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Solar charging is all the rage right now.  Soon enough all of our gadgets will have solar panels on them.  Until then, there is the PowerMonkey Explorer w/ Solar Slave.

The Explorer can be charged three different ways:  Solar, wall plug, or through a USB connection.  The whole package comes with a ton of stuff.  Besides the Explorer and the Solar Slave, it comes with: 4 different international wall plug adapters, 10 device adapters, 2 carrying cases, and a velcro loop for hanging the Solar Slave.  You can also order more device adapters online if you need a certain one.

As I mentioned in my Solio Magnesium review, solar charging doesn’t happen overnight, literally.  Though the Solar Slave accepts partial light sources, it takes its sweet time.  Obviously being in a sun soaked location will help speed things along,  but the wall plug and USB charging methods will be much more faster and reliable.

While all these solar chargers are designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, it’s always nice to have some “Apocalypse Gear” around just in case.  What I really liked about the Explorer and the Solar Slave is that it can draw power from fire as well as heat lamps and dishes.

What it’s going to come down to, is that this type of device is going to save your ass in a pinch.  While it’s slow to fully charge, it will provide the means to make an emergency call or listen to that last 50 Cent song before you head into the club.  Not that the latter would ever happen.

Operation and handling was a bit confusing.  First off, holding the Explorer and the Solar Slave together felt like dragging around a mini IV stand and drip bag.  A little awkward, but the connection holding them together was tighter than it looked.

What I found most weird about the Explorer was that the bright blue illuminated LCD display has two different power bars that denoted charge.  The one on the left has 4 bars and the one on the right has 7 that go from small to big.  The instruction manual doesn’t make it clear what the difference is at all.  Battery capacity and level of charge? Isn’t that the same thing?  Does it matter?  I’m confusing myself even more just trying to write about it!

The charging process is also not automatic.  Once your device is plugged in you then have to activate the Explorer.  A fully charged Explorer gave my iPhone just over two full charges but I did notice that sometimes it was less or I couldn’t tell due to the weirdness of the display design.

In addition, I couldn’t charge my iPhone while the Solar Slave was plugged in (see gallery pic).  Why?  Annoying.  Also the Solar Slave did not directly charge my phone (see gallery pic).  The USB charging method works with low powered USB ports and takes a couple hours to fully charge, as does wall charging.  Also, you can’t tell how far along a charge is with out unplugging the Explorer.

I also question the durability of the Explorer and the Solar Slave’s dangly bits as they both have exposed cords that will see some wear and tear in a bag or just thrown somewhere.  The Explorer and Solar Slave themselves are of solid construction and have a dry matte blue plastic finish.  The Explorer is also water resistant when all sealed up with nothing attached.

In conclusion, the PowerMonkey Explorer and Solar Slave will do what they are supposed to do when you need them to, and will surely be an asset to any world traveler or those away from electricity.  Aside from some odd design choices, the Explorer and Solar Slave is a complete charging package that will just take some getting used to.

Pros:

  • Versatile across a multitude of scenarios
  • Many included wall plugs and device adapters
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Confusing as all hell operation and interface
  • Weird to hold
  • Tons of pieces to keep track of

Buy it here for $109!










Jeff B