As all of you who read these reviews know, I am a serious geek for gadgets. If it's small and does something cool, it will make me salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs hearing a bell ring. Still, as much as I love them all, I have to admit that a good half of the devices I've reviewed are nothing more than high-priced paperweights when deprived of a power outlet. To solve this problem, I've examined a number of options such as the Brunton solaris and Solo.
Solar power is fine if you have all day to charge a device and have a good clear day with high-quality sunlight. Battery packs are also okay except that they still inevitably run out of juice, therefore not really providing a long term solution. A device I recently learned of, however, might be the solution to this vexing problem; it’s called the YoGen mobile charger.
The YoGen is basically a small generator in a plastic case that is spun by a ripcord and flywheel. When the string is repeatedly pulled, the internal components spin and spit electricity out the mini-USB socket on the other side. This can be used to charge small electronics such as cell phones, mp3 players, GPS locators, etc. The power is utterly dependable because its ability to renew itself is solely generated by muscle power. According to the specifications, when being used, the device puts out power equivalent to a wall socket for charging purposes. It's going to be released at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in one week and I was fortunate enough to get a review unit to examine.
This device is intended for use as an emergency supplement, not as a replacement for a wall charger. No more than 10-15 minutes of continuous use is recommended. Needless to say, testing here will exceed the recommended use.
The device itself is basically a molded plastic box measuring 2.1"x3.5"x0.9" and weighing just under 3.5 oz. Currently, (despite the picture below), it comes in clear plastic and flat black. Personally, I like the clear plastic so I can see the apparatus spin when I pull the string. The YoGen feels solid in construction, but rattles a bit when it’s shaken, though this is likely due to the moving parts inside it. It’s about the same size and weight as a cell phone. The plastic bit that is used to pull the cord fits snugly into one end of the device, held in place by the tension of the ripcord.
The YoGen is packaged with a small cable that plugs into itself by a mini-USB socket. The other end of the cord is packaged with two options. The first has a mini-USB tip and a tip for Apple iPods and iPhones. The second (which I received) has tips for phones by LG, Nokia, and Sony-Eriksson. This setup is one of my few criticisms of the device; I believe it should have sported a standard USB socket rather than a mini-USB socket, so users wouldn’t have to fiddle with different tips. I spoke with a company representative who let me know that including a standard USB was an option they heavily considered and may soon be available as an option.