistant carrying case. Add in one of Gomadic’s rechargeable batteries, and you can keep your devices running on sunny and not-so-sunny days! Here’s a closer look.

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

Before going into the specifics, it is worth nothing that the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station includes Gomadic’s “efficient power regulation technology”. That means the device self-regulates so you’ll maximize the sunlight that hits it, while also protecting the devices you connect to the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station.

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What’s In the Box:

A monocrystalline solar panel inside a lightweight carrying case.

Power Regulation Circuit. (The SunVolt’s regulation circuit is detachable to facilitate future charging options but both the solar panel and the circuit come pre-loaded into the carrying case

Three Charging Ports

Female USB plug for use with any standard USB-to-device connector cable

Instruction Card

The $49.95 Lithium Rechargeable Pack was included with my review sample

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

Gomadic describes the carrying case that comes with the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station as “built to last”. That seems an apt description of it. Made of 1680 densely stitched Ballistic Nylon, the case is well-built and water-resistant surface. The case is also padded in all the places where one might expect a case carrying a series of glass solar panels would be padded.

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

The case has nice grab handles, but it also comes with a detachable shoulder strap. That’s a good thing since the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station isn’t the lightest accessory we’ve reviewed!

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

Gomadic clearly understands that, while carrying the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station, you may well want some extra accessories coming along with you. That’s why the case has a fairly large front pocket that is easily accessible. It can be used to carry the necessary charging cables and devices. It is even large enough to be used to carry an iPad or an iPad mini. That, in turn, means the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station may be the only bag you need to carry.

The front pocket also includes two additional compartments. The larger of the two is perfect for the cables and adapters that come with the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station. The smaller of the two is a perfect fit for the Gomadic external battery that is an available option when purchasing the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station.

As previously mentioned, the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station isn’t small. At 13″ x 12″ X 1.5″ and a weights of 4.3 lbs you will want to lighten the rest of your load if you are carrying the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station with you. That’s why the front storage pocket is key to the design of the accessory.

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

The solar panel of the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station is hinged within the case itself once installed. That lets you put the panel at any angle you want in relation to the main structure of the case. If you do want to remove the panel from the case it is as simple as pulling it from the Velco holding it at the top.

On the other side of the case’s interior, the inside of the cover of the case, is a Neoprene panel with two-ridges. The solar panel, when placed into one of the ridges, creates a triangle that is quite secure dispute not being securely “fixed” in place. From there it is as easy as pointing the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station at the sun and letting the battery and/or devices charge.

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station

And if you need a shallower angle in order to capture more of the sunlight you can pull the Neoprene panel out and place it further from the case. The further from the case the panel is the shallower the angle of the solar panel will be. As a result, the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station allows you to position the solar panel for optimal sunlight collection.

Here’s the company promotional video for the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station.

The big question is, of course, “Does this thing work?”. I thought the best way to answer that would be a series of pictures.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 2.09.37 PM

Today is a cloudy day in NJ; there is little sun, and when it does make an appearance it is not very strong. It is NOT the best conditions for testing a solar charger. Still, I gave it a shot.

photo 3

 

Here’s my iPod touch at 10:10 this morning. I plugged it into the Gomadic SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station. Despite the dark skies the Touch immediately  began showing a charge indicator. I went out to do a few things. A few hours later I grabbed the iPod touch and turned it on.

photo 1-1

 

So while it certainly charged more slowly than it would have had I plugged the iPod touch into a wall outlet, even on an overcast day the Gomadic SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station was able to do its thing, and this time out the charge cost me absolutely nothing!

I’m impressed by the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station! It works as promised, and it lets you harness the power of the sun. The included cable means you can charge two different devices as a time and purchasing the external battery for $49 lets you store up the sun’s power and use it at night or on cloudy days. I do think the battery should be included with the SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station since it is a key component of the system but, sadly, it is not. The SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station is a bit heavy and bulky. It is something you are going to have to choose to take with you but, if you do, you’ll get all the power you want… for free.  You can learn more and order yours here on the Gomadic website.

MSRP: $99.95

What I Like: Nicely constructed carrying case; Bag lets you take additional accessories with you; Panel can charge two devices at once; If you also purchase the external battery you can charge it with the sun and have even more battery life.

What Needs Improvement: External battery not included; Fairly heady and bulky

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

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