In the early 1990s, Cartoon Network used to air an old 1960s cartoon short called Birdman. The eponymous Harvey Birdman (with his trademark cry of “Biiiiirdmaaan!”) fought crime with powers endowed by the sun, but needed “recharging” so often that he was inept, except in broad daylight.
I.Tech Dynamic’s SolarCharger 906 is exactly like Birdman.
Too much sun
It’s quite a useful device in theory. Powered by a 1,260 milliampere-hour monocrystalline solar panel (which carries about as much power as a high-end cellphone battery), the 906 comes with a veritable toolset of connectors for every mobile phone or device possible—at least all those that charge off a mini USB). It can charge by either the power of the sun or the power of USB—the former takes 22 hours of exposure to optimal sunlight (it took roughly a day and a half for us to bring it up to full charge) and the latter about 3 hours.
The device has a row of four lights at the back to indicate battery status, and claims to fully charge a mobile phone from scratch. The 906 is light at 100g, and has a solid, sleek build quality. The length of the charging wire is short, but can be extended easily, and the numerous connectors provided are extremely useful (there’s a mini USB cable which comes with multiple charging pin options (depending upon the charging point of your phone).
Bad weather: The charger does not perform in cloudy and rainy conditions. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Spanner in the works
But how exactly do you expose the thing to 22 hours of sunlight? Although i.Tech Dynamic suggests grafting it on your car’s windshield, in our theft-happy urban culture, that’s probably not a good idea.
You could walk around with the device held aloft like an eager pamphleteer, but 22 hours of that is not recommended.
The third alternative is to attach it outside a window or along an exterior wall and carry it around when required. That works fine, but the 906 takes so long to even work up to half-battery that its unwieldy as an emergency charger.
Even after an entire afternoon in piercing 40 degrees Celsius-plus weather, it charged a phone to little more than half-battery. It also runs out of juice really fast, dropping calamitously to less than 50% in around 45 minutes.
The charger also doesn’t perform in cloudy and rainy conditions, and leaving it out in the rain will leave it out of commission. So not much use in the monsoon either.
On the other hand, as a portable USB-powered battery, it works just fine. Charge it up in a few hours, put it in your bag, and it’s a convenient portable source of power in an emergency.
Not for everyday conditions
The charger’s solar performance, however, puts the reviewer in a strange position. There’s no denying that the device has potentially significant use in conditions where electricity supply is at a premium, or for frequent travel on the road. But its daily performance in a normal work-commute-home environment is so underwhelming—especially when coupled with the high price of Rs6,499—that it is difficult to recommend in extreme situations.
There’s no denying its green credentials, but it doesn’t work as well as other solar-powered devices now available on the market—such as Ikea’s LED-powered solar reading lights or i.Tech Dynamic’s own solar-powered Bluetooth headsets.
Most people would use it merely as a backup, USB-powered battery, but at this price, it is also a ridiculously expensive device for such simple functionality.
Harvey Birdman had his pet eagle Avenger to bail him out in the dark. The i.Tech Dynamic charger, sadly, has no such lifeline.