Powertraveller Solargorilla review

Price when reviewed

The Solargorilla is a massively scaled-up version of the Powermonkey-eXplorer which we reviewed earlier this year, designed to charge up a range of peripherals with clean, green solar energy. The previous model was a small, pocketable gadget; its big brother is the size of an A4 sheet of paper when folded up.

Powertraveller Solargorilla review

The design remains the same, though: a clamshell backed with grey, ribbed rubber, with a handy slot from which you can hang it in a window or on the top of a tent. There’s also the same host of connectors to hook the device up to all sorts of laptops, phones and MP3 players.

Some 17 adapters are bundled in total, including Sony PSP, several different makes of mobile phones, adapters for large laptop manufacturers plus mini- and micro- USB connectors. There’s also a neat neoprene case to store it all in.

There is one change besides the size, though, which is the lack of an included battery pack. With the Powermonkey, the solar panel slowly trickle charged an internal lithium-ion battery.

This had two advantages: whatever device you charged didn’t have to be connected all day long, and the sun didn’t have to be bright to provide power – all electricity came directly from the battery, and quickly, too.

Solar panels may offer free, clean energy, but they’re not a silver bullet – they have limitations.

The panel can theoretically output 500mA at 20v – enough to power or charge a laptop, but in real-world conditions this is extremely unlikely. On the day that we tested the device, an overcast but reasonably bright London day, we first struggled to charge a laptop battery and then failed to top-up even a smartphone.

The lack of a battery is the problem here. If the sun isn’t bright enough to provide the appropriate level of power for a device to charge, then nothing will happen. With a battery, the charger can collect power until the appropriate level can be met. It works much better, but here the battery pack must be bought separately in the form of the £150 Powergorilla – doubling the price.

The simple fact is, if you buy one of these expecting to charge your laptop for free within a couple of hours then you will be sorely disappointed, unless you buy the Powergorilla and Solargorilla as rather expensive pair.

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