New Delhi: As the number of gadgets in my backpack increases, so does my thirst for power. The problem arises when I am away from a power source, say while travelling in a bus or out camping. Therefore a couple of power banks also add to the weight on my shoulders.
The problem with most power banks is that they only supply power and nothing else built in. This is where the Solmate Flare is different and this difference is the device's USP.
The Flare is not only a portable charger, but is also a flashlight and a lantern and is solar rechargeable. What more can you ask for? Maybe USB storage, a feature that was available on the Flare's predecessor, the Solmate Fusion.
I don't actually mind the absence of the USB flash drive feature very much, but the Solmate Fusion's storage (read the review) came in handy in a few emergency situations. Maybe Solmate should launch a version that comes with storage.
I had taken the Solmate Flare along for a recent vacation and it was of great help. I used the flashlight and lantern extensively and the LEDs give out enough light (the specs say it is 100 lumens) and also the USB port to charge my smartphone and camera.
When I took it out of the box, was quite impressed with the design. Only it felt a tad too big, maybe that was necessary to fit in bigger solar panels.
The USB Type A socket can be used to charge almost any portable electronic device. It also comes with an assortment of popular charging tips. The micro-USB port on the other end is used to USB charge the device. There's a red/green LED indicator to let you know of the charging status. The Flare comes along with a little corduroy pouch to carry the charger and its accessories.
On one side is the solar panel and on the opposite is the lantern which is lighted up by 10 white LEDs. The torch is on one tip and there's a hook on the other, for you to hook it up to your backpack (or elsewhere) for the Flare to bask in the sun and gather some juice for its battery.
The 1200mAh 3.7V Li-ion battery charges up quite fast via USB, but solar is time consuming - it can take upto 8-12 hours that too dependent on the light conditions. A quick solar recharge may not be enough to charge up your phone but can give light for quite a while.
Even when fully recharged, the Flare couldn't fully charge my phone's 1350mAh battery (I know it can't, but just to give you an idea). Some people might like their emergency chargers to be able to store more juice. The needs of the modern man are many and 1350mAh cannot not fulfill all of them. Therefore I also carried my Sony 4000mAh Sony CP-A2LS power bank along.
One control that irritated me a bit was the single button for all functions - torch, blinker, lantern and lantern in dim mode. This means that if you have turned the device on to use the torch, to merely turn it off you will need to make four button presses.
The lantern is a boon during unexpected power cuts. Only if they could've added a little stand to help the device hold its position. That it is curvy all around means that you'll need some external support to get the device in a standing position.
The shiny transparent covers of the solar panel as well as the lantern are prone to scratches.
The Solmate Flare is a good looking, relatively lightweight portable solar charger with handy additional features. You may hardly solar charge it, but then it is always good to have that for emergencies.
Available at an introductory offer price of Rs 1,295 it isn't very expensive but the original price of Rs 1,795 does seem a bit steep.
The Solmate Flare has found a place for itself in my backpack, even if it has to share space with other portable chargers in there.