Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Spyderco Delica 4 [EDC Pocket Knife]

The Delica is legendary among some communities of cutlery enthusiasts. There was no way I was going to
attempt a review with less than 6 months carrying it every day, which I have done. Since this is my fourth Spyderco over the last couple years, I am starting to feel confident that I have a decent understanding of them, especially the lightweight FRN type models, which I have mostly focused on since I like to carry light.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife
Product Link
The sample used in my review was purchased from Amazon using my wife's prime, and I ordered an FRN Native to go with it, but that's a different story. FYI all my pocket knives from Amazon tend to come from a private courier service they use, which sometimes means only one day from ordering to holding it my hands!

Product Description

Price: $60-$100 Online

This is a mid-size pocket knife with a fairly typical lock-back design. Made in Seki City, Japan it features VG-10 steel and a Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) handle, with a deep carry clip. There are several other knives in this product line, including the slightly-smaller Dragonfly and the slightly larger Endura.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • 7.125-inch open length
  • 4.25-inch closed length
  • 2.875-inch VG-10 steel blade
  • 2.56-inch cutting edge
  • 0.5-inch blade hole
  • 0.09-inch blade thickness
  • 2.5-ounce weight
  • FRN handle material

Design Features


This is a clearly a pocket knife designed for enthusiasts who can appreciate everything that went into it, and a lot went into it. I think their two main design goals were 1) ergonomics and 2) functionality. As far as the ergonomics goes, this knife fits my hand perfectly. If you have really large hands, the ergonomics on the Endura would probably be better for you.

The looks of this knife are derived from its functionality, not the other way around. That's the brilliance of the design I think. It looks cool because they didn't try to make it look cool.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Mirror View

Initial Impressions



Wow. My new precious. That was my initial impression. And then, a little sadness knowing that my trusty Dragonfly would never see the same use. The Delica 4 is pretty much my perfect EDC as far as size, weight, design and functionality. It's just a slightly larger Dragonfly, elongated just a little. The first thing I noticed, was that I felt it in my pocket, where I never did feel the Dragonfly or Ladybug.

Construction / Build Quality


The Delica has a reputation for build quality and my review sample doesn't disappoint. The FRN handles are  a little rough around the edges, but the handles themselves are solid and so is the rest of knife, including the clip. The knife is put together with all Torx T7 screws, which are all the same size execpt for the pivot screw, which is a Torx T8.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Spydie-Hole
The back lock is well constructed, and the handle is rigid enough to where most people probably wouldn't notice that it doesn't have a liner. The FRN material is light and strong, and lately I've preferred it over G10 because it's so light, and I really like the grippy texture of the handle.

The blade on the Delica is well constructed. The Japanese know steel, and Spyderco really knows how to make a flat ground blade. This isn't a $300 shelf queen, so the blade you are getting is more of a workhorse. There are phosphor bronze washers located on either side of the pivot screw.

The screws look a little cheap, but I was able to get a firm grip on all the T7 screws as well as the T8 pivot screw with my good quality screwdrivers. I don't generally take apart my knives, but I reserve the right to.

Fit And Finish


The fit and finish on my sample is good overall. Out of the box, the texture material is a little rough, almost even sharp. But it wears in quickly and after a week or so has a great feel. Most of my Spyderco knives seem to have something that starts out a little rough and wears in. It can be a little disconcerting, but I'm OK with it because at this point I trust that I'm buying a good knife. The handle on the Delica is like a pair of boots; it takes a while to wear in before it's comfortable. The FRN handles almost look better at 6 months than they did out of the box.

The blade on my sample is little off center, but not enough to trigger any OCD.

Spyderco Delica 4 Pocket Knife: Blade Off Center
Off center, but not enough to affect the functioning of the knife

Handle


The handle is made of Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) which is really strong and really light. It has what
they call "bi-directional texturing" which basically means that the texturing sticks out at different angles, giving the knife a good grip.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Handle
The ergonomics are almost perfect for my average size hands. There's no choil, the so the handle is a little on the long side. But it's a good trade-off, because all four of my fingers fit comfortably on the handle. There's a lanyard hole on the handle which goes right through the clip, or obviously you could use it in place of a clip.

