Clever, white and sleek, the Bolt is Solio’s entry to the solar charging wars. This simple, intuitive device is perfect for getting the power for your smartphone, tablet, or other USB-charging device straight from that big ball of flaming gas that hangs over our heads every day.
The name of the game is simplicity for the Bolt—just plug your device’s charger into the Bolt’s USB port and hit the button. Simple. The Bolt can charge something about the same rate as a wall charger, which makes for pretty efficient usage of the 2000 mAh Li-Poly battery.
The Bolt’s single button is LED lit and shines softly red when the Bolt is charging or flashes to indicate its level of charge. The Bolt even has two separate charging settings for most devices and the output your Apple products require, and you can change between them just by holding the single button down—different colors to the light shows which setting it is optimized for.
Solio claims that the Bolt’s battery will charge in 8-10 hours of direct sun. That sounds great…except I was not able to duplicate this in testing. A video I watched of Solio employees charging their devices showed frequent adjustments on the pencil stand that helps hold the Bolt at the right angle, but due to work schedules, I was not able to attend the Bolt that much. When setting up in the morning, adjusting at lunch, and collecting at the end of the day, I was able to get about 20-40% charge in a day, sometimes more if I could be more attentive.
The Bolt’s construction feels solid enough, and we all liked its looks, but with the top of the stacked solar panels always exposed, I worried about durability. That top panel swivels around the hole through which you can put your pencil stand, and that hole proved perfect for inserting a flexible 6” Nite Ize GearTie reusable rubber twist tie. In this way I could easily secure the Bolt to my pack to charge while I hiked. Brilliant, I thought—except it didn’t yield an efficient charge, most likely because the device wasn’t lined up well with the sun.
The Solio Bolt retails for $60-70, and as a reserve battery for charging your device away from a power source, it’s great. However, its primary purpose is to charge you off the grid from the practically inexhaustible power of the sun, and in that, I was slightly disappointed because of usability. Baring user error or a defective model (our results don’t seem typical of other reviews I checked), I was a little disappointed with the Bolt’s ability to practically take advantage of the sun. We will continue to test and will ask Solio about user error or a defect. Keep your eyes open for a comparison test between the Bolt and a competitor.