One of the problems of modern computing is power. While computers have become more and more power-efficient, charging a laptop in the middle of, say, Ghana where there’s no electrical infrastructure is a pretty serious problem. The solution? Come up with a rugged, cheap laptop powered by the sun. And it’s not science fiction; It’s being built as we speak.
True, Sol will not impress anybody under the hood, as it was built for costs instead of speed. The 1.86 Ghz dual-core processor, an Intel Atom, is only OK, it’s got 320GB of space, and it’s rocking 2 to 4GB of RAM. The display, the inputs and outputs, they’re all pretty standard, although this does come with a cellular modem, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0 built in as well as standard WiFi. Oh, and needless to say, the software is all Ubuntu and open-source, since that’s free. In other words, about what you’d expect from a $300 computer.
On the other hand, this doesn’t exist to render Pixar movies, and the low specs help to keep the costs down. What’s really impressive is the outside.
First of all, Sol is rugged; the idea is that this thing will take a beating and keep on working, which is an extremely rare feature at this price point and usually reserved for vanity gear. And then there’s the feature it was named after: The solar panels that unfold from the back of the computer. Two hours in the sun means eight to ten hours of uninterrupted computing. Which, in turn, solves a lot of the infrastructure problems involved in bringing computers to places such as the Third World.
In short, if you’re camping or roughing it for other reasons, Sol is perfect and will help bring computing power to places that need it. Oh, and it comes in colors, as well.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.