Portable solar chargers are a good idea in principle. Too bad they are all ugly, clunky and inconvenient — right? Wrong. Well, right in many ways, but wrong at least in this one instance. For years it seems like I’ve been hunting for a solar powered portable charger that didn’t suck. That all changed when I found the Solpro Helios.
The Solpro Helios is a very compact, distinctly stylish, fast and capable portable solar charger that can store tons of juice and charge multiple devices simultaneously. By a radical margin,
I travel a lot. That means that I need a good portable charger with me for all the Netflix watching Spotify listening while waiting at airport terminals and while in the air, for an extra boost of energy when I’ve been using my phone to snap pictures and to navigate around foreign territory and for making sure my phone doesn’t die during an important meeting.
A good portable charger comes in handy when I’m not on the road as well. Like when I’m hiking or just pushing my phone to the limit during a normal day (as any jogger knows — jogging with location tracking on can kill your phone’s battery pretty quickly).
As a tech blogger I’ve tested my fair share of portable chargers. And there are actually plenty of good performers and a few decent lookers to choose from. But most have a big problem; they need to be connected to a power source themselves in order to recharge. So they are only portable up to a point. They aren’t ultra-portable. But the Solpro Helios is.
Importantly, the Helios is small. In it’s compact (folded) form, it’s about the same width as my iPhone 6 Plus, almost an inch shorter and perhaps just a bit heavier. It’s about as thick as a deck of playing cards. When unfolded, the Helio stretches from about the elbow to the wrist of an adult man. That makes it easily small enough to fit into a pocket on a pair of guys shorts, if needed, or more likely into a backpack or briefcase pocket.
The Helios comes in several great colors including orange, black and white. My test unit is orange and I have to say it looks really good. I like the splash of color. Many — or even most — portable chargers I’ve tried have been a bland black or dark (just very utilitarian). And almost all solar chargers seem to come in one color: white. The outer material is like a faux-leather grain look that seems pretty sturdy. With a lot of outdoor use I could see the corners starting to show some wear eventually, but I think the Helios is pretty solid.
In case you’re wondering, the design of the Helios is such that you could take it with you into a boardroom meeting or on a photo shoot in a rugged location. It’s pretty casual / flexible in that regard.
Sort of like a wallet, the Helios features a trifold design; there are two wings that fold out, each with it’s own thin solar panel. There’s a third solar panel in the middle which feels a bit thicker, but only because that the battery storage is hiding under it. On top there’s a row of indicator lights and a button you can press to view how much charge remains. On the bottom there’s a mini USB port and two normal USB ports. That means you can charge up to two devices at once.
So there are a couple of ways you can charge the Helios. I’ve actually found that it’s quite effective to set the Helios in a window that gets plenty of light (propping it up using the blinds). Or, thanks to a couple of holes designed for such a purpose, you can strap the helios to the outside of a backpack or other bag to let it charge while you hike, for instance.
And the Helios is fast. If it wasn’t, it would be getting a horrible review. I wouldn’t want a solar charger that took all day to charge. But the Helios can grab enough light to charge an iPhone or Android phone fully in just 90 minutes! If you let it charge for 5 hours you’ll be able to fully recharge your phone 3 times!
Until and unless something better comes along, the Solpro Helios is my new goto portable charger — solar or otherwise. Highly recommended.