On the back of the handle is some jimping. It seems to be inset a little so it's not as grippy as it looks like it should be. Most of the time I get a solid, natural grip, and just choke up on it for those few other times.

Clip


Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Clip
The Delica features a sturdy, flat, deep-carry clip which can be set to right or left tip up or tip down carry, giving the clip a total of four positions you can put it in. Mine came out of the box configured for tip-up right-handed carry, which is probably what most people want. There are three torx screws which hold the clip in place and make the design even more robust. They are T7 Torx like like the body screws.

I used to take the clips off all my knives, just right out of the box. But the bigger knives are so much more comfortable to carry with a deep carry clip, so for the Delica it never came off. After 6 months of hard use, the clip still has a good tension on it. As shown in the picture at left, the anodizing on the clip has held up well.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Clipped In Pocket

Blade


Not being a metalurgist, I can say from personal experience that VG-10 is a very good steel for EDC knives. There is also a version of the Delica which has ZDP-189 steel. Maybe I'll get one some day, but I'm skeptical that this VG-10 blade could be improved on much.

My Delica has a Full Flat Grind (FFG) on it which I'm a big fan of. It's just one of the many touches that add up to this knife being all business. Some people think the leaf blade shape is weird, but I think it's ideal. One thing is for sure, you either "get" most of these Spyderco knives right away or you don't.

The longer shape of the delica almost gives it a more traditional shape since the "leaf" shape is elongated so much. The "spydie hole" is at a perfect location for my thumb to easily reach it. It has a little big of jimping behind the hole. I have found that in normal use my thumb never really makes it past the jimping on the back of the handle.

Like my other Spyderco FRN knives, the blade on the Delica seems a little on the thin side at first glance. I use mine as a knife and not a pry bar or other tool, so I've found the blade thickness to be more than acceptable for daily use. It's thin enough to make easy work of slicing tasks such as opening mail or dicing a potato, but it's thick enough to slice a garden hose or go through thick cardboard. The blade design does more with less steel, and makes the knife lighter. I have folders half its size and twice the weight. So I would say the blade thickness is a near perfect balance for the kinds of tasks most people would reasonably use it for.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Another View

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Blade
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Another Closeup Of Blade

Back Lock


The FRN knives in this series all use a back lock mechanism. It's a very good implementation, but not as strong as other types of locks. But it's very light, and it's still plenty strong. People use them to baton firewood.

Personally, I would rather it be lighter than a little stronger, and I like the feel of lock-back knives in general. My philosophy is that if I'm stressing the lock too much, I'm using the wrong tool. If I have any doubts about what I'm cutting, I just go grab a fixed blade.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Handle Back And Blade Spine


Deployment



The deployment on mine has been silky smooth from day one and has stayed that way, unlike the USA-made Native I bought with the same order, which took some time for the lock to wear in. I open mine with a steady motion of my thumb, smooth and steady. The way I close it is probably different than most. I extend my index finger to the spydie hole while my thumb presses on the lock, which disengages the blade from the lock. Then I flip the knife sideways a little and grab the thumb hole with my thumb, and from there it's the reverse of deployment. I explain it in text and people still scratch their heads, so I've made a video.

Some people are disappointed to find out that the Delica cannot be "flicked" open like it's Chinese cousin, the Tenacious. If you want a lightning quick deployment, look to that line, which will all be liner locks, as well as much heavier. At best, the Delica will give you a nice steady one-handed open that most people like the feel of.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Deployment Step 1
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Deployment Step 2
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Fully Deployed
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Reverse Grip
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: One Handed Unlock
I close mine by unlocking it this way, and just flipping it around and closing it with my thumb
I open and close my Delica a particular way, and when I try to describe to people how I close it, they mostly just get confused, so here's a small video showing my technique, which I think is a little safer than letting it drop towards your finger and relying on the mechanism not to get cut.


