Mobile / Hands-on Review

Charge Differently: Alternative Means to Power up Your Devices


We’ve all got them: those large, bulky, thick bricks of plastic battery chargers. Or a drawer full of charging cables, with various plugs compatible with dozens of devices, both new and old. They’re bland, uninspired, and kept hidden behind the couch, computer desk or end table—only brought out to perform their task, then tucked away again. Well, for every dedicated charger you’ve ever had—only to replace it the next time you got a new device—B&H has just as many unique, creative and more useful ones in this roundup of alternative charging stations and devices. Whether you’re in the living room, the park, your car or a foreign country, these battery chargers and extenders will keep you and your devices going long after they otherwise could have tired.

Some of the most exciting and unique chargers out there utilize that big, round power plant in the sky: the sun! Solar chargers bring all the benefits of a traditional charger, without being tied down or tethered to a wall. Not to mention they’re functional in any nation worldwide, off the grid, no adapters need apply. For true mobility, plug one of these into your phone, mp3 player, tablet or computer and you can wander the world undeterred—and with a charged battery.

For a very modern, out-of-this-world look, the Kiwi Choice U-Powered Solar & USB Portable Charger (in Black or White) is sure to turn some heads, and inspire questions from others. Plug this charger into your device, fan out its three “blades,” and watch as your mobile device comes back to life with the power of the sun. The U-Powered Charger recharges via solar energy, a computer USB port or optional car and wall chargers. There are 11 included power adapters that the charger can use to power almost any USB device you may have. This includes mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS devices, tablets and more. Another great benefit is that once it has soaked up some rays and has fully charged itself, the U-Powered Charger can store its power for up to six months, and can be used for more than 1,000 charging cycles in its lifetime.

For a solar charger with a little kick (stand), the SD4000LP Hybrid Solar Powered Charger from Soladec has an integrated kickstand for easier positioning and an internal 4000 mAh lithium-polymer battery that can retain its charge for up to two years. It uses high efficiency mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells beneath tempered impact-resistant textured glass, complete with a low iron content, to maximize the efficiency of those solar cells. In addition to solar energy, it can be charged via USB cables, and is compatible with just about any device that can be charged by a powered USB source. This can include your Blackberry Curve or Torch, Apple iPhone or iPad, Amazon Kindle and HTC Droid devices.

Soladec SD400LP Charger Revolve's xeMilo AC Charger

To transform your outlet into a photovoltaic powerhouse, Revolve’s xeMilo AC Charger, Solar Charger & Battery Backup boasts a large 4400 mAh charge capacity and compatibility with more than 3,000 devices! For added convenience, the powerful 2.8-amp output supports charging up to two devices, simultaneously, using the internal back-up battery. The amount of power stored in the internal back-up battery is displayed on the charger, plus it is generated using Revolve’s exclusive Earth Friendly Electronics. This means there were unique features, advanced materials and specially designed processes used to enhance sustainability and minimize the impact on the environment during construction. So not only are you utilizing free, completely “green” solar energy, but even your charger was made with environmental impact in mind.

When you’re on the move, especially when driving into the sun, you can bring a solar charger along for the ride, with Scosche’s solBAT II - Solar Powered Backup Battery and Charger. With suction cups built into the windshield cradle, you can attach it to any window in your car, and get some use out of the sun’s glare. Use any USB charging cable to connect and charge your devices, including cell phones, MP3 players, tablets and more. Its 1500 mA internal lithium-ion battery can also be charged by the included USB charging cable when plugged into any computer or USB charger. Scosche even offers the free reVIVE App for advanced battery management, available at the Apple App Store.

Speaking of Apple, if you’ve got an iPad 2, or the new iPad, then you may be interested to know that there’s a new solar charger that uses both indoor and outdoor light and also doubles as a biodegradable iPad case—keeping your battery alive and your tablet protected. Kudo’s Solar KudoCase for iPad 2 & 3 (in Black, Blue, Gray, Green, Pink) comes with a built-in HDMI adapter, a constant charge for your iPad, folding movie and typing stands, and even a USB power output for charging other devices—iPhone, anyone? If you’ve misplaced your iPad, the creative Whistle Locator allows you to simply whistle and the KudoCase will beep in return, allowing you to hone in on the missing tablet. The iPad KudoCase goes even one step further: Kudo has partnered with trusted environmental groups in order to plant a tree for every iPad Kudo registered. Buy one, get one tree!

Going on an adventure? Pack your Guide 10 Adventure Kit. Goal Zero has designed this foldable solar panel kit to provide everything you need to charge four rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. This is great for those devices that don’t use dedicated chargers or USB cables, like digital cameras, camcorders and portable radios. That isn’t to say you can’t charge your iPad for Angry Birds on the beach, or your PS Vita while on a family road trip—it’s still compatible with all of these devices and more. You’ll never have to buy batteries again or plug into a wall or car charger. It even has an integrated LED flashlight to help you find your keys in the dark—just add sun.

Leaving the solar system, we move on to battery extenders and reserves. A favorite among iPhone users is Mophie’s Juice Pack Plus external batteries. They come in a wide variety of great colors, including Magenta, Purple, Cyan, Red, White, Yellow and Black. Virtually doubling the battery life of your iPhone 4 or 4S, the extra battery is rated at up to an additional 8 hours of talk time or Web browsing. This means the Juice Pack Plus allows you to take advantage of all the things you love about your iPhone 4 / 4S: you can browse more, email more, text more, play more and watch more videos—all without worrying about your battery dying anytime soon.

