The environmentally conscious gadgeteer who wants to do his or her part in going green will find a lot to like in the Solio Magnesium Edition. This universal charger harnesses the power of the sun (or, alternately, standard electricity with a bundled AC adapter) to supply your cell phone, MP3 player, handheld gaming system, or other mobile device with enough juice to keep it running when an outlet isn’t nearby.
Measuring 4.7 x 2.6 x 1.3 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces, the Solio Magnesium Edition is a chunky device, but surprisingly, it slides quite easily into a pants or sports jacket pocket. The thickness is justified as the weather-resistant, magnesium-alloy body (designed to withstand dampness but not full-on rain or a dunking) fans out into three solar panels that resemble flower petals for catching rays. A snap-on cover of some sort would have been a good addition, since the delicate solar panels are exposed even when the device is folded up.
What Does it Charge?
The Magnesium Edition comes with a mini-USB cable (for attaching to a variety of products ranging from GPS devices to digital cameras), four pairs of AC adapter prongs (designed for use with Australian, U.K., European, and American outlets), a cloth carrying case, and a second USB cord that features a special connector for attaching to Solio’s iGo adapter tips, which makes the charger compatible with BlackBerry, LG, Motorola, and Nokia phones (you can purchase other tips for Palm, Samsung, and Sanyo for $9.95 each). The bundled tips also include connectors for the handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. Unfortunately, tips designed for other Solio chargers aren’t compatible with this device.
Decoding the Flashes
You can tell approximately how much juice you have left by the number of times the Fuel Gauge button flashes: four flashes indicates a full charge; three flashes, about 75 percent; two flashes, 50 percent; and one flash, 25 percent.
When not in use, the internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery is designed to hold a charge for up to a year. We should note that cloudy days or indirect sunlight will result in the Solio charging slower than it normally would. In such instances, we recommend using the AC adapter, which had the device ready to power our gadgets in approximately 2 hours.
We slid the included 5.8-inch Solio-branded pencil (yes, a pencil) into a hole located in the middle of the charger, which is used to prop the device into a prime ray-absorbing angle. We then sat the Magnesium Edition in a sun-drenched window sill for two hours. After removing it from the window sill, we connected our SanDisk Sansa Fuze to the charger via a female USB cable, pressed the Start button on the back of the device, and 20 minutes later, the MP3 player’s battery went from a half-charge to a full-charge. The Magnesium Edition stores a maximum of 9 watts, which is more potent than the Solio Hybrid 1000 (3.6 watts) and the Solio Classic (6 watts).
We used the remaining power to charge the iRiver E100’s nearly empty battery to full capacity in approximately 40 minutes using the mini-USB tip. This backs up Solio’s claim that an hour of solar power will provide nearly 50 minutes of MP3 playback (25 minutes for cell phones).
Solio Magnesium Edition Verdict
The Solio Magnesium Edition is an excellent portable charger for outdoorsy types, business travelers, and anyone else who wants the option to go green. It charges faster than the $40 IoGear GearJuice, gives users the freedom to keep their favorite mobile gear operational from virtually anywhere, includes several tips out of the box for charging a wider variety of devices, and reduces your carbon footprint. In this case, however, going green commands a $160 premium, which means that you have to seriously consider whether juicing your gadgets on solar power is worth it. The Solio Magnesium Edition is Earth friendly, but we wish it were a little more wallet friendly.