Solio CLASSIC2 (2012) Battery Pack + Solar Charger Review

Testing


Solio Classic 2 Fan

We've been using Solio's Classic2 solar charger few a few months now, and being that the clouds have settled in and the sun is setting early in the Pacific Northwest, it's made a great "emergency" backup in my bag or on road trips.  Charging is straight forward, but charging via USB on a computer does take quite some time.  Usually it was about 5 hours on a USB 3.0 port which tends to have more power available than USB 2.0 ports.  If you plug into your phone or devices wall adapter, which now usually have detachable cables, had us fully topped off in a around 4 hours.  We could muster about 3-3.5 hours feeding it power from a tablet charger, but it did get a little warmer than we'd feel comfortable doing for every charge.  The claims of 8-10 hours for a solar charge are fairly accurate on a very sunny day, and it should be noted that for us to achieve that took a bit of monitoring to re-angle the panels in relation to the sun during the day.  We usually found it closer to the 10 hour mark on an ideal day.  If you're camping or using it as an emergency charging device, a full 3,200 mAh charge in 10 hours is actually very quick, owing to the 21 inĀ² of panel area. 

 On the other hand, charging is equally straight foward, and this is a solid pack which delivers some solid juice.  A 3,200 mAh pack is nearly enough to charge my Samsung Galaxy Nexus twice.  The device charging rate is very similar, if not a bit faster than when plugged into the wall.  Solio's claims to usable charge times seem to be quite accurate, and is a lifesaver when you need to give you phone/GPS a bump when you have no other way to charge it.  And the generous amount of power means you should be able to charge your device, leaving about half left in the case of a phone, and you can replenish the battery pack during the day, which means without too much effort you can keep your phone chugging along as if you were at home.  I found that calling upon the Classic2 when my phone hovered around ~5% battery remaining, it would run out of juice just after topping off the phone battery if I was using it while it was charging.  It was fairly consistent during several road trips where I was browsing/streaming, which would normally use up about 50% of the battery, so the 1.5 charge capacity would appear to be spot on.  The battery hasn't had any noticeable degradation so far, but the pack also hasn't seen too many charge cycles yet, and it will probably be long before it's been cycled enough times to notice anything.

 Solio's Classic 2 carries alot of juice, and if you're a power hungry mobile user who travels often or adventures away from human infrastructure, the extra power will come in handy... often.  That power, of course, comes at a bit of a price, since the Classic 2 isn't the most portable device ever, but any reasonable bag or laptop won't have any trouble accomodating it.  It's a bit less friendly for those who want to pack alot of things into a compact bag, if you were camping, or if you want a charger to have in a purse.  It's also hefty in weight, as it rings in at about 2/3 lb, which you'll notice whether it's on your bag or lugging on a shoulder strap.  An important note we haven't previously mentioned is that Solio has also made the battery pack fully replaceable with the removal of only a few screws, which is a big deal.  If you're dropping $50-100 for a solar charger, it's going to be painful to try to properly dispose of it after a few years.  Solio has made it so you can keep the expensive parts, the solar cells, and drop in a new battery, or keep one as a backup for more available power.

 

Final Thoughts


DSC 0074

Overall, the Solio Classic 2 is dead simple to use, packs alot of electrons to power your phones, gadgets, and other devices, is quite sturdy, and looks pretty good while absorbing the sun's rays.  The 3,200 mAh will give you enough to nearly fully charge most smartphones twice (about one and a half or once while using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus with an 1,860 mAh battery).  The lone downfall is that the pack is rather large and thick at just under 1.5 inches, and weighs in at a hefty 2/3 lb, which is the inevitable crux of heavy battery technologies. 

 The current price for Solio's Classic 2 is about $80, which is plenty for a rechargable battery, but given the large 3,200 mAh and the three solar panels, it's priced about par for the course.  The competition stacks up similarly, so you need to figue out what is most important for you.  If you're looking for something that you can take with you on-the-go in a purse or bag, the Solio Classic 2 will be hard to beat, because Solio has gone with a thicker package over the thinner but larger devices which measure up to about the size of the tablet to match the same charge rate.  There are options for around $20 cheaper which offer about 4,000 mAh, but will be less portable and are regarded as being less durable as well, and also don't have replaceable batteries, which is a big selling point.

 And although there are 4,000 mAh solar chargers in the $40 range, I will say that despite considering myself to be thrifty and bordering on being cheap, that bargain power products really stay true to the mantra that you get what you pay for.  The batteries usually break down very quickly, the durability suffers, and they take longer to charge than the box claims and the overall experience can turn negative in a hurry.  I also like the idea of buying power products from reputable companies who ensure circuit protection to keep your charger from pumping huge amounts of juice into your devices, which could damage them or cause a battery fire, neither of which I'd be very fond of.

The bolt is a compelling option, and its price scales with the power storage capacity, so if you're sold on Solio's styling, form factor, and proven quality, the Bolt is a more portable option if you don't need the 3,200 mAh that the Classic2 offers.  Overall, it would be hard not to recommend the Classic2 to someone who was looking for high capacity power storage, would prefer a mobile form factor, and who wanted solar charging capability that enables a full charge during a sunny day.

The Good

The Bad

  • Good build quality
  • Clean and simple aesthetics
  • High capacity with 3,200 mAh
  • Quick device charge times
  • Thick and relatively heavy
  • No carry or travel bag included

 

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