I found another interesting way to open it, just farting around since it's always in my pocket.  The "Delica Flick!"


Usability


I carried the Dragonfly mostly steady for about a year, and the Ladybug before that. The Dragonfly was just
a tiny bit short of being my ideal EDC. The Delica is good a few things its cousin the Dragonfly isn't, such as the random food prep I use it for.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Food Prep Duty
It can fill in as a camp knife
Because the Delica finally gets to the size and weight where I notice it in my pocket, I almost always use the deep carry clip. The clip has a fabulous feel, and it was nice touch configuring it for tip-up from the factory. I doubt a day goes by where I don't draw my Delica a dozen times, and it has deployed smooth as silk the entire time I've had it.

Conclusions


This has been my precious since I first took it out of the box. It's not much more steel than the Dragonfly, but for my hands, it has superior ergonomics with the ideal EDC blade size for me. I still carry the Dragonfly because sometimes the Delica is a little conspicuous, and I still sometimes like to carry other knives, like the SRM 763 or Native just for variety. But when I think about getting stuff done, my first thought is the Delica. It's a heck of a lot of knife for 2.3 ounces.

I have not been kind to my Delica, either. It's a tool, and I treat it as such. I have plenty of beaters I can use, especially fixed blades, but 99% of my daily use is my EDC. After 6 months of hard use, the clip is a little worn, and it's a little loose and should probably be tightened soon.

Like its kin, the VG-10 steel of the Delica holds an edge well. It can also be a little challenging to novice sharpeners like me. But it's well worth learning to sharpen the VG-10 and you get a lot of use between sharpenings.

Gallery


Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: In Box
Typical Spyderco red box
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Torx Screw Diagram T7 and T8
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Torx Screwdrivers T7 and T8
You'll need T7 and T8 Torx screwdrivers to disassemble

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closed- Clip Side UpSpyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Closed- Clip Side Down
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Seki City Japan

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Pocket Knife: Spyderco VG-10 Markings
From Top: Spyderco Delica, Spyderco Native, Spydero Dragonfly
From Top: Spyderco Delica, Spyderco Native, Spydero Dragonfly
Using Coffee Cup To Sharpen Spyderco Delica 4
Sharpening with a coffee cup
Spyderco Delica 4 Pocket Knife: Shown With Other Tools
It's my go to pocket knife for serious jobs

Spyderco Delica 4 Shown With Nitecore MT1A
Shown with my Nitecore MT1A [1xAA]  EDC Flashlight

Spyderco Delica 4 Shown On Scale








Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch
Product Link
I've been wanting to start a decent collection of EDC-type watches, and I wanted something to compliment the Citizen Eco-Drive watch I was going to order. The Eco-Drive series is solar powered, so I figured a cheap automatic movement watch would be a perfect partner for the Citizen, and ordered it from Amazon as part of the same order.

Product Description

Price: $50-$75 Online

This is a classic mechanical automatic movement watch with a clear case back to see the nifty whirlygigs and thingamabobs. It has a plain but clean looking steel case with a simple nylon strap band. It features a classic day/date window at 3 o'clock and a nice, classic smooth-sweep second hand.

Official Specs (From Amazon)





Model numberSNK807
Part NumberSNK807
Model Year2011
Item ShapeRound
Dial window material typeHardlex
Display TypeAnalog
ClaspBuckle
Case materialStainless steel
Case diameter37 millimeters
Case Thickness11 millimeters
Band MaterialCanvas
Band lengthMen's Standard
Band width17 millimeters
Band ColorBlue
Dial colorBlue
Bezel materialStainless steel
Bezel functionStationary
CalendarDay and date
Special featuresCalendar
MovementAutomatic self wind
Water resistant depth99 Feet



First Impressions


This my first Seiko. I've been buying Citizens for years and I mainly ordered this one just to be
thorough. I'm tired of replacing so many batteries on all my watches, so I'm looking at other solutions like newer budget automatics.

