The idea makes perfect sense: a portable, high performance solar charger for my smart devices that — best part — is actually compact enough to carry around. That’s the gist behind the Solarpod Buddy solar charger. It sounds kind of new-age and earth-loving, and I was excited to give the compact rechargeable battery a try.

On paper, the Solarpod Buddy Portable charger felt like one more solution to add to our list of smart tips for dealing with the dreaded dead smartphone battery sitch, giving an electrical boost to your tablets, game consoles, and other small appliances without the use of the USB connector.  However, I’m sorry to say, it’s not yet the shining solution I had hoped it would be.

If you’re thinking about getting one, here’s what you should know. My main beef is time; not surprisingly, the site makes no claims about speed of device charging. Probably because using the Solarpod’s USB port, it took about 5 hours for my nearly zeroed out iPad Mini to get to a mere 20 percent. I can’t be all the way sure how long it would have taken to get to 100 percent because I finally quit and resorted to the usual plug-in-wall outlet way of things.

So yeah, I suppose in an emergency if you’re stranded at a campsite that’s better than nothing, but we try to aim for “better than nothing” around here.

Another issue for me is how hot the Solarpod Buddy gets after only a couple of hours. It made me a little concerned about leaving it unattended on my nightstand, let alone children coming in contact with it. And because you need to make use of the built-in solar panels and keep the Buddy’s power bank running, it always needs to be in sunlight or bright indoor light for a good 17 hours to fully charge. That can be a challenge if you hope to use it in a dim office or even in your home as an eco-friendly gadget alternative.

Plus, not too many places that gets 17 hours of bright light in one day.

We have high hopes for the future of compact solar chargers. I really wanted to like this one, but in the end I can’t recommend it to parents who are often caught out there panicking with a dwindling battery. Solarpod is well-reputed for their bigger, pricier chargers for more industrial jobs and maybe they need to try and get some of that mojo into their portable entry into the market.

Instead, take a look at the Joos Orange portable solar charger which is big  (as in, not for your handbag) and costs three times more, but it is speedy, charging quickly even in low light, and getting an iPhone from 0 to 100 in about an hour. That’s the kind of action you want in a charger of any kind.

The Solarpod Buddy Portable Charger is available on Solarpod for $49. For more green tech gadgets, services and solutions, visit our archives. 

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