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What if I told you there was this magical technology that enables you to charge your mobile anywhere in world, as long as it’s sunny? Science, baby – yeah! The Poweradd 14W portable solar charger claims to do just that – but does it actually work, and do you need one? Read on, and at the end of the review you can enter to win your own!

Design

Made of durable and lightweight polyester, the $60 Poweradd 14W solar charger with luminous green lettering is designed to be practical. A number of tags have been sewn around the edge, allowing you to hang it from a backpack or clip to your belt with the included mini-carabiner. That’s all that’s included though: the solar charger itself, and a clip; you’ll need to bring your own charging cables.

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The charger opens like a book, the first two pages of which contain the solar panels. The last page contains a zip pocket, with two USB ports exposed inside.

poweradd 14w solar charger - 2 usb ports

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The zip pocket is large enough to accommodate a number of charging cables and devices up to the size of a Nexus 7. Plug them in, zip it up, then expose both the solar panels as you go about your business.

poweradd 14w solar charger - pocket

An internal voltage regulator keeps it at a fairly constant 5V, and this is fixed – you cannot plug in 12/15/19C volt devices such as laptops, only USB devices will charge. 14W just isn’t enough for those kind of devices. Unlike the Poweradd 23,000 mAh solar charger we reviewed before Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh Solar Battery and Charger Review and Giveaway Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh Solar Battery and Charger Review and Giveaway We tested the Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh external battery pack with automatic solar charging. Read More , this device doesn’t have an internal battery – which keeps it lightweight, but means you are entirely dependant upon the sun. Of course, you could get around this by also carrying and charging a separate portable battery pack – it’s nice to have that choice and not suffer the limitations of an all-in-one device.

Specifications

  • Size (folded): 13.7 x 7.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Size (unfolded): 17.3 x 13.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Weight: 347 grams
  • USB: 2 ports, theoretical maximum 2.1 A output (total). 5V voltage regulator ensures consistent voltage regardless of weather conditions.
  • No internal battery – it charges devices directly.

A small red LED next to the USB ports indicates when there is power available. Note that indoor lighting is not bright enough to produce any current.

How Well Does It Work?

On a bright, sunny afternoon at the height of the UK summer, I was able to get my iPhone 5s to successfully begin charging at a steady 5V at 1 amp, and even to acknowledge the presence of the charger. Until the clouds drifted over that is, and the message, “This accessory may not be supported” appeared on-screen. The current draw dropped to 0.25 amp – still trickle charging, but not “officially” charging. Unfortunately, when the clouds went away, the state of trickle charging didn’t. Kicking it back to the full 1 amp required unplugging and plugging the USB Lightning connector back in again, at which point it resumed at full blast.

I tried the iPad at the same optimal time, and had similar success, registering as a charger and drawing 1.5 amps for an almost full speed charge (almost as you would get from an actual wall adapter). I later discovered that having the iPad plugged in at the same at my iPhone actually managed to steal power from the iPhone, so I don’t suggest plugging in two high powered devices at the same time.

I didn’t have as much luck in the early morning. Despite being reasonably bright, neither my iPhone nor iPad acknowledged support for the charger. However, despite claiming that it wasn’t charging, it was in fact trickle charging.

The conclusion is simple: under optimal conditions and when the sun is at it’s zenith, this thing can really pack an electrical punch – enough to charge two small devices simultaneously, at full speed, or one larger device like a tablet. In sub-optimal conditions, it struggles – especially when you’re dealing with Apple devices which are rather picky about their charging conditions.

It’s important to note that solar charging can be a double-edged sword: heat will negatively affect the battery life of your devices, so while the solar panel itself should be kept in the sun, your device shouldn’t.

Should You Buy The Poweradd 14W Portable Solar Charger?

For camping, long car journeys, barbeques or just that bit of extra juice when you’re in the garden with your Bluetooth speakers blaring – the Poweradd 14W solar charger can be a great addition – and unlike portable battery packs, won’t need charging beforehand. The durable case with it’s handy clips mean you could hang it from your backpack and charge your devices during a trek, so it’s perfect for the outdoorsy type.

poweradd 14w solar charger - carabiner

On cloudy days – which is admittedly 90 percent of the time here in the UK – its utility will significantly diminish, but you’ll still get a slow trickle of charge despite what your devices may be reporting. Plugging in a high current draw device at the same time may have a negative effect though; in some cases drawing power from the lower powered device to supplement the solar charger. Don’t use both ports to charge unless you’re sure you’ve connected low current devices.

MakeUseOf recommends: Get one if you live somewhere sunny and enjoy long hikes or trips to the beach. Give it a pass if your location is the continual source of jokes about the rain.

How do I win the Poweradd 14W Portable Solar Charger?

Poweradd 14W Portable Solar Charger

For mobile users, click here to enter.

The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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