If you're out in the wilderness for days on end and relying on battery packs to keep your devices running, then your dependence on the mains electricity could begin to be felt when these battery packs run out of energy along with all your devices. Xtrom have a good few battery packs that have inbuilt solar panels, helping to avoid this scenario, and we've reviewed a number of them, such as the Yu Charger, the pocket sized Magma Charger and our personal favourite, with two solar panels for a rapid recharge, the Lava Charger. But this is their newest addition, the rather slim and compact Xtrom Basalt Solar Charger (AM118).
Design & Build Quality
As a product that is intended to be used outdoors, we're pleased to see that the Xtorm Basalt is built like a rock, but also light at 178g. It has rubberised hard plastic on the back of the body, glossy hard plastic on the front protecting the solar panel and metal orange accents on the sides. However, we would have liked to have seen the USB ports covered to stop debris from getting into them, like previous Xtorm solar products we've had. The device also alerts you when it's charging via the solar panel with a red LED, and when the circular button on the face of the charger is pressed, a row of four blue LEDs highlight the charge level remaining.
Solar Panel & Charging Performance
The solar panel takes up most of the top surface area on the Basalt. Its rated peak input is 1.3 watts. This is a little lower than the similarly specced Xtorm Magma Charger, with a peak input of 1.5 watts from its solar panel. In the real world this means it takes around 9-12 hours, with temperatures of 25-30 degrees under direct sunlight, to fully charge the internal battery from drained. Sounds like a lot of time to wait, but five hours of charging via the solar panel in such climates and you'll have enough juice to fully recharge or charge an iPhone 5/5s/5c - and all free from the sun. Absolutely ideal if you're caught out with no mains electricity because you're camping, or have had a lengthy power cut with no battery life left. In these scenarios the Basalt Charger could be indispensable and really does allow you to capture energy from pretty much anywhere in the world.
If needed, instead of using the solar panel, the Xtrom Basalt Solar Charger uses a micro-USB port to charge the internal battery via the mains electricity at a rate of 1A. Two USB 2.0 ports surround it along the end of the charger and one charges at the faster rate of 2.1A and the other at 1A. The faster USB port is needed to charge things like iPads which refuse to charge with a lower energy transfer rate. It charges at a comparable speed to mains electricity and both ports can be used simultaneously. Although the capacity of 3000mAh onboard is really only suitable to charge mobile devices with smaller batteries, it is nice to know that we can also top up tablets due to this fast charging port.
All in all this is another great addition to the Xtorm solar panel charging range, and with its small dimensions and lightweight body it really is the simple recharge solution, particularly for smaller devices like phones.