Review: Voltaic Systems Amp
This solar charger has a pair of 2-Watt solar panels, and an internal 3,000mAh Lithium-polymer battery pack designed to charge smartphones and other compact USB-powered gadgets.
Harley Ogier | Friday, November 16 2012 | 1 Comment
Product type: Solar case & battery
RRP incl GST: $149
- 3,000mAh LiPoly battery
- Solar charge in 7+ hours, PC in 5.5hrs
- 900mA USB port output
Great for travellers powering smart-phones and USB-charged cameras, as a battery pack on the road and a solar power solution on the trail.
The Voltaic Systems Amp is bulkier than the well known Freeloader Classic, but we found it infinitely more useful.
The Amp’s front and back faces are dominated by 2-Watt monocrystalline solar panels with a waterproof, scratch-resistant finish. It makes the whole thing resemble a CD wallet.
To expose both panels to the sun, you unzip the Amp and lie it flat. Inside is the 3,000mAh battery pack, and a zippered mesh pocket with plug-adapters for various types of small gadget. The battery pack has a single 900mA USB port, which will charge devices at the same rate or faster than a PC would (depending on the device).
The battery pack will charge from flat in a minimum of seven hours under bright sunlight – that’s marginally faster than the Freeloader Classic, even though the Amp has 2.5-times the battery capacity. A small red LED on the spine of the case glows proportionate to the amount of light available: a good way to ensure optimal positioning, though ‘pointing directly at the sun’ is pretty much the best you can go for.
Charge time from empty, in cloudy conditions, was around 8-12 hours, and like the Freeloader Classic, the Amp was greatly slowed by our office windows.
Attachment-points within the case make it easy to tether the Amp in its ‘open’ state to a backpack, pannier or similar. Even when it’s closed it will continue to charge, though likely at half-speed with only one panel facing the sun.
Based on our limited testing, it’s likely you could run a smartphone or compact camera entirely from solar power in the height of summer. However, two or three heavily-overcast days in a row would send you back to mains power.
Solar power aside, the battery pack is removable, so you can use it as an auxiliary battery and charge via USB.
If your smartphone won’t last you a full day, or you need to travel beyond the reach of mains plugs and USB ports, the Amp is a worthwhile purchase for its battery pack alone. From fully charged, I consistently got two charges of my HTC 7 Trophy smartphone before the Amp was depleted.
Add the solar panel, and you have the potential to stay ‘off the grid’ even longer when the sun is out.
Posted by Harry at 15:23:25 on November 21, 2012
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