Keeping your cell phone or portable entertainment device charged all the time can be a hassle, especially if you have to constantly look for a wall socket to plug in a charger. And if you're out in the middle of nowhere, then you can forget about that. Solar chargers can be a way to get around that constraint, provided you live in an area with plenty of sunlight. One such device is the iTech SolarCharger 906. It's easy to use, but you do need to plug it into a wall socket every once in a while for it to be useful. The iTech SolarCharger 906 retails for around $60.
The SolarCharger 906 is a simple rectangular slab. Measuring 4.13 inches long by 2.52 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick and weighing around 3.53 ounces, the device is quite a bit smaller and lighter than other solar chargers we've tried, like the Solio Universal solar charger kit. Of course, the entire front surface of the device is a big photovoltaic cell that is designed to convert rays from the sun into battery power.
Behind the charger are LED indicators for the battery status and the charging status. There are four LEDs for the battery status; when all four light up, the SolarCharger 906 is fully charged. The charging status LED flashes red when the device is solar charging, and is solid red when it's charging via USB. There's also a button on the back of the device that, when pressed, will show you the current battery status.
On the bottom is a charger jack if you want to charge up the SolarCharger 906, plus a Mini-USB cable for powering other devices. The solar charger comes with 10 adapter tips: a DC-jack adapter, an 8-pin adapter, an LG adapter, a Micro-USB adapter, a Nokia 2mm jack adapter, a Nintendo DS Lite adapter, a Samsung adapter, a Sony Ericsson adapter, a Sony PSP adapter, and a female USB adapter. To charge up an iPhone or an iPod, you need to hook up your Apple dock connector to the female USB adapter.
The first thing you have to realize with the SolarCharger 906 is that you do need at least 40 percent of power already in it (that's at least two LEDs lighting up) in order for it to solar charge. It sounds a bit redundant, but that's how it works. Also, you need to position it so that it gets direct optimum sunlight. So your office fluorescent lights won't work, and you probably won't get good results if you're in a foggy sheltered area. Once the SolarCharger 906 is fully charged, you can then use it any time of day to charge your handheld device. Of course you can also charge your device while the SolarCharger is charged via USB or the sun.
We tested the SolarCharger 906 on an unusually sunny day in San Francisco by charging up the Motorola Devour. The charging status LED flashed red, so we knew the solar charging was working. It brought back the Devour from almost no battery to a full battery in just 2 hours. As for fully charging the solar charger itself, it takes about 3 hours via USB and a whopping 22 hours under optimum sunlight. As an option, iTech also included a car windshield mount for the SolarCharger 906 so it gets as much sun as possible.
On the whole, the SolarCharger 906 worked as promised. The downsides are that it does need direct sunlight for the solar charging to work, and even that doesn't work if you don't have at least 40 percent battery life already in it. But if you want to quickly charge your cell phone or portable entertainment device in an area with plenty of sun, it'll certainly help you out.