I love the idea of solar charging. Being able to convert the sun’s rays in to power is an amazing thing. But, with the ever increasing demand for power from our phones, will the march of progress in solar-chargers be able to keep up? We put the Xtorm Yu Charger – a simple solar panel and battery combo – to the test.
My iPhone 5 takes a fairly hefty 1440 MaH to charge it up so I can spend the day on Viewranger or taking photos of the dog doing silly things. That’s quite a lot of juice to demand from any solar charger, and especially one which lives in the UK where strong sun is an occasional accident happening when the clouds forget to hang out together.
But, a fully charged Yu Charger will hold 2000MaH, so if you pop it in the wall socket before you leave home, at least you will be able to get a full boost-and-a-bit from the little beasty.
It’s a thin plate of solar panel, not too much thicker than a phone in a case, and its encompassed in a silicone rubber protective sheath that keeps minor knocks and scrapes at bay. The rubber makes it a very pleasant thing to hold, and also helps to keep the Yu gripping on to angled surfaces so that, if you’re stationary, you can maximise the panel’s exposure to any sun.
It is a shame, however, that the hand-cut flaps over the charging jacks are a little, er, hand-cut. I know why they’re like that – because it’d be very expensive, if not impossible, to incorporate flush-fit blades in to the moulding tool for the silicone – but the effect was enough to make me wonder if I had a pre-production sample.
That aside, the Yu works well. It has an input jack for charging it from the wall, and an output jack for connecting to your device. Nice and simple.
And to let you know how much juice it has, there’s a ‘test’ button which lights up 4 small LEDs in the rear to demonstrate the level of charge. A separate green LED shows you when it’s charging from the sun – which is most of the time it’s in light… albeit a trickle charge unless you’re experiencing bright sunshine.
I left the YU on the ground on a British spring day. Not too bright and not too dull, and it registered a 25% charge at the end of 8 hours. It does better when the sun is intense, managing a 3/4 charge on a day when I was hot enough to hide indoors and be all British about it.
The Yu is supplied with a carabiner, so it can hang from your pack as you walk. In theory that’s a great idea. In practice, the Yu’s slimline sub-80g means that it bounces around a fair bit and the single carabiner means that it will be facing your pack as much as it faces the sun – I’d suggest teaming it up with a bungee or something to keep it in check.
The Yu is designed to be rain resistant. Not submersible, but it can cope with a bit of a shower when you forget that it’s on your pack. The silicone does a good job or protecting any electronics – with the exception of the aforementioned hand-cut ports, but they are at the base of the thing.
In practice, the Yu charges pretty well for its size. It’s certainly more efficient than many solar chargers from a couple of years ago – technology moves on – and if you had a less intense device or demand, then it would work well as a top-up charger. It will certainly allow you a couple more facebook updates and instagram sessions than you would normally be able to get after a day’s normal British hiking. It isn’t, however, a “my only source of power” option for longer trips or less clement weather. That would be more suited to its big brother, the Lava Charger, which we’ll be reviewing shortly.