Home Reviews Smartphones & Mobile Devices Solar's a starter as Varta charters new chargers

Solar's a starter as Varta charters new chargers

Relatively new entrant into the Australian battery and power scene, Varta, has announced three new battery chargers, including one that works on solar power, giving 20 minutes of talk time to phones or 50 mins of music on an iPod after just an hour of free solar charging.

A few years ago, Australians had never heard of battery maker Varta, but now they’re a fixture in most regular stores alongside Duracell, Energizer and all those “home brand” batteries.

While Varta sells non-rechargeable batteries, Varta seems to have made its biggest splash in the rechargeable market, something that seemed to spark the attention of Duracell and Energizer, all of whom now offer rechargeable batteries to anyone that wants them.

So, part of the strategy to get more of the Australian battery market seems to be in developing more useful charging devices.

Energizer tried this with its “AA lithium battery powered” emergency phone chargers, but they couldn’t have been too successful – the lithium batteries needed for the best result are still quite expensive, and I see those particular Energizer units at “sale prices” in various supermarkets and places like Bunnings as the stores seemingly aim to clear the stock.

Not that they’re a bad idea – but why didn’t Energizer make them with rechargeable batteries instead? That’s what Varta has done, with chargers that re-energise via the Sun and/or via your PC’s USB port – to charge both batteries and a range of mobile devices.

First up is Varta’s new solar charger, aimed at those who like to spend a lot of time outdoors.

Priced a bit higher than your average charger at AUD $59.95, there’s a good reason why - the solar charger can give juice to various phones and MP3 players. One hour of sun and your phone will have 20 minutes of talk time, while your iPod – and presumably other media players – will clock up 50 minutes of listening time.

It also comes with two pre-charged, “Ready2Use” AA 2100mAh rechargeable batteries, which last for up to 1000 charges.

These can be easily removed from the charger to power devices which use AA batteries, but they must remain in the charger when charging devices over solar power to ensure a constant level of electricity flows into your device, an important factor given the amount of sun can change depending on clouds, its position and more.

This also means that you can let the charger charge up the AA batteries during the day, and the charger can then juice up your devices at night, long after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

Adding to its effectiveness is a built-in USB port, so you can charge your AA or device batteries through your computer or a separately purchasable power-point adapter that lets you plug in USB cables – handy on rainy days or when you’re indoors but still want a fully charged power pack for when you next venture out.

So, what other chargers are part of Varta's new range? Please read on to page 2...


Next up is a “Back up charger” at $29.95. It essentially performs the same function as the solar charger, but without the solar cells, in that it is a portable power pack for your iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and other digital devices.

It can charge both AA and AAA batteries, which then in turn would power your devices when out and about. It plugs into your PC’s USB port to re-juice the AA or AAA batteries within, and comes with two “Ready2Use” 2100mAh AA batteries, also rated for 1000 recharges.

Finally there’s the Varta Easy Charger which sells for $24.95. This is more like your standard rechargeable battery unit that plugs into mains power, coming with four “Ready2Use” AA rechargeable batteries at a slightly more powerful 2500mAh, and is also able to recharge those AAAs so common in remote controls today.

Naturally, rechargeable batteries are great for the environment, especially when you’re talking about batteries that can be recharged 1000 times, representing massive savings over single-use, non-rechargeable batteries, despite the higher initial upfront cost of a pack of rechargeables compared with the lower, but still seemingly ever rising prices of single-use alternatives.

Only Sanyo with its excellent Eneloop batteries is also claiming 1000 charges for each battery, but Sanyo’s AA batteries seem to have slightly less power at 2000mAh, as opposed to Varta’s 2100mAh and 2500mAh batteries.

For more information on Varta’s range of rechargeable batteries, you can visit Varta’s Australian site here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.