Power, power, power. If you own a modern smartphone, chances are you've experienced the heart-chilling moment when your battery drops to zero and your connection to the world goes to a gentle sleep.
That's where something like the mPowerpad 2 Ultra solar charger comes in.
There are battery cases and battery packs, and then there are everything-including-the-kitchen-sink devices like the mPowerpad 2 Ultra. This thing doesn't just convert sunlight into stored electricity, it also has a removable battery pack, plus built-in FM radio, reading light, flashlight, SOS signal and ultrasonic insect repellent (there are six versions of the mPowerpad 2 with varying features).
The mPowerpad 2 Ultra looks innocuous with a plain beige design. The plastic shell doesn't feel high-grade but Third Wave Power, which makes the product, says that it's sealed with a silicon gasket and grommets, and is water as well as dust resistant. Its height and width are only slightly larger than an iPad, at 610g (for the Ultra version) and it doesn't feel too heavy (unless you're an ultralight backpacker).
The various features on the mPowerpad 2 Ultra are activated via a clickwheel by the side. A circle of LEDs light up to show which function you're on, and it all works okay except for the radio. Because there's no numerical indicator, you never know in which direction or what band you're searching for to find your favourite radio station.
The SOS function flashes SOS in Morse code using both the reading light and flashlight. An indirect problem with that is that if you're out of other sources of light, the blue LEDs on the mPowerPad 2 Ultra aren't powerful enough to show you which control you're currently at in the dark; so trying to activate the SOS function in the dark (or any others) is a concern.
Rated at 35 lumens, the reading light isn't terribly bright. Neither is the flashlight, which is located on the top of the device. But we figure that nobody will seriously use the mPowerpad 2 Ultra as a primary source of light, and there are other interesting solar alternatives to solve your light problems.