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch With Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch
One automatic, one solar
I un-boxed this watch, flailed my hands around until it started ticking, set the time, and took a good look at it. I strapped it to my wrist, and I knew that it would be my favorite watch, at least until a new favorite comes along. This is a 60 dollar watch with the class and style of a 600 dollar watch.

Build Quality


The build quality is excellent considering this is a budget watch using budget materials. The case may be budget steel, but the stone washed finish gives it a more upscale look. The glass crystal and case back are good quality but nothing really special. The band has a superb fit and finish for being the cheap nylon variety. They even stonewashed the hardware on the band to match the case. My review sample has a fit and finish more in line with its $185 retail box price.

Movement


This is a mechanical "Seiko 5" 21 jewel, automatic movement, found in lots and lots of their 5 series watches. I read somewhere that Seiko took its design inspiration from the original Rolex, and I can believe it.

There is no dedicated method to wind the movement. It is powered by your normal arm movements and once fully "charged" it will go about a day and a half off your arm before it stops. Rotating the wrist back and forth will wind it the fastest, though pretty much any flailing of the arm or wrist will do.

Dial


Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Closeup Of Dial
The dial is a little more busy than I would prefer, but the numbers and marking are very crisp, which gives the watch a very classy look overall. The hour and minute hands have that same crispness and precision, but they're a little shorter than I would like. They both have a liberal amount of luminescent material.

The second hand has a continuous sweep, which I've always liked on the more expensive watches but never thought I would get on a sub-$100 time piece. The tip of the second hand is red, and on the opposite side of the hand is a little blob of luminescent material.

At 3 O'Clock is the day / date window. The day display is a dual English/Spanish display that is aggravating to set right, but once set is fine. I wish they would just have separate versions of the watch because it's a hassle for people of either language.

Overall the dial is well laid out and very crisp for how busy it is. And for whatever reason, it's a little easier to read without my reading glasses than my new Citizen.


Case


This is a budget watch, and the case reflects that fact. Most of it is stonewashed, though, so I have
Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Closeup Of Glass Case Back
You can see all the gizmos
to look much closer to see any flaws. I'm not sure how it will wear, but out of the box it looks like an expensive watch.

The case back has a window which shows you the inner workings of the 21 jewel  automatic movement.

Band


The band is made of nylon with what looks like cheap leather reinforcing the holes. It feels a little cheap but right in line with what I'd expect from a budget watch. Overall the design and construction of the band is good, and obviously well thought out. The metal rings and the clasp are stonewashed like the case.
Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Closeup Of Clasp
The fit and finish is very good on the band

My band is blue since I bought the blue model. The blue colored nylon is good and matches the dial pretty good. And the leather (?) reinforcement is even the same color blue. Very well executed for a budget band.

My average size hands hit the adjustment almost perfectly at the halfway point, which means that it should still fit slightly small or large wrists pretty well, too.

Setting The Time


Setting the time on the SNK807 is straightforward. Once click on the crown lets you set the day and date, and another click lets you set the time. Since the days of the week are given in two different languages, you will need to turn past the day you don't want.

Luminescence 


Just the basics in the dark
This watch has lumisecent material on the dial at each hour marker, and a little bit of material on all three hands. I'm not an expert but it seems to use the budget material, which doesn't hold much of a charge. It could do with a little more material on the dial markers, but other than that, it's fairly easy to read in the dark.

Accuracy


Since this is an automatic movement, it is not going to be as accurate as quartz. As time goes by, automatics settle into a sort of groove and the accuracy increases. My sample seems a good bit fast right out of the box, and I noted that looking through the window in the case back, the adjustment is set almost all the way to minus (-). My sample seems to pickup a few seconds a day.


Usability


I'm glad this became my instant favorite, because one of the downsides to the usability of an automatic watch (at least one that can't be wound) is that if you take it off for a couple days, you have to reset the time, day and date, which can be a hassle.

