Even when we’re on vacation, the BBCool staff is still hard at work. That’s why when BBCool Simon went for a little R&R a few weeks back, we tasked him with reviewing the SideWinder mobile charger. Not only that, we made him film it! For those not interested in 3 minutes of Simon, we also made him do a full text review. Some vacation!
It was time for summer vacation. Swing by Waterloo to visit some family, spend a week up at the cottage. Ah, the cottage. No electricity, no running water, all boonies. A whole week without the internet. Without a computer, without ATMs or newspapers or video games. What if the blog exploded in my absence, and only I had the vital information which could save years of posts from certain doom? What if RIM dropped the wonderbang BlackBerry that would annihilate all other smartphones for the next 20 years, and I missed the announcement? What if a zombie infestation had fallen upon Ottawa and I, totally uninformed of local goings-on, unwittingly returned to a war zone instead of staying up at the paradisal Georgian Bay?
It was clear that if nothing else, the BlackBerry 8800 was coming along for the ride. In the case of zombie apocalypse, I’d need renewable energy to ensure a regular stream of S.O.S signals. Enter the SideWinder.
The SideWinder is a small, simple hand-winding charger that works for BlackBerrys as well as a wide range of mobile phones. Geared for emergency power, it looked like a worthy tool in any survivalist’s arsenal. Ideally, we would like to have tried that spiffy wind charger that Orange is working on, but alas, it’s still in prototype stages.
Installation was dirt simple. You plug the thingie in the thingie. There’s a converter that needs to be attached to the end of the built-in cord which makes the connection to your device a little clunkier than you might be used to, but for the sake of interchangeable ends, it’s worth it. Besides, you’re out in the wilds roughing it, things can get ugly out there.
The device itself is sturdy, and has a collapsible crank, allowing for easy portability. It comes with a handy little carrying case, which doesn’t necessarily look waterproof, but does afford some protection as well as a belt loop for quick access.
There was no trouble at all hooking up the mini-USB converter. The fact that there’s so many different bits available for the SideWinder assures a broad range of compatibility for whatever devices you’re using.
To test out the charger, I let the battery on my BlackBerry 8800 completely drain, which actually goes against the instructions, which say that it’s easier to charge when there’s still a little bit of power left. Despite this, it seems the most likely scenario one would use this charger would be when the battery’s completely dead. The goal was to get enough of a charge to pull up GPS coordinates so I could upload my pictures onto Google Earth later with minimal guesswork.
15 minutes of cranking is rough on the fingers, let me tell you. Besides that, there was a tiny LED light integrated with the charger that can provide a decent light source in a pinch.
Like I said, this is a last-ditch emergency measure. It gets the job done, no doubt, but is probably something that you’re not going to use too often. For only $19.99, having something like this in your glove compartment is a reasonable insurance policy, especially if you spend a lot of time in isolated conditions which could necessitate emergency contact with the outside world. As a city boy, though, I would not qualify this as a must-have accessory. On the other hand, if you’re fancy yourself the heavy-duty outdoorsy type, this might be something to stash away in your backpack. The SideWinder gets 3 Tiresome Cranks out of 5. It does the job with a bit of elbow grease and is reasonably priced, but the real value is in peace of mind rather than functionality. If you’re interested in picking one up, you can find them here.