The Solio is intuitive to use – there’s only one button. This glows in different colours according to its use: red when charging up; flashing green when charging a device; and a succession of greens after pressing, to indicate the power level.
It comes with a travel charger with a UK adaptor; Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Mini-USB connector tips; a female USB cable; a 12V Universal Adaptor and a window suction cup. An iPod connector tip is sold separately for £7.95, along with tips for other mobile phones and devices.
The travel adaptor enables it to be charged via a wall socket if sunlight is scarce. The company claims the internal battery holds a charge for up to a year.
For optimum solar charging, Solio needs direct sunlight so you may have to move it about to gain maximum rays. In the weak autumn English sun, this is crucial, but less so on a holiday in the tropics.
Other factors to bear in mind are that standard glazing will reduce the sun’s intensity by around 10 per cent, thus increasing charging time – this doubles for tinted, double glazed and dirty glass.
However, with a conscious effort to maximise light conditions, Solio did move towards the performance levels its manufacturer claims: at least ten hours of direct UK summer sunlight over three clear days fully charged it. This is enough to charge an iPod nano twice, and is the equivalent of nine hours’ playtime.
If the weather fails you, charging the Solio from mains power takes around 4.5 hours using the travel adaptor. The Solio charges iPods at about the same rate as a normal power source. You may also charge an iPod or other device while the Solio itself is being charged.
There are cheaper portable chargers out there, and other types of solar chargers, but none can match the elegance and flexibility of the Solio’s pin-wheel design. Because it stores up power, it’s a must-have for outdoor types or anyone who wants to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.