But mine hasn't left my wrist for more than a day. I always forget to take it off before I do dishes or shower, so I end up letting it sit for half a day or so when it gets wet. Otherwise the band starts getting a little funky, though not as funky as a canvas band.

Automatics are always heavier, but for this watch it hasn't been an issue. Day to day it feels comfortable and is easier to read without my glasses than most of my other watches. I really thought the weight would be an issue, but it hasn't been.

The band feels good. It started off a little scratchy but it's feeling better as it wears in.

Conclusions


This is my first Seiko, and my first automatic in several years. At 60 bucks, I didn't have really high expectations of it, but boy am I impressed! I've seen the black version on Amazon for about 50 bucks, and I don't think there is any better value out there for a name brand automatic watch. I wish Amazon's computer didn't calculate that you would pay $10 more for the blue one, or $20 more for the tan one. But looking at it objectively, this watch is a steal even for a few bucks more.

My wife likes this model so much that now she wants one, and I'm considering getting at least one more. This is almost my ideal watch for every day carry. If I could just combine it with what I like about the Eco-Drive it would be perfect.

Gallery

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: In Box








Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Bar CodeSeiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Box

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Fluffy Seiko Pillow Display
Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Closeup Of Band
Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Another Closeup Of Band

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Another Closeup Of Case Front

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Another Closeup Of Case Back

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: On My Wrist

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: With a Movado
Holds its own with a watch costing many times more

Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: Next To Ruler
Seiko SNK807 "Seiko 5" Automatic Men's Watch: On Scale
It's a little heavy for a casual watch, but hey, it's an automatic!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Waka Waka Power [Solar Lantern and USB Charger]

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile ChargerWaka Waka. It means "shining bright" in Swahili. Originally a Kickstarter project, they are now in full production and you can buy either model from Amazon, which is where I purchased my review sample from. For every unit sold, the company donates $10 to charity.

As someone who buys large amounts of gadgets, gizmos, doo-dads and whatchya-call-its, I'll admit that I normally don't feel much excitement to have something arriving in the mail soon. But as soon as I ordered this, I started obsessively checking the tracking to see when it was going to be here. There's just something appealing to me about a self-contained charging and lighting solution.

Product Description


This is essentially a solar powered lamp with built in USB mobile charger. This not only improves on the original (which was just a lamp) in functionality, but the Waka Waka Power increases the battery capacity considerably. Even if you never use the charger, this new model is worth it just for the extra run time on the LED lamp.

Official Specs (from getwakawaka.com)


Product   WakaWaka Power
Dimension121 x 17 x 78 mm
Weightapp. 200 grams
Light output 7 lux ambient / 30 lux taslight
LED0.5W Seoul Semicon, 120 lumen/watt
Indicators4 battery indicator LED’s - 1 solar charge LED - 1 USB charge indicator LED
Battery2200 mAh LiPo
Solar cell22% efficiency Sunpower cell
Power management   patented Intivation SNBST3 chip
Housingrecycleable ABS, ruggadized, flexible positioning: table top, on a bottle, from the ceiling 
QualityUNFCCC compliant, CE (UL pending)
Manualfull color, FSC paper
Warranty1 year

Overall Design


As an award winning designer myself, it's fair to say that I'm a big fan of good design. Most companies treat the design phase of a project like an obstacle; something to be overcome. Like, hurry up and design the thing so we can start building it. So, it is very gratifying to see a design this good-one that pays so much attention to detail.

Most of the good design revolves around the placement of the flip cover. It not only allows the lamp to placed in a number of convenient positions, it does the same for the solar charger, making it easy to get the perfect placement for aiming it at the sun. It's truly genius. And the detents which hold the flip cover in place where you want it have an almost perfect level of resistance. Any easier and it wouldn't hold, any harder and it would be a hassle to adjust it.

Another good design feature is that the flip cover protects the two charging ports from getting wet or debris in it. Evidence of good design is everywhere, from the ruggedized case to the less tangible aspects of the unit, like the efficient circuitry and choice of solar panel and LEDs.

