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Tech Savvy: The power of the sun

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! Well, this first week back from vacation has been interesting, I think I’m most grateful that I was cautious enough this year to not get terribly sunburned, so at least it’s not torture to wear a shirt and tie.

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This week I wanted to share a review on a nifty little device that was waiting for me when I got back — the Eton Corp Boost Solar. Sound familiar? It should. I had previously reviewed their Boost Turbine which was the portable power solution that had a kinetic hand crank as a recharging option. I am excited to say that Eton Corp continues to provide awesome power solutions that are unique and have a place in our daily lives here up north.

The Boost Solar is just what it sounds like, a power boost with solar capabilities. At the core of the product is a 5000mAh rechargeable Lithium battery. This is enough to power most smartphones about two and-a-half times, and has 2.1A ability so you can also charge tablets with this device. Just like other rechargeable solutions the Boost Solar can be charged via a micro USB cable from any standard power source — wall outlet, computer, car charger, etc. That’s where the similarities end. The upper side is covered in grids of solar panels that also allow you to recharge the battery via solar power.

Wow. This is tremendous. The main appeal to devices like these is that many times when you have the need to recharge your device it’s because you are not near a power source. If you were you’d simply plug in your device and let it charge like normal. For outdoorsmen, kayakers, hikers, boaters, etc. you often don’t have access to standard power sources. The majority of the recharging solutions on the market now still rely on the ability to recharge themselves using standard power sources. This is where Eton’s products set themselves apart.

Picture this: You decide to take a canoe trip but you want to bring you smartphone or tablet to help document your trip. In order to keep your device powered you need to recharge it. You have two options — use a standard recharger, but since they can’t be recharged in kind you have to bring multiples of them; or you can opt for the new Boost Solar, which will recharge itself using sunlight. The advantage here is clear.

Under the hood there are some neat features built into the Boost Solar. The exterior is made of a rubberized plastic and can protect it from drops and falls up to about 3 feet. There are cutouts in the corners which allow you to lash it to your gear for optimal sun placement. One thing I really like is that they made it splash-resistant. It’s not waterproof but there are rubber pieces that protect the plugs, so if you take it on a canoe some water drips won’t ruin the device.

It’s square in shape with rounded corners and is about 6 inches square. For a full list of specs go to http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/boostsolar. It weighs in at 11.7 ounces but really doesn’t feel overly heavy. At first you may think it’s a little on the large side but with this device you need to keep in mind it’s not meant to be carried in your pocket, it should be placed in the sunlight.

One final feature that was a great piece of planning was the battery itself. It is housed on the underside of the device and like other rechargers it has a button you can push which will light up LEDs to show the charge status of the device. It automatically starts when you plug it into your device and shuts off the same way. What makes this battery so cool is that it is removable from the housing and can act as a standalone piece. That’s right, what I’m really saying is that you can get more than one battery and use one while another is recharging. That right there is your best-of-both-worlds scenario, have your cake and eat it too, the whole enchilada.

The bottom line is that this is a great device, it works on all my devices and it does what it’s supposed to do. You can’t ask much more than that, can you? Because of its unique self-sustaining abilities it also makes this an ideal device for people who aren’t near a steady power supply. With its $99 price tag it’s incredibly affordable, in line with many other rechargers. All in all I give this product a huge thumbs-up for effectiveness, innovation and having just an overall awesome product.

IMHO

In case you missed it this week, the iPhone rumor mills have been buzzing as the one year anniversary of the iPhone 5 nears on Sept. 10. Speculation has already begun on what will be released this year, accompanied with the usual photos and shots in the dark. Something that stuck out to me was the hinting that Apple will consider releasing an “economy” model with a lot of the same guts but with a colored plastic shell and some interchangeability. This coincides with the assumption that any iPhone released will not be a full overhaul but would be something more like an iPhone 5S with minimal major changes so the idea of having a low-cost option is appealing to gain new customers. The risk is that those who want to spend less, or simply want some color, may abandon the more expensive option. This is also tied to the announcement of the Moto X, which also comes in multiple colors. At any rate, I think regardless of the changes there will be a mad rush for the newest version but I would bet that any new changes will not get the iPhone up to par with the rest of the top tier smartphones available.

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