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ReadySet Solar Kit

The last set of gadget reviews was my most popular blog entry yet. I’m not quite sure how they fit under the title of Biblically Thinking, but folks like reading them and I like playing with gadgets, so more are on the way!  I decided to do the reviews individually rather than as a group so that I can write them up in a more timely fashion. As a semi-related aside, I did finally get my Nest thermostat installed, so I will be writing about that and my Philips Hue multicolor LED personal wireless lighting system in the near future.

blog029The Fenix International ReadySet Solar Kit is a solar recharger, primarily for cellphones. I first learned about the device as a Kickstarter project. (If you have not yet checked out Kickstarter, it is worth your time. It is a great way for people to get worthwhile projects, like this one, funded.) Basically, the ReadySet is a solar panel connected to a battery. The solar panel charges the battery whenever the sun is shining and the battery allows you to recharge your devices at any time, even at night.

The battery has banana connectors on the back to connect the solar panel (or other source of DC electricity, such as the included AC adapter). On the front, are two USB ports and two 12V cigarette-lighter sockets (like in your car). There are also some status lights to indicate the level of charging and such.

blog028Using the device, my iPhone and iPad have been solar charged for the last last few days. Supposedly, the battery holds enough energy for ten iPhone recharges. I’ll have to see whether the sun can generate enough power outside my office window to keep my devices charged, given the haphazard placement of the 15W solar panel (not actually directly south nor at a proper angle). So far, it seems to be keeping up.

The ReadySet will be a nice device to have in case of emergencies. To that end, it also came with an LED light that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. Fenix really designed the ReadySet for Third World  environments where there is no, or only sporadic, electricity. In those environments, this device can have a big impact. You can even get an adapter to connect it to a bicycle and charge it that way. Fenix sees the device as being durable enough for very harsh environments and can allow people to charge cellphones in places with no electricity. Their estimates are that over one billion people live in such circumstances. As such, it may have a real impact on those regions. That goal was what first interested me in the product on Kickstarter.

There are, however, some early version flaws with the device. The bottom USB port will not work with iPhones, though the top one does. The issue is something about the special USB pin out that iPhones (and iPads) use and only the top USB port supports it. The USB connectors themselves are too snug and are hard to plug into. Things like the banana connectors make it feel like a pre-production unit. Also, the status lights are minimal—I would love to have a small display to tell me how much energy is coming from the solar panel or what percentage full the battery is. Despite those quibbles, the ReadySet does what it sets out to do and could be very useful in an emergency without power or in a location with limited or no power.

Though the ReadySet Solar Kit is rather pricy at $275 (I got mine cheaper by being a Kickstarter supporter), I’m happy with it so far. After all, it provides one more way of being smug about my devices while possibly helping folks around the world!

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