Sunday, 16 January 2011


The powermonkey-eXplorer package by powertraveller is a solar and battery charger package for charging mobile phones, mp3 players and other small electronic devices.  The pack contains:

A solar charger called the solarmonkey.

A rechargeable battery called the powermonkey-eXplorer (same name as the package, making it a bit confusing).

And a bunch of connectors, AC adapter with multiple plugs and a few cables.

From here on when I say powermonkey-eXplorer, I am referring to the battery.

The powermonkey-eXplorer can be charged via the AC adapter, via USB from a PC or via the solarmonkey getting power from the sun..  Here I will only discuss charging with power from the sun.  Just connect the powermonkey-eXplorer to the solarmonkey and leave it in the sun.

The solarmonkey itself can be used to charge devices directly, but it does not have any over-charging, short-circuit and other electric type protection.

So,  how good is the whole package as a solar charging device?

From trying out,  it seems to take about 4 days of 6 hours per day of direct sunlight for the solarmonkey to fully charge the powermonkey-eXplorer.  Of course I do not always get 6 hours of direct sunlight everyday, but I am glad to say that even if the sun shines on and off, if I continued to charge the powermonkey-eXplorer, it will charge.

A Blackberry Torch 9800 charges fine with the powermonkey-eXplorer BUT will not charge with the solarmonkey.  A full powermonkey-eXplorer charges my 9800 from completely empty to completely full.

One strange thing though, if I daisy chained the solarmonkey to the powermonkey-eXplorer to the Torch 9800, then the Torch won't charge.  It seems that if the solarmonkey is connected to the powermonkey-eXplorer, the powermonkey-eXplorer just won't charge other devices properly.

An Iphone 4 can be charged with the powermonkey-eXplorer using the provided tip, but the Iphone complains about connecting an incompatible device and the phone signal drops out.  If I used the Iphone's USB cable and connected it to the powermonkey-eXplorer USB socket, it does charge without complaining and the phone signal seemed to work fine too.  A full powermonkey-eXplorer charges the Iphone 4 to only about 85% capacity.  I have not tried connecting the solarmonkey directly to the Iphone 4.

A Dopod 818 pro charges fine from both the powermonkey-eXplorer and the solarmonkey.

An old Nokia 1100 cannot be charged by the powermonkey-eXplorer nor the solarmonkey.

Another old Nokia 3310 can be charged by the powermonkey-eXplorer but it is problematic.  Every minute the powermonkey-eXplorer will stop charging, and you have to turn it on to continue.  When I did constantly turn on the powermonkey-eXplorer to charge the 3310,  it did charge up.  Very annoying though and not worth the effort.  The solarmonkey cannot charge the Nokia 3310 directly.

One of the best things about the powermonkey-eXplorer is the LCD and LED indicators.  The LCD shows the level of battery power and the LED shows whether it is being charged and when it is fully charged.

I was crazy enough to buy two packs of solar charging goodness and I noticed that one of the solarmonkeys worked under light overcast conditions where as the other did not.  Although how much it charges under the overcast condition, I do not know.  According to powertraveller they are constantly improving the units so it looks like I got the solarmonkeys from different production batches.  So, not all solarmonkeys are equal, but they both do work well under direct sunlight.

Over time, the rubber shells of the solarmonkeys and the powermonkeys have become sticky.  I am unsure if it is due to heat from the sun or it came in contact with something that it did not like.  I just hope the rubber shells keeps well rather than break off.

Update 06/12/2011
The powermonkey does not charge the Moshi Double Bassburger properly.  But it does charge the McGear Mini Speaker II Stereo properly.

Update 05/05/2012
After updating the OS on my Blackberry Torch 9800, one of the powermonkey-eXplorer units will NOT charge the 9800 anymore.  Hmmmm. Actually it could be that the powermonkey-eXplorer battery is dead.  I will need to do further testing on this.

Update 10/07/2012
I have confirmed that the powermonkey-eXplorer battery that will not charge my Torch 9800, is actually dead. After charging in the sun, the indicator reports that charge is full, but when I try to charge something with it, it drops to empty very quickly.  It did not matter whether I was trying to charge my Torch 9800, an Iphone 4, or the McGear speakers.

So, one solar battery only lasted one and a half years.  The other solar battery is still going strong.

The shells of the units have become more sticky over time, but I am happy to say that it does not look damaged in any way.  Dirty but not damaged.

Update 02/09/2012
The powermonkey-eXplorer can charge a Kindle Touch.  I only tried it using the USB head and the USB to mini-USB cable to charge the Kindle.  One full charge of the powermonkey-eXplorer charges about 3/4 of the Kindle Touch's battery.

Update 21/01/2015
Both powermonkey-eXplorers are dead.  One died about two years ago, but the second one died recently.  Both have the same problem of the battery not holding any charge.  At two years plus and four years plus, the batteries did not live very long.   The units also grew more sticky and dirty with the solar panel casing forming cracks.  Here is a picture of the same blue powermonkey-eXplorer after all these years.

My experience with solar stuff has only been with a solar calculator, a solar rechargeable wrist watch (10 years and still going strong) and a crappy Zazz solar charger which seems to only get enough solar power to light the inbuilt green LED.