Four LEDs on the bottom keep tabs on how much power is left in the Juice Pack Plus battery, and a standby switch allows you to choose when you want your Juice Pack to charge. You won’t be sacrificing battery life for form or function, as the Juice Pack Plus provides a hard shell case, with rubberized band, as well as acoustic sound enhancing speaker ports. There’s even a Juice Pack Plus Outdoor Edition that turns your iPhone into a long-lasting, dedicated GPS device, so you can track, plan and share your journeys as they happen.

While you’re out and about in the city rather than the mountains, you can use the portable Juice Pack Reserve (Black, Red) to keep a reserve of power in your pocket or on your key ring. The Reserve has a super-compact keychain and protective dock connector. Its powerful battery allows for ultra-fast charging with its rechargeable 700 mAh lithium-polymer battery. For added convenience and versatility, you can charge your iPhone or iPod via the 30-pin connector, and charge the Reserve itself via the hidden USB cable and adapter tucked away within the device.

For more than just iPods and iPhones, the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro provides enough juice and connectivity to power and recharge nearly any USB device, from your iPad to an old cell phone. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or mobile gaming device, the Powerstation Pro is designed to quickly recharge or provide a back-up charge whenever you need it. While it may fit in your pocket, it is definitely compact and lightweight enough to bring along on the go, in a bag or backpack. You can even recharge it while still charging any connected devices and the four integrated LED indicators will provide the status of everything along the way.

If you happen to be a world traveler and are sick of carrying various prongs, outlet adapters and power cords, then Monster Power’s Outlets to Go 200 Global Adapter is your antidote. With its two global AC outlets it is compatible with outlets in more than 150 countries. That’s about 75% of the nations in the world, so chances are you’ll still have power wherever you travel. For even more versatility there is an integrated USB port for charging an array of various electronics, and something all travelers can appreciate: a retractable plug for quick and easy storage of the adapter.

When you’re not traveling to other countries, but moving about within the United States, Monster Power also has an Outlets To Go Power Strip with four outlets for you to use in American hotels and airports. It provides you with a miniature power strip for use in rooms where outlets are scarce. The small and portable design comes complete with cable management, integrated circuit breaker protection, and an illuminated power indicator so you know whether or not the outlet is even functioning in your hotel room.

Are you an avid USB user? If you find that most chargers and outlet adapters offer too-few USB ports for your new electronics, then the ISOUND Portable Power Travel Pack should keep you covered. It is a rechargeable battery with an outstanding 8000 mAh (30 Wh) capacity that can charge up to five USB-powered devices, simultaneously. This means you can charge your tablet, smart phone, Bluetooth headset, MP3 player and GPS device all at the same time. It comes with a car charger, mini/micro USB adapters, 100 – 240 V universal AC wall adapter and soft travel bag. It plugs into just one AC wall outlet or DC car outlet and eliminates the need for multiple wall chargers cluttering up the walls and floor. It’s also friendly with its neighboring outlets and won’t block access to them for your other devices—you don’t have to choose between the lamp and your iPad anymore.

Looking for a battery shaped like a, well, battery? Veho’s Pebble Smartstick Battery Pack (Black, Silver, Purple, Pink) looks like a regular AA battery but packs 2200 mAh of charge capacity to provide an entire second charge to your smart phone. It comes with charging adapters for a variety of different devices including your Apple iPhone/iPod, Sony Ericsson phone, Nokia pin-tip devices, as well as mini USB and micro USB devices like Blackberry or DROID phones.

Pebble Smartstick Battery Pack The Sanctuary

If you’d like an all-in-one charger for your devices, Bluelounge has The Sanctuary (White, Black, Wood Grain) that is compatible with 3,768 devices, and counting. It has a very simple and modern design, yet does not sacrifice anything in the way of compatibility. Just peek under the hood and you’ll see an array of various chargers and cables ready and waiting to be plugged into any device you may have. The power supply also has a convenient list next to each adapter that details what it is, and what device it connects with, so you won’t have to find the right one through trial and error. The cable management is also superb and keeps everything extremely tidy, showing those you are currently using, then tucking the rest away.

If you’ve ever been driving and have noticed your phone was nearly drained, you understand the importance of having a car charger in addition to home or travel chargers. To turn the old cigarette lighter socket into a powerhouse for your devices, Scosche has created the tuneSHIFT Digital FM Transmitter with USB Charging Port. This lets you charge and play your music from any mobile device that uses a USB charging cable and audio jack. Its 100 different digital channels ensure optimal signal for music playback through your car speakers, and the included 3' audio cable allows you to pass the iPod around while friends choose the best songs for the ride (don’t DJ and drive!).

No matter what your device and where you need it charged, there are so many available options that are more powerful and more versatile than your device’s basic charger or cable. These are just some of the possibilities offered to you and your devices—whether you want to harness the power of the sun to cut down on your carbon footprint, or have accessibility to nearly all of the outlets in the world.

Discussion 3

Add new comment

Add comment Cancel

You're not answering the question I'm asking.  I own an Asus laptop whose power block is misbehaving.  It wouldn't take any charger, the origonal, a new one ...none.  Asus says send it in and for $139.00 they will replace the power block.  (it takes a full dismanteling down to the mother board ref: YouTube to fix it)  I want to know if there is an alternative way of charging the battery, say through the USB port or some other way in order to avoid sending it in and paying them to fix their defective part (which, i might add, has a history of failure and needed to be recalled instead of repaired for a fee by them)  Please respond to my inquiry my email is 

As of your post Asus does not currently have any laptops that have the ability to charge the laptops battery over USB. If you have replaced the transformer and still have an issue, it the only solution I see is to send it for service.

Its really useable