Solar Technology Freeloader Solar Charger – Review

Freeloader Solar Charger Pic6

There are many constants within life, one being that the sun will rise every single day, providing us with warmth and energy. The other most important constant in life is that your phone will probably need charging at some point in every single day of your life. Solar Technology have taken both of those important facts and decided to make a solar power charger. Be it for your phone, iPhone, iPad, tablet, Micro USB or USB powered device the charger has you covered. The nice people at Solar Technology International sent me one over to review and as the UK summer is a bit dull and rainy on and off, it’s going to be interesting to try it out.

The interesting thing about this charger is that it has a 4000 mAh battery inside that you recharge using either the built in solar panel or the Micro USB port on the side. So let’s get on with the review starting of course with my good and bad points.

Good Points

  • Solar or mains recharging.
  • Quite rugged build quality.
  • Micro USB or Lightning port devices supported.
  • Larger solar panel supported for quicker recharging.
  • Normal USB port for charging other devices.

Bad Points

  • Slow to recharge via the sun.
  • Ridiculously slow to charge in dull conditions.
  • Only a 4000 mAh battery means only one and a bit charges for most devices.
  • 1A output is quite slow, meaning larger devices can take a while to charge.
  • Micro USB and Lightning cables seem a bit delicate.

Specs

Yes a battery pack has specs. Only a few but those key pointers often make or break a device.

  • Internal Battery 4000 mAh.
  • 220 mA high efficiency solar panel.
  • 5V/1A output.
  • 2 Year Warranty.
  • Working temp from -20°C to +60°C.
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 76mm x 25mm.
  • Weight: 240g.

Design

The Solar charger is about the size of a chunky phone, it comes with its own rubber case to protect the main unit. The front of the charger has the solar panel on it and a little LCD screen showing you battery level and charging status. The left hand edge has the Micro USB charging arm and the right hand side has the Lightning arm. The charging arms tuck into a recess at the top of the edge, the arms themself look quite flimsy and wouldn’t fair to well getting bent or something.

The bottom edge has two ports, one is Micro USB for charging the battery when it is depleted and a normal size USB port for charging items with non standard charging cables. The back of the unit has a kickstand to help angle the charger at a good angle to catch the sun.

The back of the charger has a ribbed soft touch rubber coating and the kickstand, the kickstand sits proud of the back so it can slide around a little if left on a smooth surface.

The case is a soft silicone kind of thing, which just slips on over the charger, once it is on you can’t access the charging arms or the kickstand. Although you can use the ports on the bottom and also see the LCD screen. The case also has a belt loop on the back and in the box is a Velcro strap to further help attaching it to stuff. The case apparently will protect the charger from being dropped up to a metre high.

The unit itself is curved, with the middle of the unit being thicker than the edges, I can’t see why though. The design really is form over function.

In Use

In use the idea behind the charger is brutally simple. You put it out in the sun and it starts to charge. Once done you connect your phone or tablet and it will charge them up. Nice and simple really. The only slight problem I found was the dismal British summer. During our three week “heatwave” in July I found I could leave the unit outside or on a window cill and it would be charged within a day, as long as it was in direct sunlight. But in the grey and gloomy days of August and September after two days on a window cill it still wasn’t more than half full.

I found one way of grabbing extra sun was by attaching the unit to my rucksack as I walked or cycled around. Again in direct sunlight it charged well. The belt loop for attaching it to things is part of the rubbery case, which I felt a little bit wary of using, just in case the unit slipped out of the case, to do this would need a lot of effort though it was just me being a bit picky. Using the Velcro strap helped strap the charger onto awkward parts of a bag.

The easiest way to use the unit was to charge it using the Micro USB port on the bottom and then take it out on my daily travels, charging things as the day went by and if I was outside when that happened I just left it in the sun and it recharged the battery, whilst charging my phone.

Charging of devices involves removing the case on the charger and connecting one of the arms to your phone or tablet. As the battery pack outputs at 1A it means you’ll have to wait a bit for the battery to be topped up fully. The arms also look a bit spindly and they look like they’ll bend or break at some point.

Conclusion

Overall it is a handy piece of kit, which for us in the UK is a little bit flawed for most of the year. It is only really of use if you either live outdoors, you live abroad where it doesn’t rain for most of the summer, you’re going to a festival and it’s guaranteed to be sunny, you’re on a Skiing holiday or you’re going camping and again it’s guaranteed to be sunny. For those situations having this charger would be rather handy.

But on the other hand you could get on of those 10000 mAh battery packs and it would do the job just as well, without having to rely on the sunshine. You can buy the Freeloader ISIS charger here for £64.99. Which personally is a bit steep. However if you’re one of those people who spends all day every day out in the sun then you’ll find this charger very useful.