Brunton Solaris 3 Review

brunton solaris 3 solar panel
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brunton solaris 3 solar panel

SUMMARY:

A beautiful looking, well designed panel that unfortunately is useless at charging.

GOOD:

  • Light.
  • Lovely design.
  • Simple USB interface.
  • No proprietary cables.

BAD:

  • Negligible output.
  • Noisy.

I love the idea of portable solar panels. They promise freedom to travel far from civilisation and still be able to use portable electronic devices like smartphones.

Do they live up to that promise? The short answer is, not really. Perhaps in very sunny locations reliable portable solar power is possible. In cloudier countries like the UK the output of lighweight devices is negligible for much of the time.

The Solaris 3 usb has a nominal output of 3 watts and weighs 5oz, about 160g. It has a usb socket at 5.5v so in theory should charge any devices that support usb charging in a similar time.

The panel is flexible, waterproof and seems well-made and durable. It folds up neatly and is very light. The usb connection sticks out prominently from the underside of the device, however, and has large spaces where water could seep in, meaning the panel might not be suitable for using in wet conditions. At this price, and considering that Brunton claim the panel is waterproof, some rubber sealing round the usb socket would have been nice.

The design of the panel means it needs to be tensioned; it won’t sit flat like other panels but must be tied to a rucksack or have the edges held down in some way. The panel is very flexible though and can be folded up quite small. It is very light and non-bulky. However, it isn’t very space efficient, with the solar panels only taking up about half the total space on the device and if you want to attach it to a daysack you may find it’s too long.

The real test though is whether it charges devices well and at the price I was expecting good results. Brunton claim the CIGS panels work in cloudy conditions, which is one of the main reasons I chose it.

Unfortunately the Brunton Solaris proved utterly useless at charging anything I tried. I hadn’t really expected it to charge a smartphone directly but had hoped it would manage a Powermonkey, which can be charged via usb or a much smaller solar panel. The charge light on the Powermonkey lit up indicating the panel was producing power. However, after 10 hours of bright sunshine the Powermonkey indicator only went up one notch indicating it would take about 70 hours of sunshine to charge fully, compared to about 5 hours via usb. In cloudy conditions the Powermonkey actually lost power. Even the 1W panel that came with the Powermonkey charged it in less time. The Brunton Solaris was completely incapable of charging a Samsung Galaxy Europa (one of the smallest smartphones available). The phone indicated charging was in progress but the battery level never went up.

Measuring the output of the device indicated it was much lower than claimed – barely over 1W in bright sunshine compared to a rating of 3W. By comparison, a Silva panel rated at 1.2W produced about the same amount of power – just over 1W. The Silva also performed better in cloudy conditions, producing about 1/10W. This isn’t much but the Brunton only managed about 1/20W.

A curiosity with the charger is that when charging the Samsung Galaxy the device made a strange sound, rather like a dialup modem.

I sent the panel back believing it to be faulty. However, the shop I bought it from tested it and assured me it was in good working order. They were good enough to refund me. I still suspect this unit was faulty and would be happy to review another if that was the case.

Considering the very high cost of this device such poor charging is extremely disappointing and makes the device practically worthless. Even at a quarter the price I couldn’t recommend this solar panel as it is essentially useless for charging most usb devices. It might be ok for a small mp3 player or cell-phone, however, most cell phones use proprietary charges rather than usb. So essentially it’s a dud. And if the charging for a three panel model is so bad I wouldn’t like to try the two panel one.

I really wanted this device to be good as it looks so much neater and is much lighter and less bulky than other panels. Plus I got it for a good price. Unfortunately though I can’t give this product any points out of ten since, assuming it was in working order, it simply didn’t do the job it is supposed to, which is charge usb devices, and seemed to be essentially useless. Brunton are obviously pitching themselves at the high-cost-high-quality end of the market. They need to make much better devices than this to justify such high prices.

0/10

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