Power, power, power. If you own a modern smartphone, chances are you’ve experienced the heart-chilling moment when your battery drops to zero and your connection to the world goes to a gentle sleep.
That’s where something like the mPowerpad 2 Ultra solar charger comes in. There are battery cases and battery packs, and then there are everything-including-the-kitchen-sink devices like the mPowerpad 2 Ultra. This thing doesn’t just convert sunlight into stored electricity, it also has a removable battery pack, plus built-in FM radio, reading light, flashlight, SOS signal and ultrasonic insect repellent (there are six versions of the mPowerpad 2 with varying features).
The mPowerpad 2 Ultra looks innocuous with a plain beige design. The plastic shell doesn’t feel high-grade but Third Wave Power, which makes the product, says that it’s sealed with a silicon gasket and grommets, and is water as well as dust resistant. Its height and width are only slightly larger than an iPad, at 610g (for the Ultra version) and it doesn’t feel too heavy (unless you’re an ultralight backpacker).
The various features on the mPowerpad 2 Ultra are activated via a clickwheel by the side. A circle of LEDs light up to show which function you’re on, and it all works okay except for the radio. Because there’s no numerical indicator, you never know in which direction or what band you’re searching for to find your favorite radio station. The SOS function flashes SOS in Morse code using both the reading light and flashlight. An indirect problem with that is that if you're out of other sources of light, the blue LEDs on the mPowerPad 2 Ultra aren't powerful enough to show you which control you're currently at in the dark; so trying to activate the SOS function in the dark (or any others) is a concern.
Rated at 35 lumens, the reading light isn’t terribly bright. Neither is the flashlight, which is located on the top of the device. But we figure that nobody will seriously use the mPowerpad 2 Ultra as a primary source of light, and there are other interesting solar alternatives to solve your light problems.
What we like about the mPowerpad 2 Ultra is how it comes with a detachable mPowerpack battery pack. When you charge the mPowerpad 2 Ultra under the sun, it will first fill up its own internal battery, and then fill up the battery pack. Both can also charge via wall socket, and both can charge devices via USB. But the battery pack provides a nice portable alternative which you remove and carry around. However, the seam doesn’t seem to be finely grooved; on our set there’s a slight gap between the docked battery pack and the mPowerpad 2 Ultra.
There are two USB ports on the mPowerpad 2 Ultra and one on the portable battery pack. The user manual recommends that you charge Apple devices using port 1 and Samsung devices using port 2, the specs list that the two USB ports output 5V, up to 2A. It’s likely that USB port 1 outputs more charge for Apple devices which require more juice. Unfortunately, neither of the ports are labeled, which would have been more helpful.
The mPowerpad 2 starts at S$149 for the mPowerpad 2 and S$59 for the mPowerpack.