There are a lot of solar products out there nowadays, many of which can’t do the job they’re supposed to do. Or they work so slowly that you might as well be trying to charge your device with a hairdryer. On low setting. But there are some companies trying to provide solar chargers which are apparently meaty enough to work, so we thought we’d test one to see if it’s worth your time and money.
The Xenta 13W Solar Briefcase is a mid-priced solar charger unit which aims to deliver a decent charging performance at a reasonable price. The unit is aimed at campers, boaters, RV folk and those who may just need the occasional power source while roaming off grid.
The first thing you notice is the weight of the unit. This is not a lightweight product by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily it’s nice and slim, and has a good solid handle, which makes it easier to transport than the weight would suggest. We definitely wouldn’t recommend it as something you’ll carry around by hand for long distances, but that’s not the target market really.
The product comes with a set of accessories and a fairly sparse but functional user guide, which gives you the information you need to connect up to other appliances and devices. At just 13W it’s not going to run your whole boat, but then again, it’s small enough to fit in where more powerful solar panels won’t, so it’s a matter of compromise. See our video below for an overview of the panel in action.
The unit itself is very solidly built, with a quality feel about it. No flexing or dodgy fittings. The panels snap together with a magnetic catch, and when open you have a nice set of basic but useful stands to help you point the unit at the right angle to the sun.
The accessories are also valuable. As well as both male and female cigar adapter cables, you get a pair of crocodile clips on a cable and a voltage regulator to keep your battery charging nice and problem free. The last thing you need is variations in power when you’re suffering from patchy cloud and sunlight.
The nice surprise is how well the panel works in practice. Having become slightly cynical over the years with solar panel products which quite frankly failed to charge anything in under 14 days, it’s nice to find one which actually works as advertised. As you’ll see from the video we managed to get a decent output even without full on bright sunlight, which is impressive.
As with all solar chargers, however, you will need to be patient, and it’s definitely better to charge a battery rather than try to charge a device directly if you can avoid it, just to be safe. But that said, the performance of the unit suggests that this is a product that will actually pay for itself in convenience and especially so in an emergency.
We can’t claim to be electrical engineering experts, so for us anything that looks like it can charge up a battery, even if it’s only a car battery, purely from the sun’s rays gets our vote. The fact that there’s no fuss, it’s just a matter of attaching the right cables and clips, makes the proposition even better. The price is also not too bad, which helps.