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Review: Dell Solar Charger for mobile devices

Review: Dell Solar Charger for mobile devices
[[Neo]]
  • On September 17, 2009
  • http://about.me/neotsn

Dell Solar Charger

I’m sitting here at my desk, and a package is delivered to me, for my boss, from Dell. But my boss is gone this week, and since it’s from Dell, and I’m the IT Admin, I open it up.

Turns out, there is a Dell Solar Charger for mobile devices in there.

I spent a good 45-60 minutes on the internet searching Dell.com and talking with the Tech Support to figure out how this got here, and where I could get my own. Why? Because it’s the closest thing to a wireless power supply that I can get right now that would let me charge my phone anywhere. And (after being stranded in a bad part of Dallas, TX, at 2am, with a dead phone and sitting outside a sex-toy shop/tattoo parlor) I need to be able to charge my phone – anywhere.

This is my first review of a technology product, and I’ve only had it for about 3 hours, but there are some things I already have to say about it.

The Contents

  • Solar charger connecting cable
  • 5 cell phone adapters that work for many models of iPod/iPhone, mini USB for Blackberry/Motorola V3, Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson.
  • Travel pouch
  • USB charging cable
  • Suction cups

Usage

Overview

Faceplate view

According to the instructions, you can charge the solar panel’s internal lithium battery by leaving it out with constant exposure to light for 12-15 hours, or you can plug it in to your computer with the provided USB cable for 4-5 hours. There are two LED lights on the face of the device, and the one on the left will stay a strong Red color while charging through USB, and turns green when the battery is over 90% charged. When the one on the right is Red or Off, it means the battery power is not full, and requires charging. The brighter the LED, the stronger the battery charge is. The device will hold its battery charge for up to three months.

When you plug in your phone, there is a voltage selector with 5.0V, 5.5V, and 9.5V (all +/- 0.5%V).

Voltage Switch and Power Ports

Choose the correct voltage for your phone (usually can be found on the original adapter) and the correct plug fitting, and you’re set. The LED on the left will turn red to show it is charging, and the LED on the right will show the strength of the battery. And if you’re phone is charging correctly, it too will show it’s normal charging indicator on the device. Charging time for phones is usually 1-2 hours.

Personal Pros

  1. I like that it’s solar powered, and holds a charge – if it’s daytime, I won’t have a problem finding a location to charge my phone. And if it is night time, any public light or light source will provide enough energy to keep the solar charger going long enough to get a reasonable charge to my phone.
  2. Charging my phone from the office lights.

    I can charge the panel with a USB cable for 1/3 the charge time to get it going, and leave it in my car to charge the rest of the time

  3. Multiple phone power adapters so that I can charge my friends’ iPhones, my Windows Mobile phones, and my girlfriend’s Nokia phone.
  4. The size of the device is no bigger than the actual phone I’m charging – it’s as tall as a standard Dry-Erase Marker.
  5. Comes with a nifty little pouch to carry around all the other power adapters and the USB cable that I won’t need to access that often.

Personal Cons

  1. It's as tall as a Dry Erase Marker

    The various power adapters don’t particularly “hold-on” to the cable that well. It’s quite easy to bump or twist the cable in such a way that the phone stops charging.

  2. I like that there are suction cups that can be attached to the solar charger, but I wish they weren’t on the bottom of the device. For me to use this in my vehicle, I’d need a flat surface on the dashboard to attach it to – ideally they would be on the faceplate so I could stick it to my windshield, facing outward.
  3. This isn’t really a functional con, but there are no markings or part numbers or any other type of identification as to what this device is or the specs of it anywhere on the device itself. This brought about a lot of confusion when talking with support, and trying to explain what I was referring to.

Electrical Specs

Con: Suction cups are located underneath

  • Solar Panel (mono/multi crystalline): 5.5V 100mA
  • Rechargeable Lithium Battery: 3.7V 2000mAh
  • USB charging cable: 5V 500mA
  • DC output:
    • 5.0V +/- 0.5%
    • 5.5V +/- 0.5%
    • 9.5V +/- 0.5%
  • Charging time for mobile phones: 1-2 hours
  • Charging time for the lithium battery using the solar panel: 12-15 hours
  • Charging time for the lithium battery using the USB cable: 4-5 hours.

Special Notes

  1. You can charge approximately 2-3 cell phones off a fully charged battery
  2. If this unit detects unstable output, it may shut down to protect from potential problems if the incorrect voltage is selected while charging devices.
  3. If charging iPod/iPhone devices, please select the 5.0V option.
  4. If the included adapters do not work for your particular device please locate your nearest electronics store for more options.

Warnings

  1. Keep it away from hot surfaces, and water.
  2. Static electricity or shot may damage the internal components
  3. Before you use this charging unit, please select the correct voltage option of the unit you want to charge. Smaller devices like cell phones and digital cameras will be 5.0V or 5.5V, and larger devices such as portable DVD players will use the 9.5V. DO NOT charge your smaller devices using the 9.5V setting as it could potentially damage your device.

