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Solio Bolt

17 November 2011 2 comments

Solio Bolt

In August 2011, Solio released the Bolt, the successor to Solio’s Classic solar charger.

One of the new features to the Bolt is the Apple charging mode. Hold down the power button for five seconds, release, and the button should flash blue, instead of green. This provides for an optimized way to power up Apple devices, such as the iPhone and iPod touch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t officially charge up an iPad. Solio has hinted that they are working on a solution for iPads, though (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!).

With roughly a third larger area for solar panels than what the Classic possessed, the Bolt does appear to charge up its internal battery a little faster than the Classic. However, since the Bolt has a larger battery than the Classic (2000 mAh versus 1650 mAh), the additional solar panel coverage might be necessary to help top off the larger battery. Despite the increased size in battery and solar panels, the Bolt can still fold down enough to be placed within a coat pocket. When the Bolt is in its collapsed form, it is actually thinner and not as tall as the Classic, but it is wider.

One of my favorite changes with the Bolt is the inclusion of a standard USB port, which reduces the need for specialized cables and adapter tips. I have had no difficulties in charging up a device by using a standard USB cable. A micro-USB port is also present to be able to externally charge the Bolt. I haven’t tried to power up the Bolt using another solar panel yet, which I’ve used to assist the Classic in charging its battery. However, trying to get to the USB ports is a pain, due to the rubber cover is secured quite tightly. I ended up using a set of pliers to open the cover. Like the Classic’s port cover, it is hinged by a thin strip of rubber. Time will tell how long this lasts, or if it will eventually break off in a year’s time.

Like the Solio Classic, one checks the battery level of the Bolt by pressing the sole button on the back of the charger. (1 blink = 1-19%, 5 blinks = 80-100%) A major difference, though, is that pressing this button also acts as an On/Off switch for the charger. Even if one just wants to check the battery level, one must also remember to press the button again, otherwise, the Bolt will be turned on, which can be determined by the button blinking every couple of seconds. This is one change I did not care for and preferred the Classic’s method of only staying on if it was charging another device. Otherwise, accidentally turning on the Bolt can needlessly drain the internal battery. I appreciate the simplicity of this device, but it seems that Solio tried to cram too many functions into the sole button. This might have been a time where adding a second button or switch (say, to check the power level) would have made the Solio a little easier to initially use without needing to refer to the user manual (you did read the manual, right?).

The Solio Bolt builds upon and improves on the capabilities of its predecessor . Due to the massive surge of mobile phones, the Bolt would be a useful accessory to just about anyone, especially those who drain their phone’s battery in a day’s time.

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Categories: Bolt, Classic-i, Solar, Solio

Solio Update

1 September 2011 Leave a comment

I have owned the Solio Classic-i for a little over a year and the iPhone 3GS for two years.  As one would expect, the capacity of a rechargeable battery declines over time.  Yesterday, I performed an experiment to see how well the batteries have held up over time.  My iPhone was completely drained and the Solio Classic-i was fully charged.  I plugged in the Solio into the iPhone and let the charging begin.  Once the Solio’s battery was drained, I checked the status of the iPhone’s battery: 53%.

Considering that the iPhone 3GS’s battery is rated at 1219 mAh and the Solio Classic-i’s battery is rated at 1,650 mAh, these results are not optimal by any means.  Ideally, the Solio should be able to fully charge the iPhone and still have some energy remaining.

What does this mean?  If a fully charged Solio Classic-i can barely fill half of my two-year old iPhone 3GS’s battery, that seems to indicate that the Solio’s battery has lost a lot of its original capacity over the past year.  However, considering I have used the Solio at nearly every opportunity that I have had, this might be expected with the constant charging and discharging of the battery over the course of a year.  Bettery Energy Systems, the maker of the Solio products, has a YouTube video available on how to change out the battery in a Solio Classic-i.

