This little 19W solar charger is a powerful and affordable mobile option (review)

Portable solar has come a long way in the last couple of years, and the Choetech 19W folding unit is a great example of a quality charger at a reasonable cost.

It wasn't really that long ago when portable solar chargers were clunky, heavy, and fairly fragile, and were mostly good just for small devices and emergency use, unless you were willing to pay a premium. But with the rapid advancements in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology over the last few years, we've been starting to see some truly affordable and practical portable solar chargers, and ones that are not only lightweight and powerful, but also rugged and dependable.

One such device is the Choetech 19W folding solar charger, which I recently got to spend some time using and putting through its paces, and considering that the leading brand's similarly-sized product, the Goal Zero Nomad 20, is priced at four times that of this one, I was pleasantly surprised at its quality. The two aren't exactly equal in all respects, but on a cost per watt basis, and a weight/size basis, the Choetech is a great choice.

The charger is encased in a rugged polyester 'canvas,' with a mesh zippered pouch attached to the rear (for holding cords and devices being charged) and a magnetic catch holding it together. When folded, the unit measures just 10.2" x 6.3" x 0.7" (25.9 x 16 x 1.78cm), so it's small enough to slip inside a backpack, go-bag, or satchel, and it only weighs about one pound (.48 kg), so it's not going to add a lot of extra effort to take it along. Once unfolded, the unit displays three solar panels to the sun and measures 20.9" long (53cm), and it can be hung from either the large metal grommet on the end of it, or from any of the six sewn-on nylon loops. Inside the mesh pocket on the rear, a plastic dual-USB port allows for two devices to be plugged in at once, about which the company claims its 'auto-detect' technology will charge each device at its maximum rate (within the limits of the panels).

Choetech 19W solar charger© Choetech

The solar cells in the Choetech charger are said to be SunPower monocrystalline modules, rated at 24% efficient, providing "up to 5V/ 3400mA in total output," and are faced with an industrial-strength PET plastic for ruggedness. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this charger is flexible, necessarily, but it can certainly take a fair amount of accidental flexing or being knocked around without being damaged (which is a great feature on a portable device). The charger, which has a suggested MSRP of $100, is on sale at Amazon for just under $50, which puts it into the same price category as the similarly-sized Anker chargers, and much less than some of the premium brands.

This is a solar-only charger, and no battery is included in it, which means you can only charge from it when it's directly in the sun and your device is plugged into it. This also means that charge times can be lengthened or charging sessions interrupted accidentally by cloudy conditions or by a device not automatically re-recognizing the charger as a power supply again once sufficient sunlight hits it. The recommended solution, if this is the case, is to pair a solar charger with a battery pack, and to use the panel to charge the battery, and then use the battery to charge your device, which can happen whenever it's convenient, such as after dark, when it's impossible to directly charge from the solar panel.

Choetech also sent me a 'rechargeable power bank' to test out, and while I don't see it as a natural fit for the solar charger (it doesn't have that large of a capacity to be able to take advantage of the charger's potential), it certainly could be a decent addition to it. If I were to use the 19W solar charger as my primary off-grid electricity source, I'd probably want a much larger capacity battery to pair with it.

That said, the Waterproof Portable Emergency Flashlight has a number of handy features on its own, including three levels of LED brightness (plus a flashing SOS mode) from the 3W bulb (max 250 lumen), a built-in seat belt cutter and window breaker (for auto or other emergencies), and a shock resistant and fully waterproof case. Inside the flashlight, under the LED cap, is a USB port capable of delivering a charge at 2.1A (max) from the 5200 mAh internal lithium-ion battery. The device can be charged via a micro-USB port from either an outlet or a solar charger, and the device's state of charge is displayed through a series of four small LED indicators (25% for each one lit). The full MSRP for this device is listed as $50, but is currently on sale at Amazon for just under $24.

Both items are covered by a full 12-month warranty, and more information on the company is available at the website.

[Disclosure: Choetech sent me these items for review purposes, and all opinions, errors, or omissions in this post are mine alone.]

Tags: Gadgets | Solar Gadgets

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