The Voltaic Generator bag from SolarHabit makes a big, bold claim about their NZ$900 laptop bag:
[quote]The Voltaic Generator is the first solar bag powerful enough to charge a laptop.[/quote]
We all know that marketing claims are about as accurate as a bent arrow, but this one is bordering on outright lies. Let me break it down for you:
- The bag does not charge your laptop. It charges a custom battery pack that is included with the bag.
- The custom battery pack does not have enough power to charge most (I’d go as far as to say all) laptops. At best it will slow down the rate of discharge. At worst (like me) your laptop won’t even take power from the pack.
Seriously. If you’re going to make a statement like Voltaic do, you’re going to need to back it up. I guess they can fall back on the fact they say “enough to charge a laptop“. One specific, hand-selected laptop perhaps? In their own instructions they even say “Note: the laptop may just run rather than recharge. … The laptop may not show the external power source, however the power remaining on the laptop batter indicator should hold steady.”
In my case, when I plugged the pack into my HP 6730b laptop, I got a lovely little popup like the one on the right. I can only assume from that point that the laptop hardware actually refused to draw any charge from the device. I noticed no decrease in discharge rate. In fact, I unplugged the Voltaic battery pack, let my laptop run down to warning level, then plugged it back in again. Within a couple of minutes the laptop ran out of power and went through its normal low-power hibernate-then-shutdown routine. The Voltaic Generator did nothing for me, and I’m not alone.
Look, despite all of the above, the bag itself is fine. It’s one of the most well-constructed laptop bags I’ve ever seen – nigh on bulletproof. It has heaps of pockets and space, and should fit most 15″ laptops. The solar panel and battery pack add a good half-kilo to the weight of the bag, but that’s the price you pay for portable power I guess. Check out the gallery below this post for shots of the bag and its internals.
The charging pack is well designed and works fine for charging gadgets. It has a massive number (I counted 20) of adapters for various laptop and gadget power plugs. It certainly charged my iPhone and a couple of various cell phones without any trouble. You can switch the main output voltage between four different ranges that should accommodate most gadgets, and the USB port always outputs at 5V, even when you’re (trying to) charge your laptop from the main output port.
So if you want to spend the money, go ahead, but I’d highly recommend you check that the pack will work with your laptop, and I’d park any preconceptions about “charging” your laptop. This is emergency Laptop power at best. If you’re just looking to charge gadgets when on the go, I’d say go for one of the lower-spec bags available.
Gallery of photos: