Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 04/22/08

Earth Day review: HYmini wind and solar powered charger

By Robert Jensen

Since this week we celebrate Earth Day (April 22) I thought it appropriate to review the wind and solar powered charger called the HYmini. This is the era of the iPod, cell phone, and digital camera. Everyone has them and the few that don't will soon. Many of these devices have built-in batteries that are not user replaceable so what do you do if you're on a long hiking trip or biking across the state and the closest power source is beyond the horizon? What if you want to save on your electrical bill? What if you want an environmentally friendly way to recharge your various gadgets? The simple, and green, solution is the handy HYmini. With its capability to charge up its internal 1200mAh lithium-ion battery using the built-in fan or external solar panel, the HYmini allows you almost unlimited power for your iPod, cell phone or other 5 volt compatible devices.

In the box
The company sent me the handsome looking black HYmini which sports a grass-green colored stripe around its circumference. Appropriately it is shaped like one half of a Yin-Yang symbol with the fan positioned in the fattest part. The HYmini fits nicely in your palm, and well, it just looks cool. The HYmini comes in several color choices ��" black, green or white. I'm reviewing the basic package which retails for $49.99. The kit includes the wind powered HYmini, AC/DC power adapter, USB transfer cable and plug adapters for Nokia, Motorola, Sony/Ericsson, Samsung and LG cell phones.


Note: the supplied LG adapter did not work with my new model LG Musiq cell phone.

Also available from HYmini are the miniSOLAR (solar panel battery) for $24.99, arm band for $14.99, and bicycle/motorcycle handlebar mount for $8.99. (the last two items come in matching colors to your HYmini)

Ok, so how does it all work? To start out the directions recommend you use the AC adapter to charge up the internal battery the first time. After that you can either use the fan for a partial charge up or the solar panel for a complete charge of the Li-Ion battery for free. You can gang up to four of the solar panels for even faster charging times. If you feel like paying for the power you can use the AC adapter, or use the USB connector and charge the HYmini by connecting it to your laptop's USB outlet.

Note: the USB adapter is also used to connect your HYmini to your device's USB/charger port.

The fan will charge the battery in winds from 9 mph to 40 mph; above that the unit will not charge. When spinning fast enough to charge the blades of the fan give off a glow. I'd like to add again that the built-in fan is only capable of partially charging the Hymini's battery. However, you can use these partial charges over and over again to keep your device going, potentially, forever with nary an AC outlet around.

What first caught my attention about this device was its ability to grab power from a number of sources, the coolest being wind power. (Sometimes you can't get a sunny day no matter how many times you wash your car, hang out the laundry to dry or plan a picnic. So wind power can be a nice backup. Plus, how often have you gotten a solar panel to work efficiently at night?)

Place the unit securely outdoor on a windy day, strap it to your arm next time you go out jogging or for a ride on your bicycle or motorcycle; or strap it to the bike itself and you have potentially unlimited power to charge your devices. Coming soon is a car window mount to add another source of wind. However you won't be able to use it when driving fast on the freeway, which sounds like a negative point until you realize just how seldom anyone ever goes under 40 MPH on the freeways nowadays anyway.

Specs
HYmini
5.4 H x 3.4 W x 1.3 D

Power input and battery

  • DC input jack 5V 1Amp Max limitation through 110/220 wall plug
  • Other sustainable sources like linkable HYmini Solar battery attachment with 0.7W Max capacity
  • Laptop or desktop USB 2.0 outlet
  • Built-in supplemental wind generator with 1Watt Max capacity with zero loading. Input voltage and current varied with different wind speed and battery loading conditions. Due to safety concerns for the lithium ion polymer rechargeable battery, Charge-in voltage and current are limited.
  • 1200 mAh lithium ion polymer rechargeable battery
  • input current: Less than 1A or 1000mA and 5V Max.
  • The HYmini is rated for 500 full charge cycles

The solar panel battery

Dimensions: 6.3H x 3.1 W x 0.3 D

Power output
Output current = 140mA max (depending on sunlight conditions)
Output voltage = 5V max (depending on sunlight conditions)
*link up to 4 panels to increase capacity

HYmini solar panel encased in recycled cardboard.

A 20 minute capture time using the solar panel/battery can give you up to 4 minutes of talk time on your 3G mobile phone, up to 40 minutes play time on your MP3 player, up to 30 minutes of play time on your iPod, up to 40 minutes operation with your PDA and up to 20 shots with your digital camera. All assuming these devices are compatible with the HYmini's adapters.

I consider the solar panel a 'must have' with the HYmini to really get the most use from it. Here in southern California where its sunny so much of the year solar panels make a lot of sense. And for the evenings or rainy days there's always the wind to fall back on. (The HYmini is weather resistant but not water proof, so place it under a protective cover that will keep it dry but still let the wind catch the fan blades)

One thing I think the designers miss out on is a mount for the solar panel(s) for a bike or being able to clip four of them to your jacket or cap to charge up during a walk on a sunny day. Think about picking up one of those window suction cups with a hook on the back to hang your solar panel from a window in your home. Some sort of car dash mount for the panels would be a good idea as well or perhaps a flexible substrate panel to lay across the length of your dash would be even better and offer super fast charge times!

Closing thoughts
The HYmini w/ its solar panel will be a nice introduction for your kids to environmentalism. I can also see that it would be an interesting teaching device for the classroom as well. If neither of those fits you there's always the 'Cool Factor' of pointing out one of these babies to your Sierra Club friends.

Consider the HYmini and solar panel an introduction to what we all will be using as future energy sources. Whatever your reason to buy one I will say that the HYmini was a blast to play with and the first time I charged up my 3rd generation iPod Nano it was actually a bit of a thrill to see the battery indicator jump from empty to 1/3~1/2 full.

The unit's two bright LED's can be used as a handy light source when camping or fixing your bike or car in the middle of the night. The only thing I think the designer left out is being able to run the fan with the included battery on hot days.

For more information check out www.HYmini.com
And remember, when the HYmini has eventually reached the end of its usefulness, please, remember to recycle it properly.

Robert Jensen has spent most of his 55 years in photography, from the age of 11 when he got his first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) to the present, shooting professionally. From 1971 to 1997 he worked in retail selling photographic equipment to people of all skill levels. For most of that period he was also a manager.

Related Keywords:solar power, solar powered gadget charger, hymini

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