In other Solio news, the Classic-i model is being replaced by the new Solio Bolt.   The Bolt eschews the triangular-petal design of the Classic-i and makes use of a more rectangular shape, which allows for a larger set of solar panels and a larger battery.  The website claims that the Solio Bolt contains a 2000 mAh Li-Poly battery.  The first batch of Solio Bolts has already sold out, so I’m waiting for my order to be delivered.

Categories: Bolt, Classic-i, Solio

Solio Review

16 July 2011 Leave a comment

Solio Classic-i

First Impressions

As an effort to become more ecologically minded, I invested in a Solio Classic-i charger, which will be useful in recharging smaller devices such as the Nintendo DS, iPod touch, and (of course) mobile phones.  Considering that most cell phones need to get recharged every day or few, the Solio should garner quite a bit of use.

I’ve had an eye on the Solio for the past few years, and I see devices such as this as the Trojan Horse to introduce alternative energy products into households.  Currently, there are very few products which can be purchased off the shelf at your local retail store (small calculators and driveway lanterns being the two items which rely on solar power).  Considering the lack of readily available alternative energy products, we as a populace are still far away from the goal of obtaining our power outside of fossil fuels.

The challenge is to see how well the Solio works for my needs by charging my devices, instead of drawing powering from the wall, car, or computer.

Redux – 1 Week Later

I’ve been using the Solio Classic-i for about a week now. The first time I used it, it charged up my iPhone pretty well. However, subsequent attempts to charge the Solio haven’t been quite as successful. I paid an extra $5 for a suction cup to adhere the Solio to the window, but the Solio was too heavy for the suction cup and the Solio kept falling off. Not worth it. I also purchased two adapters, one for the iPhone/iPod touch, and another for a Samsung phone. Unfortunately, I took a guess at which Samsung adapter to buy. I guessed wrong. I’ll need to seek out another location to try and find the proper iGo adapter for the Samsung phone. I believe I might have seen iGo adapter tips at an AT&T store, so I will check there.

During my recent vacation, I placed the Solio in the back of the car, behind the head rests, and that gave it pretty good exposure to the sun. I will need to give this more of a shot to determine how well this will work for day-to-day activities. I enjoy the prospect of being a little more eco-friendly, and I love how the Solio is a great consumer-friendly product, but I feel there is still a very long road ahead before similar products will heavily populate the general market.

Tip: To determine how much charge the Solio currently has, press the power button on the back. It should flash 1 to 5 times, 1 being the lowest, 5 meaning close to a full charge. Personally, I’d prefer a system like old Apple laptop batteries displayed by showing a row of lights to display how much battery power was left.

Further Thoughts – 6 Months Later

A couple more thoughts about the Solio after having used this product for half a year:

  • For best use, place the Solio in a window that can get as much light during the day. At one point, I was moving the Solio from window to window throughout the day, but finally found one good location.
  • It takes around 2 – 3 days of good, constant sunlight to fully charge up the Solio.
  • Solio products and iGo adapters can be purchased at Radio Shack. Radio Shack also sells other energy-saving products such as other iGo products, solar kits, and Z-wave devices (for home automation).
  • It appears to be able to charge up a device as quickly as if the device was being charged via a household outlet.
  • Doesn’t seem to stop charging a device even once the device’s battery is full. This can unnecessarily drain the Solio’s own charge.  I checked with Solio’s technical support, and said that the Solio will stop charging a device once it is full, but this might take up to 15 minutes.
  • The Solio is a great device to use when on-the-go, but it is not ideal for all situations.  The Solio cannot be left in a hot car, since it will stop charging (for safety reasons so the battery doesn’t melt) once the internal temperature of the device reaches 120 °F (49 °C).
  • This is a promising device, but it is still more of a novelty than a practical device for daily use. Perhaps in the future when solar panels can generate more energy from sunlight (even on cloudy days) the Solio will become more useful for day-to-day applications.


Categories: Classic-i, Solar, Solio