There are always a few solar charging products at the Macworld expo, and the 2013 show was no exception. Some of the companies have come and gone, but Goal Zero has continued to expand its charging products. MacNN
stopped by the company's booth to check out the new Switch 8 kit
and Sherpa 50
portable charging systems.
The Switch 8 package includes a 3.6V, 2.2Ah lithium-ion battery pack, along with the company's Nomad 3.5 solar panel. The pairing appears to be perfectly suited to charging a smartphone or a tablet, though the 3.5W power rating from the 98-square-inch panel likely requires perfect placement in bright sunlight.
For most users, a solar panel without a backup battery does not provide much help. Pairing the panel with a detachable battery enables the system to be used when sunlight is not immediately available, while the panel and battery can be left together in the sun to charge without requiring the mobile device to be present all day.
Users who need more power for larger devices can step up to the Sherpa 50, a standalone battery pack with over 50Wh of capacity and a voltage range between 9V and 13V. This is obviously necessary to keep a tablet running for a week in the backwoods, or to provide effective reserve power for a notebook computer. We were disappointed to find that the notebook output is not compatible with Apple's MagSafe adapters, though we suspect Apple may not have been keen on allowing such operation.
The Sherpa can be charged via AC outlets, with a claimed charge time of three hours, or from a solar panel. The latter option is best suited for a large solar panel if the battery pack needs to be recharged in a single daylight cycle.
The Switch 8 kit is now available for $120, while the Sherpa 50 commands $250. Both price points seem reasonable for the technology, and we are looking forward to finding out what Goal Zero has in store for the future.