It's summer and this year we've been overwhelmed with the orange emitted from the sky. So we were very pleased to see the A-Solar Xtorm Lava Charger AM114 come into our studio. In theory this charging solution can offer an immediate power source when exposed to sunlight. Ideal for travellers, hikers and campers.
A-Solar have managed to include two individual solar panels within this rather compact design. They've been able to do this because the panels open in a folio manner. When not in use they can be folded together, which also minimises damage too. The Lava Charger fits into most trouser pockets and weighs a mere 248g. This compact design is a real incentive for users to take and utilise the Lava Charger when outdoors.
Its functional design is stupendous, on each side of the device sit discrete flexible male USB charging cable arms. One is a standard USB 2.0 connector and the other is a micro-USB connection. On the front of the Lava Charger sit two female USB 2.0 connections, both connections differ from one another with regard to charging speeds. One has an output of 5V/2.1A and the other has an output of 5V/1A. Each female USB connection is covered via silicone flaps, which prevent dust and debris from entering into them. The entire unit is coated in a very durable rubberised finish and the overall build is efficiently robust. This protection is important as this is a charging product that will be used and sat outdoors for hours on end and has to be fit for purpose within many different weather conditions and terrains. We did accidentally drop the Lava Charger onto a concrete ground from about two meters and it didn't show any damage other than some mild scratches on the outer rubberised body and it continued to work.
A-Solar have recognised that making a standalone solar charger would be a little redundant and unreliable. That's why they've included an inbuilt 4,000 mAh Li-Polymer battery which comes pre-charged when the product is purchased. To put the capabilities of this battery into perspective, it's capable of charging a drained iPhone 5 around two and a half times, an iPad 2 to around 80% and a New iPad 4 to around 40%. Of course, other smartphones, tablets and devices will display different results. The 5V/2.1A USB output will charge an iPad or an iPhone at the same rate as it would from mains electricity. However, the 5V/1A USB input is capable of charging an iPad or iPhone too, but will take twice as long. But because the Lava Charger has two female, one male USB 2.0 and one micro-USB charging facilities, it will charge a wide range of devices (it's possible to charge a maximum of three devices simultaneously, but we've only ever been able to charge two). For specific inputs, A-Solar have included a bag of interchangeable tips for a wide host of devices, including a Nintendo DS, a Sony PSP, a Nokia mobile phone, a Samsung smartphone or tablet, LG devices, Sony Ericssons, Mini USB, Micro USB, HTC devices and Blackberry devices.
Charging the A-Solar Xtorm Lava Charger requires nothing more than exposing the solar panels to sunlight. A small LED light on one side of the open charger will emit red when the device is charging, the brightness intensity of the LED reflects the speed of charge it's drawing from the panels. On the front of the unit a blue backlit LED panel displays the charge status of the battery. To fully charge the 4,000 mAh battery from drained, it takes around 8-11 hours of the panels being exposed to the sunlight, but the battery can be charged faster over USB or via the mains. This does sound like quite a lengthy duration of time to charge via the sun but when put into context, if the Lava Charger is totally drained it would charge an iPhone 5 in around four hours for free using just the sun for energy. Some devices such as an iPad won't charge on dull to mild sunny days of around 15 degrees Celsius temperatures and below as the transfer rate of electricity isn't great enough from solely the sun. 25-30+ degrees Celsius was the range we found to work with devices that required more than 1A. We actually used the Lava Charger when camping and discovered that it was best to keep some juice within the internal battery at all times so that we could charge up any device's battery throughout the day. At all times when convenient we left the panels exposed to sunlight as frequently as possible. We could leave the Lava Charger out in in the sun all day and during the night charge an iPhone 5 and a portable speaker simultaneously from the battery, we'd also have a bit more juice left over to charge another device such as the Microvision ShowWX+ Projector. It fits into a camping environment brilliantly, it guarantees a power source when all you have is sun. And when the Lava Charger is open a rectangular cutout along the top half allows for the device to be tied onto a bag or something similar, for charging on the move.
We've already reviewed an A-Solar product with a solar panel equipped a few months ago, it was the Aurora Camera Bag and it sported a giant solar panel attached upon its top lid. These solar panels may not be quite as big as the one on the Aurora but are actually more powerful. At peak range they can draw in a maximum of 3.5 watts, whereas the Aurora has a peak of 2.7 watts. This is quite significant and rather impressive when we consider the size of the panels on the Lava Charger.
To sum up the A-Solar Xtorm Lava Charger, we'd have to say that it's a brilliant backup solution for those who spend frequent time outdoors. As a standalone battery pack it holds a decent amount of juice within a compact and robust outfit but the useful solar panels equipped present a true last minute backup solution. The retail price of €79 and £67 is actually less than we originally anticipated, we valued the Lava Charger to be priced at around €100/£100 mark. So we feel it's fairly priced.