Charging the Waka Waka


Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Being Charged Via Micro USB Port
Charging the Waka Waka from my laptop
The unit can be charged in one of two ways: Either with the built-in solar panel, or with a Micro USB connector located on the side of the unit. While charging from the USB, the 4 green power indicators will light up to show you the charge progress. When it is done charging from the USB, all 4 green lights will be lit.

While charging from the solar panel, the little red LED on the other side of the case will flash to indicate that there is enough light to charge the unit. I have read that the solar charge indicator blinks faster to tell you that it has more light, but that doesn't seem to be the case based on my testing. It seems to be that a slow blink means the unit has enough light to charge and is charging, and a fast blink means the unit is fully charged. In my tests, I could get it to fast blink with any amount of light once it was fully charged.

NOTE: To use either USB port, the unit needs to be folded open. This feature prevents dirt and debris from getting in the ports when not in use.

Charging Mobile Devices


Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Charging An HTC One Smartphone
Charging an HTC One Smartphone
The mobile device charger works like any other standard USB charger using a standard size USB connector. I have read where the unit can utilize its solar charger at the same time it is charging a mobile device, but this does not seem to be the case.

To activate the mobile charger, simply mash the oversized power button once, and the unit will give power to the USB connector, and your device will start charging. Since the Waka Waka Power has a 2200 mAH Lithium battery, it should have enough capacity to give most mobile devices like phones a full charge, and ti should give larger devices like tablets most of a charge.

Using The Lantern


The solar lantern part of the Waka Waka sports two eyeball-looking SSC emitters of an unknown model. There are no reflectors as such, which means the lantern is only well suited for close range illumination, which is what you want for a lantern.

Pressing the power button twice turns both LEDs on in the highest output mode. Subsequent presses on the button lower the output by 25% until the light turns off. Turning the lamp on high puts it into a special turbo mode, giving 200% output for 30 seconds, before switching into high mode at 100%, where it will remain.

Pressing the power button and holding it for two seconds activates the SOS mode, where the unit will flash SOS in Morse code.

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Low
Low
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Medium 1
Medium 1
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Medium 2
Medium 2
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On High
High

Lantern Run Time Tests


The regulation on the lantern appears to be flat, meaning it keeps its full brightness until it shuts off. It would be nice to see it enter "vampire" mode when it loses its regulation like some flashlights.

Brightness LevelRun TimeNotes
High13 hoursplus/minus an hour since I didn't see it the instant it shut off
Medium 222 hoursAlso plus/minus about an hour
Medium 137 hours, 5 min.-
Low50 hours*Predicted run time

* I did not run the low test, though I would predict its run time about about 50 hours given my existing results. At this point, it's pretty obvious that the run times are drastically over-stated. They are still plenty acceptable, though.

Micro USB Charge Test


I started the test by running the unit dead from one of the tests above. It took 6 1/2 hours to charge the unit to full by plugging it into my desktop computer's front side USB port. The charge time was fairly close to the stated charge time of 5 hours.

Solar Charge Test


Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Being Charged In The Sun
Pointed at the sun!
I started the solar charge test by running the unit completely dead from the first run time test. I then spent 3 days putting the unit in sunny window sills, on the deck and other places around the house and property which were getting direct sunlight. In those 3 days, the unit probably spent a total of 20-25 hours in direct sunlight. During this time, I was unable to get more than a 50% charge (2 lights) on the unit.

Now, my house is located in Northeastern Washington state, which is pretty far North. And granted, some of that time was spent in double pane window sills, and most of the time the unit was flat instead of angled directly at the sun. But it did get lots of direct sunlight, and it did spend some time outside directly angled at the sun.

After reading the other reviews, I didn't have very high expectations to begin with, but I was still a little disappointed. This far North, unless you are chasing the sun full time, I would say that the solar charging feature of this unit would be better suited for emergency purposes. For normal use, you will probably want to charge it from the micro USB port.

