Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar Charger Is Small, Tough And Just Powerful Enough [Review]


Switch 8 by Goal Zero
Category: Solar Chargers
Works With: Anything with a USB port
Price: $99

As travel chargers go, The Goal Zero Switch 8 kit is about as convenient as it gets. The two panels fold into one easy-to-carry pack, and on the back is a zippered mesh bag in which the battery pack and USB converter sit. There’s space in that bag for a phone or other small device, and there are enough paracord loops around the edges to secure the pack, open or closed, to just about anything.

So how does it perform?

The Good

This pocket is a master stroke. It makes the whole thing easier to use.

The kit is small, lightweight and easy to use. It’s also tough, wrapped up in what looks like Cordura nylon and stitched together, not glued. Because of it’s folding design, you can also prop it up like a book if there’s nowhere convenient to hang it, but with the wealth of hooks and loops you’ll probably be able to throw it up anywhere: a twig on a tree’ll do the trick, as will bike bungee cords.

With all the hooks and loops you’ll be able to hang it up anywhere: a twig on a tree’ll do the trick.

The panels send their power to a small converter, about the size of a DSLR battery, glued to the inside of the rear mesh pocket (with double zippers, so you can let a cord exit anywhere to charge bigger gadgets, or run a cable into a bike pannier for example).

The converter has a USB port and the kit comes with a male-to-female USB extender so you can plug the battery pack in and loop the cable to make it sit nice and neat in the pocket. The battery is the shape of a light saber handle, and has a flip-out USB plug at one end and a USB port at the other. There’s also a row of blue LEDs to keep you informed of charging status and charge remaining (it flashes during charging, and a button lights up the lamps at other times to check levels).

There’s also a hidden feature. The end caps screw off to let you add different modules. You could put on a little LED flashlight tip, for instance.

Fit and finish-wise, the whole kit is utilitarian but well made. Think of Lenovo rather than Apple and you have it. This thing mightn’t be very stylish, but it will last.Finally, you can just plug the battery straight into a USB charger to juice it

The Bad

Hangin’ out.

There isn’t much not to like. Unlike other chargers I have used, this one actually keeps charging until its battery dies, which is better than some smart circuit switching it off.

The USB ports are a very tight fit, but that might be good if it stops the cables from dropping out.

The USB plug on the end of the battery is a bit crappy.

In fact, the only criticism I have is that the USB plug on the end of the battery is a bit crappy. It slides out of standard ports (even the iPad charger won’t grip it) and as the whole plug section swings through 180˚ and is also pretty loos, it can be hard to even get it in the plug. Think nervous teenager about to lose his virginity and you’ll get the idea.

The Verdict

The charger does what it’s supposed to, juicing the iPhone in one to two hours, and putting a decent dent in the battery of the iPad mini. To be honest, no solar panel that’s designed for phones that I have tested has been up to juicing an iPad, but in combination with a regular battery pack (you can charge heftier batteries using the Goal Zero) you should be good for most situations.

I’d recommend this, based on weight, toughness and actual charging power. It’s not the most powerful, but you can hang it from a day pack and not even notice it.

Product Name: : Switch 8

The Good: Light, tough, small.

The Bad: Screwy tolerances in the USB port and plug make things either too loose or too tight.

The Verdict A well-balanced and effective little travel gadget.

Buy from: Goal Zero