I had exchanged email with the PR firm representing Better Energy Systems, makers of the Solio Solar-Powered Chargers. They had offered to send me a Solio Classic with tips for review. Last week, I instead get a package for the Solio H1000 Universal Hybrid Charger.

The H1000 is a little less “bulky” than the Classic, which I previously discussed. It does have smaller battery capacity than the Classic also, but it comes with the most common charging tips in the box: Nokia Nseries, Mini USB, and a Female USB plug (for iPods and other MP3 players). More after the jump.

The Solio H1000, unlike the Classic, can also be charged via USB. This is great in places like the Pacific Northwest in the winter, where direct sunlight to charge the battery via the solar panel isn’t exactly in great abundance. However, my laptops are almost always on and are ready to lend a helping USB port to their electronic brethren.

It seems to do a good job charging my Nokia Eseries and Nseries phones. Plug in the adapter, put the Start button, and off it goes. However, I wonder how long it will take for the Solio to charge itself up with the solar panels. The manual provides some rather vague guidelines: 6 hours via USB, 10-12 hours in direct sunlight, 12-48 hours in cloudy conditions. What about in ambient lighting in a room? My testing suggests: not very well.

Even if you just charge the Solio via USB, having what amounts to a “spare battery” on standby rocks the house. The battery is 1000mAh, which is not quite as big, as the batteries on my Nokia E61i or my Nokia N800 tablet, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at when you’re looking for some extra juice. The fact you can charge this extra battery via solar energy is a huge bonus. It also clips to a backpack nicely, making it a great companion for hiking or camping.

It seems difficult for me to manage to get the Solio into direct-enough sunlight that I’d get a charge. Maybe I don’t lead the kind of lifestyle this device is perfect for, or I don’t live in a sunny enough place. The Pacific Northwest is not conducive to sunlight this time of year. It was nice in sunny in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, where I was. Apparently, leaving the Solio hanging from the mirror of my rental car was not conducive to getting the Solio charged.

The $79.95 price tag for the Solio H1000 seems fair to me. I wish it came with a carrying case for the tips as well as better-performing solar panels. However, that’s the reality of making an affordable, mass-market solar-powered battery charger. Still worth the money, if you ask me.

What do you think?