We're in the midst of winter in the Northern Hemisphere right now, but that doesn't mean that you can't start making plans for summer fun in the great outdoors. Today I'm reviewing two products that will keep your gizmos going. The first is designed to let you charge up anywhere, as long as the sun's out: the RAVPower 15W Dual-Port Solar Charger (List price US$99.99, available for $56.99). The second is targeted more for day-to-day use: the RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior External Battery Pack ($99.99, available for $49.99).
RAVPower 15W Dual-Port Solar Charger
I'm a fan of photovoltaic solar energy, so much so that my house here in sunny Colorado has a 9 kilowatt array on the roof. The RAVPower 15W Dual-Port Solar Charger is a lot smaller, both in size and capacity, but you don't need all that much power to charge your devices.
The design is wonderful. You have a 24 ounce fabric folio covered with polyester canvas on the exterior that folds out revealing three separate panels. Located at four locations around the folio are metal-line eyeholes; these are used with carabiners (four are included) to attach the array to your backpack or a tent, or hang it from tree branches.
There are two USB ports available, one with a 2A output, the other with a 1A output. Both, of course, send out that current at the USB standard 5 volts. RAVPower uses what they call "iSmart Technology" to match the maximum charging current with the device so that it is charged in the least amount of time.
To test the review device, I unfolded the Solar Charger and put it on an outside table next to my iPhone 6 Plus to see how much of a charge it would pick up in just ten minutes. Of course, the charging time is going to depend on a variety of factors - cloud cover, angle of the sun, time of day, and so on.
The when I plugged the iPhone 6 Plus into the Solar Charger, it immediately responded with notification that it was charging. I shut the iPhone's display off, waited ten minutes, and then turned the display back on. During that time, it grabbed 4 percent more power, climbing from 89 percent charged to 93 percent charged. It's not a scientific estimate, but based on that information, that the Solar Charger could fully charge an iPhone 6 Plus from 0 to 100 percent in a little over four hours. Remember, this was with late afternoon sun in the winter... so it could be faster under other conditions.
Chances are good that you will want to use the Solar Charger with some sort of external battery pack so that you can still use your device during daylight hours, which is why the next portion of this review is about the RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior External Battery Pack.
The well-built RAVPower 15W Dual-Port Solar Charger has a surprisingly low price point compared to competing portable solar arrays, and is a perfect accessory for camping, hiking, picnics and bicycling.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible
RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior External Battery Pack
The Savior series external battery pack is a perfect all-in-one travel companion, featuring a wall plug, a 9000 mAh battery, and a built-in Lightning Connector. It comes in black or white, and there's a USB output port as well for charging those older Apple devices or other gadgets that take power from mini or micro USB.
Unlike most of these products, RAVPower throws in some nice goodies; a carrying bag to protect the exterior of the battery pack, a USB to micro-USB cable, a micro-USB to mini-USB adapter, and a micro-USB to 30-pin Dock connector adapter.
RAVPower received Apple MFi (Made for iPad/iPhone/iPod) certification for the device, so you can rest assured that it will work properly with any of your Apple mobile devices.
The Lightning cable provides power to your iPhone or iPad at a maximum current of 2.4A for fast charging, while the USB port has a maximum current of 1 A. The entire package weighs about 8.63 ounces (237 grams) and is compact at 1.1 inch thick x 2.76 inches wide by 4.49 inches tall (28 x 70 x 113 mm).
One feature that you won't find on many of RAVPower's competitor's external battery packs is the Grade A+ cell that's inside the pack. It has no charging memory effect, and can be used through up to 1,000 charging cycles.
With a built-in AC plug, Lightning cable, USB port, a 9,000 mAh long-life battery, a variety of USB plug adapters, and a carrying bag, the RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior is a perfect traveling companion at a very reasonable price (the $50 price tag).
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible
TUAW and RAVPower are giving away the RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior External Battery Pack. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
The entry must be made before January 27, 2015 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
You may enter only once.
One winner will be selected in a random drawing and will receive a RAVPower RP-PB18 Savior External Battery Pack valued at $99.99.