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Solar Freeloader Pico

Solar Freeloader Pico solar-charged back-up power supply

Energy for free

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Review Running out of battery power can clobber your day and leave you incommunicado when you least want to be. There are various secondary power supplies on the market, but few of them can recharge themselves entirely from daylight. The Freeloader Pico claims to be one that can.

Solar Freeloader Pico

Solar's Freeloader Pico: free energy on tap?

The Pico is essentially a 800mAh lithium-ion battery attached to a small solar panel and a USB port. It can be charged from any USB socket too, though that takes away the appeal of getting ‘free’ power.

There are four LED indicator lights, distributed in a little sine wave pattern just above the solar panel. They light up when you connect a gadget - the more lights are on, the more power is available. One of them lights up when the Pico is charging over USB, while another indicates when it’s soaking up sunlight. They both go out when charging is complete, so at least there's some use to it.

As advised by the manual, I first charged the Pico from my PC's USB port and the battery was full to the brim in three-and-a-half hours, slap bang in the middle of the three- to four-hour range Solar quotes. The Pico then dispensed its charge to a Samsung SGH-X820 phone, taking the handset from no charge to a full three bars in just under 45 minutes. So far, all the claims were fulfilled.

Solar Freeloader Pico

The indicators show you how much charge you have - but only when you connect a device up

I did have to ask Solar for extra connectors for the Samsung and an LG Shine as neither of these phones were supported out of the box. Solar bundles standard connectors for Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones, and provides a mini USB adaptor for handsets that use that kind of connector. It has a full-size USB port too, so you can charge iPhones and the like that way. Solar provides a host of adaptors for a huge array of gadgets, priced at £4 or £5.

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