Conclusion

So that’s my review of the Dell Solar Phone Charger – so far, I like the idea, and think it has some great usage potential – especially on the lake in a dry-box while I’m fishing. Let me know what you think about it.
twitter.com/neotsn

Comments

  1. good review.

    a coworker got one of these today as well. i am surprised the suction cups are on the back side of the device. its rare that dashboards or places next to a window has a slick surface. maybe they where thinking of a different use.

    overall the device seems well built, but it is surprising the manufacture did not include part numbers, patent numbers, or any other markings on the device. it gives it that cheap product look for sure.

  2. Jill

    I received one of these today. At first, I thought it might be a part that a co-worker ordered that was sent to my attention by mistake. Then, upon closer examination, it became clear that it was a marketing tactic…. although not executed well. The teaser text on the outside of the shipping box says “Don’t take this personally, but you’ve got problems.” There is a Dell logo and an Intel logo. When you open the box, there is a nicely printed pamphlet, again with the Dell and Intel logos, that promotes Dell products from servers to laptops…. “Take IT problems off your hands with help from Dell and Intel.”

    Then the disconnect happens. After you take the pamphlet out, you see this black box that says “Solar Charger” on it. There are no brand names on the front of the box, so you first assume it is a Dell product. There is nothing that implies that this little gadget is a freebie to you to solve the problem you might face of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone or iPod battery. It’s an interesting little gadget and I have yet to charge it up (…again… I just got it about an hour ago), but I do have to say that as a Marketing professional, the marketing effort was not executed well in connecting the dots. If Dell made the product, then it would be a great way for them to promote it. They don’t make it, nor do they instruct the recipient on any call to action. They give you a pamphlet, which you quickly ignore as you start inquiring about the gadget gimmie inside the box. YAY for freebies…

    • Agreed. I had the same type of packaging on the one I got, and there was a complete disconnect. I hope Dell does come out with a product like this – though, I hope more that my boss doesn’t want it and forgets that it exists, so I can use it as I may.

  3. Leo

    I also rec’d one of these, it is really slick– I am a little upset however, my 5yr old was playing with it and lost the small adapter that allowed it to fit my phone.

    The cable that plugs into the OUT(DC) connector on the charger allows you to put different tips on the end depending on your phone/device to charge.

    Does anyone know who the original OEM for this is? I would like to buy another one to get the tip back that I need, and have a 2nd one as a standby.

    thanks for any info!

  4. bryan

    I also received one of these. I couldn’t remember what I had purchased from Dell but quickly realized it was a marketing thing. I was pretty psyched when I realized what it was. I haven’t used it yet and in all reality I will probably never need it. But the concept of having solar charging is what I find very cool.

  5. Solar charger Queen

    Great product! and good explanation! I really like the idea of being able to charge my phone everywhere! sometimes you just can not find a socket, but with this solar charger you will ever be able to charge your phone! great!

  6. Julie

    Got mine today. Very cool. This is the second such promo offer I’ve recieved from Dell, so I figured it out pretty quickly. The last was a docking station for a laptop model we didn’t even have. This is MUCH more useful. I can’t wait to use it. If anything, this gets the word out – just look at how many people here are already looking for another.

    • Yeah, we got a laptop docking station too a couple months ago for a laptop version we also don’t have. It still sits unused in the IT Closet.

  7. ERIN

    My boss received one of these in the mail today. She doesn’t know why she received it, and I had to explain to her what it is as she did not know. How does one come across these little guys?

    • I don’t know…I wish I could get on the list to receive free stuff though. I think it might have something to do with who has an account rep with Dell – most businesses have an account representative…and this might be some kind of incentive/perk.

  8. Lori

    I got one in the mail, left it on my desk, and a co-worker took it! Does anyone have a phone number or contact to call so I can get a replacement?

    • I tried calling Dell to ask about it, and went through Customer Service, and then Business Support, but they don’t sell these on their site – and chances are you won’t be able to get a replacement. But your Dell Account Rep would be a good place to start, if you want to try.

  9. Lori

    I have tried calling Dell, but no one there seems to know anything about it. This is really frustrating.

  10. chuck lydon

    i would like to know if there is an adapter that i can get for my zune.thank you….Chuck

    • I have no idea. The boss took his back from me – but now it sits in a desk drawer, and he says it doesn’t work. Chances are he just doesn’t know how to use it. I bet if you could find the type of connection that the Zune requires, and see if there is an adapter from any of the ones it comes with to what a Zune uses that would work. I doubt there are going to be any “additional accessories” to this unlisted product.

  11. Mark Huppertz

    I got one of these also and have used it a bunch. I lost the power out cable though and can’t find a replacement. Did you ever find a dell part number for the charger?

    • Unfortunately, no, I did not find anything on the dell site related to the specific charger they sent out. Also, my boss lost the one he received after he confiscated it back from me, and now no one knows where it is – so I can’t even find an equivalent piece for it. 🙁

  12. AMI

    Hi, can you pls put a link where to buy?? i had searched and didn’t find Dell Solar Charger

    • You cannot buy them. Dell sent them out to their business partners…my boss took it from me and then lost it.

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