There always seems to be news on the solar panel front about efficiency, productivity, or even that buzz phrase “grid parity“. What we haven’t heard in some time, however, is a real advancement in personal, portable solar charging. The items on the market now are either slow, bulky or ugly. Naturally, the November revelation of the Solartab Solar Charger was a breath of fresh air. This compact, design-minded solar charger is more than fast, slim and pretty. It’s smart — it’s paired with an internal battery that allows it to continue charging when you don’t need it, and provide instant power when you do. And this week, it’s finally started shipping to paying customers.
The Solartab portable solar charger is about the size of an iPad, and it has clearly borrowed some of its design influence from Apple. The tablet shape, the rounded metal edges, the segmented soft case that acts as a stand — it might as well be an official Apple product. Its mimicry isn’t criminal, however, because it’ll blend right in with the devices it’ll normally be charging. Your iPad, iPhone or anything else you can charge with a USB or MicroUSB connection. Android users, that means you too.
The Solartab is a pair of devices in one — a 13,000 mAh battery and a 5W solar panel. When it is placed in direct sunlight, it’ll charge its internal battery unless you have a different device connected. This makes it a backup battery (which has become a pretty big business in its own right) and a solar charger in one. That means you can charge your device in the middle of the night, provided you used it to charge the internal battery during the day.
On its side panel, the Solartab features three power ports, two USB and one MicroUSB. If you so choose, you can charge multiple gadgets at once. It’s designed to be flexible in that regard, and it won’t be unsightly if you decide to play music off of your iPad while connected to the Solartab charger.
The Solartab was first revealed in November, but it began shipping this week. It’s available for $119 USD and ships anywhere in the United States or EU. EU charging system available at purchase. [hat tip: uncrate]