Published on June 25th, 2009 | by Greg0
Solio Magnesium: Simple, Sturdy Sun Power
Solar power definitely has drawbacks. It isn’t the solution for everyone- our staff in Seattle, for instance, would be quickly out of juice. Even reasonably sunny places often have cloud cover, and that can greatly decrease the effectiveness of any solar collector.
With those caveats, the Solio Magnesium is a great green gadget for anyone considering a portable solar solution aimed at smaller electronics. We’ve reviewed both a previous model, as well as some alternatives and the problems are similar. The Magnesium manages to overcome some of the issues though, merely by being a bit more powerful than it’s predecessor and more wallet-friendly and compact than many competitors. It combines the solar panels and battery into one foldable, pocket-sized unit.
What can you charge? Nearly any small gizmo- MP3 players, most cell phones and PDAs, many GPS devices and similar handheld electronics. Larger and more power-hungry ones, though, will charge slowly or not at all depending on weather. We plugged in our iPhone directly, while turned on, and the Solio had trouble with active charging. Turn the phone off, though, and the Solio was able to refill the battery- but it definitely took most of the unit’s juice. That would be fine, except that it can take 2-3 days of decent sun until the Solio Magnesium can recharge completely.
The unit is well-designed- fairly small and light (about 9 ounces altogether), while also being quite sturdy. It isn’t weatherproof, but shrugged off some light rain, and worked fine despite a couple of drops. One thing that the pictures don’t reveal is that when you slide together the flower-like panels, the solar cells of one of them remains unprotected. It isn’t particularly vulnerable, but much more so than the rugged exterior on the flip side might lead one to believe.
In terms of accessories, you get a cute hemp bag, a bunch of iGo tips for various devices, and a pencil… which seems odd, if eco-friendly. The idea is to use it to properly adjust your Solio for best placement in the sunlight. The tips are for Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Blackberry, and LG, and there is a female USB connector as well for charging most anything else (like the iPod or iPhone)- plenty of others are available as well. For around $120, it works as a great emergency power supply, and a decent solar charger- just make sure that you have the sun at your back. Available online, and in many retailers.