The BioLite SolarPanel10+ isn’t going to save you much on your energy bills. At just 10W don’t expect it to recharge anything quickly. However, if used properly a little patience will be rewarded with free power for a smartphone.
It takes a little knowledge to set it up properly and the occasional repositioning while it’s doing its thing, but a built-in battery enables this solar panel-battery to refuel devices even when the Sun goes down.
Size: 259x208x23 mm/10.2x8.2x0.9 inches
Weight: 550g/19.4 oz
Connections: micro USB, USB-A
Battery: 3,200 mAh
The BioLite SolarPanel10+ is a 10W solar panel with a 3,200 mAh battery built-in to it. That’s incredibly useful because it means that it can send energy into a smartphone, tablet or camera battery not just at midday when the Sun is high in the sky, but whenever you want. It recharges its own battery, which in turn sends a steady charge to whatever device is connected; the end result is a constant recharging process that doesn;lt stop just because there’s cloud … or even darkness.
On the back of the battery is a USB-A slot (5V/2.4-amp) for attaching whatever you want as well as a micro USB slot for recharging the BioLite SolarPanel10+ from the mains. It's just a shame micro USB is used since that’s now very outdated.
Build and handling
The BioLite SolarPanel10+ has exceptional build quality for the task at hand. The photovoltaic cells themselves are housed beneath a tough plastic layer, making the solar panels themselves particularly rugged and able to withstand all kinds of rough handling. The solar panel actually folds in two for easy travel. One half of it has a kickstand that extends out. This helps aim the BioLite SolarPanel10+ at the Sun, but also creates a shadowed area behind it where you can place your cabled-up phone/camera out of the Sun.
That kickstand also makes it reasonably easy to fasten the BioLite SolarPanel10+ to a backpack, so you can recharge while you hike.
Any time the BioLite SolarPanel10+ is outside you can monitor its progress by checking the LED lights on the battery; there are four to indicate whether it's between 25% and 100% charged. They blink if the battery is currently receiving energy from the Sun.
In our benchmark test the BioLite SolarPanel10+ took six hours to put an 80% charge into a 10,000mAh portable battery that was connected to its USB-A slot. That’s impressive, though not exactly lightning-quick; you do have to be patient with the BioLite SolarPanel10+. Its headline act works well; as it recharges using sunlight it tops-up its built-in battery and sends that directly into a device connected via USB. So you can leave the BioLite SolarPanel10+ back at camp to recharge while you go out, then use it to top-up your phone when you return after dark. However, practically speaking there are a couple of problems with that approach. The first is that the 3,200 mAh capacity of the BioLite SolarPanel10+’s built-in battery isn’t much, so we’re talking a 50% top-up of the average smartphone, not a full recharge. The second issue is that the BioLite SolarPanel10+ recharges about 30% faster when directly aimed at the Sun. The Sun, of course, appears to move through the daytime sky, so every hour or so it’s wise to reposition the BioLite SolarPanel10+. It’s easy to do; a small sundial is produced in the corner that projects a shadow onto a dial. All you have to do is centre that shadow to ensure the BioLite SolarPanel10+ is receiving direct sunlight.
It’s not going to solve your battery anxiety issues and it requires a sunny day, but used all day the BioLite SolarPanel10+ is a useful and easy to use device for topping-up a smartphone on the go. However, we do wish it had a 5,000 mAh battery as well as a USB-C input for recharging it.