A lot of these travel gear reviews are variations on a theme, slight improvements on a standard item. The HYmini charger is a different story. This thing is a real breakthrough.
If you've been whining about how our various governments don't do enough to promote solar power and wind power, here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is. (And not a whole lot of money at that.) This innovative item is a personal charger powered up by wind. If you get the attachments you can even clip it onto your bike when you go out cycling or to your arm when you're out running. It only takes a breeze of 9 miles per hour to keep it humming.
After 20 to 40 minutes, you've got enough juice to charge up your iPod, your mobile phone, or any gadget with a USB or USB mini input. If you're in a place with unreliable wind but plenty of sun, you can supplement with the optional solar panel. To add to the eco-cred, the solar panel is housed in cardboard and the packaging it all comes in uses mostly renewable materials--no plastic clamshells from hell.
All nice in theory, but how well does it work? Extremely well, I'm happy to report. I simply stuck the thing in my office window on a nice spring day and then fully charged up my iPod. I put it back in the window again for an hour, went back to my work, and it was ready to go again. On my bike handlebars the turbine was charging up the whole time I was pedaling. Granted, the HYmini will not keep your Treo fully changed all day and night all week, but it's a nice supplement when you are between outlets or when you just need to get a near-dead phone going for another few conversations.
The only drawback is one created by the least environmentally friendly companies around: the cellphone manufacturers. As with the Chargepod I reviewed earlier, the HYmini comes with five attachments, but that only covers a fraction of the annoyingly unstandardized handsets out there. The Nokia adapter didn't work on my wife's Nokia and since I have a Sanyo phone I'm S.O.L. As best as I can tell, they don't sell any additional adapters on their site beyond LG2 and Samsung2. (Like Nokia, these guys can't even make their OWN phones work with the same chargers.) Someday the electronics industry will wake up and realize they need to become part of the solution instead of making us buy new accessories every time we get a new gadget, but they haven't gotten the memo yet.
The charger comes in black, white, or green, along with a wall plug, five connectors, and a USB cord for $50. The solar panel is another 25 bucks, the armband $15, and the bike handlebars connector is $9. So if you went for the whole shebang it would be about $100 plus shipping. Hey, there are probably cheaper ways to save the world, but how many of them can charge up your gadgets in the Sahara or Seattle? Not many retailers seem to be stocking this yet, online or physical, so order direct from HYmini.
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