Good Product, but TERRIBLE advertising...Customer Rating:
First off, I live in Sacramento, CA. So it's not the sunniest location, but still pretty dang sunny.
I purchased the Solaris i6 with the intention to be able to charge any of the following: Ipod Video, Ipod Shuffle, Treo Smartphone, Garmin GPS, Bluetooth headset, & AA or AAA batteries. Usage would be mainly around the house, but I am an outdoor enthusiast that would disappear into backcountry whenever possible taking my trusty Ipod as my only real tie to civilization. Therefore, portability, simplicity & durability would be paramount for my outings.
At first tests, the Solaris was TECHNICALLY capable of charging everything EXCEPT the Ipod Video. The shuffle, phone, GPS & Bluetooth were fabulous - no problems there. The AA & AAA batteries were close to impossible. Majority of chargers out there are just not able to work with the current that's created from these panels. I did find a charger that could, however the limit was a single battery at a time! If 2 batteries were placed in the charger, the lights would flicker a little -- but charge. The SECOND a cloud, haze, or anything (possibly even a ladybug!) passed over the sun, the threshold was broken & the battery charger would flash "error." Unfortunately, the charger would either sit there flashing error (& no longer charging) until I came back later thinking my batteries are charged, or I would have to reset the charger by either removing the batteries & re-inserting (or unplugging & re-plugging the charger to the solar panels). So... technically, there probably is a charger out there that can work off of the current that the i6 produces, but in my experience -- I'm as close to finding that charger as I am to finding a cure for Mad Cow Disease. So, expect the stated "3-4 hrs to charge 4 AA batteries" to actually read, "3-4 hrs PER AA battery." As for the Ipod... IMPOSSIBLE as well using the provided Ipod cable. I figured I had a defective Ipod cable -- as the terminal contacts were too small for me to test with my voltage meter. Concluding so, I exchanged the Solaris for another one hoping that the Ipod issue would be resolved. Well, the problem was not resolved.
I can only conclude 1 of 2 conclusions, either: 1) I have terrible luck, & got 2 units with defective cables, or 2) the i6 is not capable of creating enough juice to charge the Ipod Video (at least in my 95 degrees, full-sun early September conditions here in Northern CA). I'm assuming scenario #2. That said, I think it's terrible to tout a product specifically for the Ipod -- yet it can't deliver. As a manufacturer, I'd have tested the product against available generations of Ipods that use the connection that you are providing. There is no disclaimer (except that the lighting conditions may vary from our test type deal, etc.), so it really is disappointing. If you have a USB car adapter however, you can use this with the normal Ipod USB cable & the Brunton provided Female Cig adapter. This WILL charge the Ipod -- but you now have to use 3 items vs. the 1 Brunton Ipod cable. For some this may be insignificant, but for me -- this feels a little jacked-up when you consider the Ipod cable is about $10... which means some of my purchase price is completely wasted. Not to mention the fact that I now have to carry more bulk when outdoors.
So bottom-line, this product is capable of charging an Ipod -- as well as a good majority of SMALL electronics. UN-intentional deception aside, I like the Solaris for what it is capable of delivering in such a portable package. I will however grade them hard, as I believe in delivering on a promise or claim.
On a side note, I am impressed with the Solaris line to the point that I am currently contemplating purchasing the 26 as well for larger electronics (digital SLR batteries & portable DVD players), for longer comfortable basecamps away from power.
One last point to consider... if you are purchasing these units SOLELY for emergency power (cell phones), you might want to consider the 12 or 26 watt Solaris instead. The 6 watts work beautifully under sunny conditions, & at about 25%-50% under light to moderate overcast conditions (but still enough to activate my phone charger). I would doubt though that enough current would be produced under heavier overcast (conditions typically associated with emergency situations) to initiate charging for most cell phones. For those of you thinking, "it's for situations like car trouble on a sunny day (not natural disasters)," let's face it, why would you need something as expensive as solar?... why not go with something like an extra battery... easier & cheaper to buy & carry. With a larger Solaris, there is a greater chance that the panels will collect enough energy to trigger your chargers, as a 10-15% output from the 26 would be most likely enough to activate charging. Just something to think about...