Solar-powered portfolio holds your tablet and charges it with the sun

Instead of toting along a separate tablet computer and a paper notebook and a backup power source, this portfolio combines all three into a single portable folder with an integrated solar charger.

If you use your iPad or other tablet for business or school, but also need a place to put your papers (and something to write on), the PowerBinder offers an all-in-one solution that also includes solar charging and a backup power source.

Capable of securely holding a variety of different brands of tablet computers with its adjustable grips, plus a notebook on the other side, the PowerBinder can either be used flat, as a traditional binder, or can be easily turned into a tablet stand for watching videos or presentations.

Power can be supplied to the onboard 5300 mAh Li-ion battery either through charging with a micro-USB cable, or by propping the PowerBinder up with the small solar panel facing the sun. The panel can also be trickle-charged in low light conditions (or supposedly, with indoor lighting). A small LCD display panel shows the light levels hitting the panel, which could help in positioning the device for optimum charging, as well as the current state of the battery charge, and a single power button starts the device charging process.

The PowerBinder battery has two USB ports for charging multiple devices, as well as an optional flash memory port for files and media, and the portfolio includes a stylus and charging cord for the battery. On the right side, underneath the battery, a notebook holder supplies a handy place to take notes or keep track of paperwork.

PowerBinder was chosen as a CES 2013 Innovations Honoree for Portable Power.

I was sent a review model of the PowerBinder, and have used it for a couple of weeks in my daily routine, and found that while it was handy and could be a great accessory for those who are used to carrying a portfolio or binder with them, it also had a couple of weak points.

For the strong points, I found that having the ability to use the PowerBinder as a display stand for watching videos was pretty handy, as was having a notebook right at hand for taking notes. The solar panel was also convenient, as I like to be able to power my mobile gadgets with renewable energy when I can.

For the weak points, I felt that there were a couple of design points that came up a bit short, such as the fact that if you do have an iPad, with its headphone port on the top (when in portrait mode), you can't really close the binder with the headphones attached, as the end of the headphone cord will hit the battery pack. While this was a small thing, and could possibly be averted by inserting the iPad "upside down" (though the headphone cord might still be compromised in that configuration) it would be great to see either a smaller form factor for the battery, or a method of routing the headphone cord so that it doesn't hit the battery.

The battery capacity of 5300 mAh, while big enough for multiple charges for smartphones (depending on the model), fell short when it came to fully charging a tablet. I have an iPad 2, with a battery capacity of 6944 mAh, so the battery is not quite powerful enough to fully charge it, although it could serve as a way to top off the tablet battery or make it through a long day without needing to find an outlet. However, for those with the newer iPads or other tablets with much larger batteries, the battery in the PowerBinder might be even less useful (depending on your daily tablet usage).

The other weak point, at least to my mind, was the large size (14" by 10"), and the fact that with a tablet mounted in the portfolio, it can seem quite heavy. Having said that, if you're accustomed to toting a briefcase or bag with legal-sized notebooks or folders in it, the size of the PowerBinder probably won't seem that large, and considering that it integrates a solar panel and a backup battery in it, the weight of it may not seem that much.

It seems to me that the PowerBinder might be a good choice for companies that depend on the use of tablets for their employees, especially for those that may need to have a way to stay powered up while out on-site or away from an outlet for extended periods. This solar portfolio may also be good for students that want to combine their tablet computers with their notebooks, and need to be able to get a full day's work out of their tablet without having to sit near an outlet.

The cost for the PowerBinder starts at about $149 from PowerStick, although adding the optional flash memory capability adds to the cost.

[Disclosure: I received a free review model of the PowerBinder from the company, but all opinions in this post are mine alone.]

Tags: Solar Gadgets | Technology

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