Hands-on with SolarTab, a giant solar panel for your gear

For some people, a battery backup is a part of everyday life. Our phones are growing more capable every day. But when you've got a hour commute home and want to watch a movie or play games the whole ride home at the end of the day, the last thing you want to see is a low-battery warning. Every once in a while you might wonder if it'd be possible to run these phones entirely on self-generated power. Hand-crank generators and solar panels connected to massive battery packs don't sound like the most practical thing on the planet, but if it's a reliable solution it'd be cool to think about your phone as living "off the grid."

Solartab is the latest in a line of products from companies that want to give you the ability to charge your phone with the sun whenever you want. To help you deal with the size of the solar panel, the company has disguised it to look like a tablet.

Take a solar panel, add a 13,000mAh battery and a pair of USB ports for charging whatever you want, and for the most part you've got Solartab. What makes this panel special is its design, not its functionality. Solartab comes with a folding case attached that both makes the panel look like a tablet, and gives you some flexibility in positioning the solar panel when charging. When folded up in its case and stuffed into your bag, Solartab is mostly indistinguishable from any other 10-inch tablet.

A total capacity of 13,000mAh is enough to charge any phone several times over, and with a pair of 2A ports you can charge just about anything you'd need to get you through a day. When you drain the battery, you can charge it through the microUSB port or by using the big solar panel on the front. Solartab has included an optimal charging LED on the side of the casing to let you know when it's receiving the perfect amount of sunlight, so you know how to charge your battery quickly. In our tests this battery gets around 10 percent charged every hour Solartab is in this optimal position. While it's unlikely you'll frequently be able to fully charge Solartab from dead in a single day, it's also not impossible.

Solartab charger

As portable batteries go, Solartab is massive and a little inconvenient to carry around. As a solar panel capable of keeping you charged, Solartab is fantastic. It charges much faster than your average small-ish solar panel, and the case design makes it easy to position and re-position for the best possible charge. If you're looking for a way to go solar with your gear, this isn't a bad place to start.

Android Central readers can also get $35 off a Solartab with the promo code SOLTAB35.

See SolarTab at Amazon

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter