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Plastecs Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • $29.95 (+$3.50 S&H)
The Pros:
  • The unit is light, compact and simple to use

The Cons:
  • Does not provide enough power to charge the PDA quickly Ratings*:

The Price:
  • $39.95 (+$3.50 S&H)
The Pros:
  • The unit is light, compact and charges the PDA quickly

The Cons:
  • Does not attach directly to the PDA: must be plugged into the cradle Ratings*:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms

PocketPal Solar PDA chargers
By Brooke A. Wheeler

CF101 PDA Solar ChargerWhen I purchased my Palm m505 and gave away my IIIx, one of the things I never really considered was how convenient it was to be able to swap out dead batteries for fresh ones when I was on the go. If I wanted to take my Palm with me for a weekend campout, I just brought along some extra batteries... it's amazing how quickly you can burn through batteries when you use your PDA as an eBook!

Recently, I read about the PocketPal on a website, and was intrigued by the possibilities. I went to the manufacturer's website to get more information. No Palm Computing devices were listed as compatible with the solar charger, but the output voltage (5V @ 400ma) sounded like it would be sufficient to charge my PDA, so I emailed the company, requesting more information. In response, they offered to send me a sample of their CF101 and CF101A chargers, modified to work with my Palm m505. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to evaluate these devices.

When I received the solar chargers several days later, I was immediately impressed by the quality of workmanship. The folding case is light and sturdy and the solar panels are sealed over with a clear, rubber-like substance that protects them from being scratched by the power cord when the unit is closed and makes the unit virtually waterproof. I certainly wouldn't recommend immersing the charger in water, but I don’t think that anyone would need to be overly concerned about a few drops of water either. The unit's small size and weight make it easily pocketable, and an excellent choice for the outdoorsman or anyone who’s looking to travel light. The power cord is about 3 ft. long, which provides enough length to set the solar panels out in full sunlight while leaving your PDA in the shade—another plus.

The Tests
CF101 PDA Solar ChargerNow that I had the chargers, I wanted to try them out to see how effective they were. The manufacturer claims that the CF101 can produce 5V of current at 400mA. The CF101A is rated at 7V and 250mA. Given that my Palm m505 displays only 4.4V when fully charged, I figured that either one should be sufficient to charge it with no problem. I decided to test the CF101A first, so I discharged my PDA until I received the first low battery warning. Then I set the charger up on the railing of my upstairs balcony early in the afternoon and propped it up with a block of packing foam. I checked on it periodically to make sure it was positioned properly, and about 1 hour and 15 minutes later, the PDA indicated a 100% charge at 4.4V. I was also able to experiment briefly with my friend's Palm IIIc. The CF101A produced sufficient voltage to put the unit into charge mode, but we didn't have sufficient time to test it any further than that, and as I'm not sure how battery capacity and power requirements on the IIIc compare to the m505, I can't say whether this is a practical solution for that model, but given the performance with my m505's battery, it's a good bet that it would work just fine.

The website suggests that the charger will work with a 60-watt light bulb to recharge your device, and holding the solar panels up to a light did produce sufficient voltage to activate the charging circuit in my PDA, but I didn't try to test this out either because I didn't want to get the unit too hot and have the plastic melt on me.

I had to wait until the next weekend to test the CF101. Naturally, I expected the CF101 to recharge my PDA more slowly, but the results were unexpectedly disappointing. I followed the same procedure with the CF101 as I had with the CF101A, periodically checking it and adjusting the position of the solar panels so they were always facing the sun. Three hours after I set up the charger, the battery meter on my Palm showed about 1/3 charge and read 3.3V. I left it for about another hour, but when I checked it again, it didn't seem to have charged any further.CF101 PDA Solar Charger

The CF101 and the CF101A may not look any different (apart from the model # printed on the case) but there definitely IS a difference, which becomes immediately apparent once you actually use them. I was favorably impressed by the CF101A, but based on my experience, I cannot say the same for the CF101. It is possible that my results with the CF101 would have been better if I had been able to attach it directly to the PDA instead of connecting it through the cradle, but the extra $10 for the CF101A still seems like a much better deal to me. Since the manufacturer sent me the two test units, he has indicated that he now has a connector available for the IIIc only, with more models due in the near future, which will allow a direct connection to the PDA, which would obviate the need to lug the HotSync cradle around with you. If you're considering ordering one of these, be sure to ask about that option.

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Kick it up a notch?

sundance_7 @ 7/6/2001 12:06:30 PM #
Would it be possible to juke one of these puppies up to charge a V(x) series unit without too much home electro-mechanical wizardry?

Inquiring (ee-ignorant) minds want to know...

Palm Vx

plastecs @ 7/6/2001 12:57:21 PM #
If the Vx is similar to the IIIc----yes, the CF101A will charge it.


I.M. Anonymous @ 7/6/2001 1:04:03 PM #
To all you great inventors, we have a message: please hire your friendly, local designers.

Don't let your product be cheapened by amateurish designs for your products or your marketing materials (i.e., website).


RE: please
plastecs @ 7/6/2001 6:38:52 PM #
to j
If you think you can do better---please step forward to get your medal.

RE: please
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/18/2001 5:46:12 PM #
no offense! we work as hard as you do to help make you successful!

where do you plug it in

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/6/2001 1:16:16 PM #
Does this thing plug into the cradle? or can it attach to the hotsync connector for charging. it would be nice if i could connect it to the hotsync connector rather than having to carry around a cradle. It would be an almost ideal portable charger that way.

RE: where do you plug it in
plastecs @ 7/6/2001 6:43:39 PM #
the charger plugs into the cradle as Palm says they do not have the plug for the m505 on sale yet for developers.When it becomes available---we will have it.

RE: where do you plug it in
imabug @ 7/7/2001 12:34:05 PM #
How about handspring products? something that would work on the Prism and Edge
(through the cradle and hotsync connector) would be an instant hit.

Version: 3.12
GS d-(+) s: a C++ UX++++V++S++ P+>+++ L>+++ E+>++ W++ N++(+++) o? K? w !O !M V-- PS PE Y+ PGP++ t++ 5++ X++ R+ tv++ b++(+++) DI++++ D+ G++ e+++>++++ h--- r+++ y?
RE: where do you plug it in
plastecs @ 7/7/2001 7:15:36 PM #
we are working on the handspring. will have info soon, I hope.

RE: where do you plug it in
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/17/2001 6:33:25 PM #
where does it plug in the cradle then?
and will you make a version with a palm M50x connector?
let us know wehn you do...

This is it!

altema @ 7/6/2001 3:19:48 PM #
This is the accessory I've been waiting for. Even though I have only used my auto/air charger one time after draining my IIIc on purpose, the solar charger would be the ultimate travel addition. Consider my order placed!

HandEra 330 AC support?

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/6/2001 3:58:13 PM #
I wonder if there is any way that this could be configured to plug directly into the HandEra 330 AC port for remote power?

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/6/2001 4:29:26 PM #
Very unlikely, solar panels only provide DC current.

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
fleegle @ 7/6/2001 4:38:51 PM #
I think he meant DC port where he plugs in the AC-to-DC adapter. The HandEra 330 uses 4 AAA batteries. I don't know if the solar charger can supply enough power to it.

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
plastecs @ 7/6/2001 6:46:44 PM #
the CF101 will charge 4 AAA batteries so it should be able to charge this unit.

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
plastecs @ 7/6/2001 7:46:34 PM #
I should have said that the CF101A is better suited to charge 4-AAA batteries than the CF101----sorry.

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/8/2001 2:24:19 AM #
dumb question,

so if i have a handera 330 and buy the charger, can I just plug it in the AC port to charge?

RE: HandEra 330 AC support?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/10/2001 1:54:37 AM #
Pulled verbatim from the T-U-G YahooGroup -

Posted by "Michael Johnson" -

> of course, the circuitry will probably "top out"
> at a certain voltage, and it is probably less than
> 12v... at that voltage, the "extra" voltage is probably
> being dissapated by the charging circuit...
> Greg

> HandEra tech support suggests 12V, 800mA minimum current. I agree
> though it would be nice to see the specs and limits published.

The 800mA minimum must be for charging, because the device itself
draws so little current. The Li-Ion pack must use the three terminals
off to the side, because that's the only place I measured voltage with
external power connected and no battery installed.

If I learn enough, I might design my own rechargeable battery. Until
then, I'll just keep switching out AAA's and running from the jack.

Here are my measurements with the HandEra 330 active:
14mA @ 12V = 170mW (rounded)
19mA @ 9V = 170mW
22mA @ 7.5V = 170mW
33mA @ 6V = 200mW and no green light, but it still runs

BTW, AAA NiMH's were installed during current draw measurements. I'm
sure the results would be similar with alkalines installed.
Interesting that the current draw at 6V is roughly twice the draw at
12V. This tells me that the device contains a switching voltage
regulator. (Is this sounding like a lab report yet? lol)
The power supply I used is a "wall-wart" capable of 300mA at different
voltages (switchable), although I have a car adapter capable of 1000mA
with the same voltage options, although its 12V setting is unregulated
but capable of 3000mA. Both are from Radio Shack. Measurements were
made with the "CHY 20 Multimeter" from Parts Express (not Radio Shack)

Will the 5V shorten the lifetime of the internal battery?

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/6/2001 11:04:00 PM #
I don't if palm charging circuit will prevent any hazard of overcharging to the battery. Did you ask the manufacturer if such a dismatch of outputs (7V 250ma in solar unit while 4.4v in m505) will hurt your internal battery?

RE: Will the 5V shorten the lifetime of the internal battery?
plastecs @ 7/7/2001 8:52:18 AM #
I don't belive that it will. In experiments performed under full Sun---even though the batteries total 4.8V in the system, when the 7V Solar panel is connected the voltage at the batteries does not read 7V. It will read what the battery is rated for.The maximum reading obtained was 5.6V which is within the battery capacity limits.

Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/7/2001 3:04:57 AM #
As a suggestion - Why don't you try comparing the voltage output from the various devices' wall transformers (Labeled on either the transformer itself or next to the plug where it attaches to the cradle) to the output of the solar panels?

This is NOT a new idea. Here's a how-to:

It's highly unlikely this is going to burn the batteries out of your M505. I can't say for certain because I haven't seen the schematic of the charger for it, but most modern charging systems involve some degree of incoming voltage regulation, and operate under a fairly wide range of voltages. However, Solar cells /draw/ current when they're in the dark - I don't know what this would do to the charging circuitry- It's almost certainly something the designers of your recharge system diden't plan on.

You might also want to take a look at, since they carry MUCH more durable solar recharge systems.

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
plastecs @ 7/7/2001 9:03:29 AM #
Dear "Anonymous"
I can see why you are "anonymous" as you obviously don't know a lot about Solar charging. I agree that Solar is not new ---your link dated to 1999??????? I have worked in solar since 1970!!!!!!!!!!!!In this article the cells themselves were $45.00 so on that basis I feel your commentary is kind of out of whack as you can get a finished CF101A for less than the cost of the cells. Also Uni-Solar panels are more costly and don't fit in your pocket. FYI--the reviewers are reviewing the product from a consumer standpoint and are as computer oriented as you are. Although the panels may put out some current in the dark----they are microamps if any. The CF101 also has a blocking diode to prevent any draining of the battery after dark. Also ---who in their right mind is going to charge a PC with Solar after dark??????

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/7/2001 12:36:49 PM #
Actually, it looks like the panels from Jade Mountain mentioned at the top of the page are only $7 each, and he states that you only need "a pair" - so the cost is $14, plus shipping. Not too bad. Plus the Jade Mountain panels are FLEXIBLE, which is pretty cool in my book.

Not to knock the CF101 or the skill required to build a solar charger (I'd probably opt to have someone else build it), but don't give this guy a hard time just cause he's providing some options.

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
plastecs @ 7/7/2001 4:58:48 PM #
Hi "anonymous"
In answer to your Jade Mountain panel----please provide the customers with a link to this. I spent 20 minutes in JadeMountain and couldn't find it. I would like to comment on it if you will let me.

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/7/2001 7:39:05 PM #
The Jade Mountain panel information is at:

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
plastecs @ 7/7/2001 8:36:39 PM #
Hi "anonymous"
Thanks for the link. these panels (BTW---I also sell these on my site at a lesser price than JadeMountain----$6.25 each )are flexible but only deliver 50ma. Putting 2 together in parallel gives you only 100ma and only 3V. With thiese panels you will only trickle charge a 2.4V battery system at best, you wont charge a 3V battery system and also will not charge an m505 at all!!!!!!!! These 2 you recommend are like David is to Goliath as far as my CF101. BTW---they also fade as well as de-laminate. Sorry to bust your ballon but you should at least check things out before you try to destroy them with inaccurate information. Email me---I will discuss it with you.I am at <>. Ask for Wil.

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/9/2001 1:56:18 AM #
Insulting, accusations of blatent ignorance, bragging... I think this is the first time I've seen a /device representative/ come on to a board and act like a troll!

Sorry about not catching the diode - It's not exactly mentioned in the text.

And, while folks may have been doing solar since 1970, or earlier, they haven't been charging their palm pilots with them since 1970, and that was what was pointed out, I believe.

And, of course, nobody is going to try and use this device to charge by moonlight - But do you think that somebody might accidentally leave their pilot plugged in to it overnight?

Boy, if these guys act like this while trying to get you to buy one, I'd hate to see the kind of technical support you're going to get out of them.

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/10/2001 6:29:16 PM #
I too am amazed by the tone of this Wil guy from plastics and think he should apologize to the group if he cares about his company's image.

In general, tech support seems to have become so in recent years. I am willing to pay a higher price for products from companies that still provide courteous and effective service.

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/8/2001 9:41:43 AM #
I was pretty impressed by the solar re-charging option, and was on the verge of buying it. However by the tone of responses from "Plastecs" to some mails here, I have decided not to buy any such devices from "Plastecs". Boy sure, device providers need to be more friendly than this.
- Srinivas

RE: Please, PLEASE get more techically inclined reviewers.
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/9/2001 11:05:16 PM #
O boy, almost bought it:))

Wil is a maniac. No plastecs any time soon on my budget...


Hand Era -yes you can

simpsgn @ 7/7/2001 7:40:39 AM #
although labeled as an AC plug port this actually connects to the DC output from a plug in AC to DC converter.

Redesign Palm PDA To Accept Removable Batteries

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/8/2001 1:50:08 AM #
All these PDA chargers are useless if the users need to use the PDA without any long downtime. Handera did a good engineering job on their new PDA, but there is room for improvement. I hope Palm, Handspring, Sony and other Palm PDA manufacturers release a new PDA, which have a removable Li-polymer batteries like those in handphones.

Advantages of using this type of batteries:
- The PDA can keep its slim and small form factor.
- Low downtime if user changes the batteries
- Fast and simple to change batteries
- Not inconvenienced if user can't find a charging point while on the move.

I think it's about time to re-look into extending the battery life of PDA, and methods to minimise the inconvenience of changing batteries and charging. The quality of the new PDAs like hi-res color, brigthness, contrast, etc., should not be compromised. The handphone manufacturers have designed their new products excellently. Try learning their designs. It'll make Palm OS handhelds widely accepted by the masses.

Great idea!
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/9/2001 2:14:54 AM #
Let's replace a common form factor battery that's sold in every drugstore, tourist shop, and kiosk worldwide with something that costs more, and we'll either have to carry from home, mail-order, or go on a whole-day hunting spree to find! That will be a LOT more fun, won't it?

Saving power

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/9/2001 4:36:02 AM #
To help conserve battery power while using the Palm as an ebook reader, I suggest using Afterburner to set the Palm's processor speed to the lowest possible for your ebook reader. After all, the ebook reader doesn't do much except wait for you to get done with a page, and cutting the processor speed improves battery life dramatically without affecting performace (much).


wkugel @ 7/9/2001 9:07:04 PM #
whair can I get a palm M505 for free or cheep
RE: help
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/10/2001 6:27:32 PM #
I'll send you mine for free. Just send me $500 first, and I'll send the money back to you with the unit.


I.M. Anonymous @ 9/22/2001 11:46:47 AM #
Does anyone know the power specs of the AC adapter for a palm IIIc.




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