Review: Juicebar Pocket Solar Charger


Typically when we geek out about battery chargers or battery cases, we’re talking about a device that you must at some point, plug into the wall to recharge itself. But a more intriguing and slowly growing category is that of solar battery chargers. Juicebar’s multi-gadget “Pocket” solar charger seems like a steal at $49.99. But when we factor in real-world performance, is it really even worth that? Gadgetsteria has the answer.

Design & Hardware

We’ll try to be nice about it, but…the Juicebar battery charger needs re-designed. Badly. First impressions and “judging a book cover”, as disingenuous as it may be, is what most people do when buying gadgets. And our first impression upon opening the box with the Juicebar multi-gadget Pocket charger was — it looked cheap.

The faux chrome covered plastic case that wraps around the Juicebar looks and feels like the type of material you’d find on one of those $0.25 now $0.75 plastic rings in those coin operated machines. While such things are honestly second rate to the device’s real feature — the ability to recharge devices via solar power — we thing that a good design goes a long way in not only impressing potential customers, but also just making the device look and feel like it’s worth something.

Initial impressions aside, the rest of the Juicebar’s exterior is pretty sparse. On the back there is a large solar panel meant to capture as much sunlight as possible and recharge the 2,000 mAh battery tucked away inside. Flipping 180 degrees to the front will give you access to the flashlight button and charge indicator button; remaining charge is shown by four blue LEDs. Along the bottom you’ll find a mini-USB charging port (for the Juicebar Pocket Charger) as well as a full-size USB port for plugging in your devices that need recharging. The LED light that is powered by the flashlight button is also located along the bottom.

Performance

With a good solid stint in the sun, we saw recharge times via solar-only in the 6-8 hour range — not ideal for emergency situations where you need power quick. But out in the wilderness and away from AC outlets, however, the utility is much more warranted. Charging via the device’s USB port happens in a much quicker ~2 hours depending on the device you are charging and how often you are using it.

Discharging the Pocket Charger by charging an iPhone 4S from 0-3% saw a max charge of 78-81%. While the 2,000 mAh rating would seem to allude to at least one full charge of the iPhone 4S’ 1,430 mAh, the reality is that rechargeable batteries are not 100% efficient. On top of that, the 4S is a device with multiple radios constantly pulling in information. Now, if you completely turned off your device and let it charge (provided it has a similarly sized ~1500 mAh battery), chances are you’d get close to 100% and perhaps even a full charge. Though as we’ve stated before with battery charger reviews, we don’t conduct device-off tests as truth be told, very few people recharge their devices that way. Let’s be honest. Who is going to shut off their device for 2-6 hours while it recharges? That’s right. Pretty much no one.

Just because we can, we took the JuiceBar Pocket Charger and left it out in the sun for a couple days (on and off) and plugged in our MyCharge 6,000 mAh battery pack into it to see how long it would take to charge that. When all was said and done, because of the aforementioned inefficiencies (and spotty cloud coverage), it took a full 4-1/2 days to charge our MyCharge. For comparison’s sake, plugging into a wall outlet takes ~3-1/2 to 4 hours at most. Again, not the designed purpose of the Juicebar charger but fun to experiment with nonetheless. If all else fails, it’s nice to know that you can use the Juicebar as a charger for other battery packs should you need to. Just don’t expect anything in the way of “fast”.

Conclusion

If you’re in a pinch and away from an outlet, the 2,000 mAh built-in battery is certainly helpful. The utility of the Pocket Bar is exponentially higher if you’re the adventurous type outdoors, too. Gone are the limits of modern life surrounding a world full of electronic devices. With the sun as your sole energy source, you can venture anywhere you please just so long as you have a few hours each day to recharge.

At $49.99 the 2,000 mAh offered by the Pocket Charger’s built-in battery isn’t the highest for the price, and it’s overall construction leaves us feeling rather unimpressed. But, the added freedom the solar charging offers is too hard to pass up; we’ve seen solar chargers cost far more than $49.99.

In short: If you spend more time away from outlets and computers and don’t mind hardware that looks somewhat cheap, the Pocket Charger is worth a serious look. Otherwise, the cheap design and average feature set are forgettable.

More: JuicebarSolarCharge.com

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 7

Gallery