Build Quality


The overall build quality on my review sample is good. It's a little rough around the edges, but it appears to
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Closeup Of Micro USB Port
A little rough around the edges in a couple places
be built well where it counts. Some minor build issues with my sample include an off center power button and a misaligned solar cell in the lower left corner. A couple random rough spots in the plastic; nothing major. The unit did come filthy though, which is not really a build quality issue but a little disappointing nonetheless.

But again, the unit seems to have the quality where it counts. And the circuitry appears to be excellent, if mostly undocumented. They could have cheaped out by using PWM to drive the LEDs or used a cheaper solar cell, so it's got the mojo where it counts.


Usability


The Waka Waka is a fun device to play with, and it's even fun to say! Yep, I'm playing with my Waka Waka. Like any other solar charger, the Waka Waka is only as good as the light you put it in, and I've had fun chasing the sun around and experimenting with what windows to put it into at various times during the day. Since the only real indicator you get from the unit basically just says "yep, there's enough light to charge", it's up to you to determine the amount of light it's getting, which should be as close to direct sunlight as you can get.

The built-in LED lantern is very functional, in part due to its excellent design. You can move the flip cover around and arrange the lamp in any number of interesting ways, like attaching to a bottle, and it's even got a lanyard hole. From experimenting with different configurations, I think the best way to use it as a lamp most of the time is by pointing it at a wall or ceiling to get the "bounce" effect.

The charger is also simple and functional. You plug something in, mash the giant power button, and a little blue light next to the USB port lights up to indicate that something is charging. When whatever you have plugged into it stops drawing power, the unit shuts off within about 10 seconds.

The oversize button looks interesting, and it's definitely a conversation piece, but I'm at loss to explain its size. Do people in third world countries have abnormally large thumbs? Was it a rookie CAD designer who made it that big by mistake? It's the only real weakness of the design that I can see, since the unit is water resistant, and the larger button needs a larger seal to keep water out of the unit. A small, electronic switch would be even more ideal. But it works, even if it does look a little funky.

Conclusions


This is a neat little device. The internal capacity (2200 mAH) is a little on the low side for just a mobile charger, but the Waka Waka is much more than that. It's light, has very rugged construction and an efficient, built-in light source. I would almost say this is mainly a lantern that can double as a charger.

The performance of the solar cell is a little disappointing, but it's a limitation common to all solar cells. I have a solar charger of a different brand that didn't fare any better in my tests. The bottom line is that this is an ideal device for use in the outdoors and during emergencies. For day to day use of just the mobile charger, or for use primarily indoors,  there are probably better solutions. And if you can, you're better off charging this from another USB port if you can.

For camping, I plan on this being my go to device, and the rest of the time it will be ready for any power outage. It sounds corny, but I do sleep better at night knowing that my cell phones will have power no matter what happens.

If you just want a solar lantern and don't care about the mobile charger, this model is still worth getting because it has a better battery with a higher capacity than the lantern-only model.

Gallery


Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, In Box
It comes in a nice box

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Back Of Box
Back of box

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Unboxed
It came a little filthy out of the box

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Instruction Sheet
Better than average instruction sheet- very well laid out

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Sleek Unit
It's much sleeker than the lantern-only version of the Waka Waka

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Closeup Of LEDs
Closeup of the two eyeball-looking LEDs

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Closeup Of Single LED
Closeup of one of the SSC LEDs

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Closeup Of Humongous Power Button
Humongous power button! Also a little bit of a gap, too

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Closeup Of Green Charge Indicator LEDs
Green charge indicator lights, showing 75% charge
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Attached To My SwissGear Backpack
This is the way to do it if you're camping or on the trail

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, On Digital Scale
It's actually light compared to all my other chargers and power packs

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Next To Ruler
About the size of a smartphone

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, On Multimeter
It fluctuates between 4.98 and 4.99 volts

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Charging ZTE Engage With Special Charging Cable
It needs a special cable to charge my ZTE Engage Smartphone