Monday, February 1, 2016

d.light S20 Solar Lantern - Two Years In Review

A while ago I decided I needed a solar lantern, or otherwise some kind of solar light. Why? I was doing well in my final year of University, had a relatively-well-paying part-time job (for a Uni student), and this is the kind of stuff I would "treat" myself to.

Something else I bought around the same time was the PowerPlus Spider mini window solar light. This was under $10 AUD at the time I bought it, and ended up being a poor choice. The light output wasn't great, it didn't produce light for more than about 90 minutes, and it died recently (about 2 years after purchase). Perhaps if it hadn't decided to quit on me, it would've found a position in a future home at the end of a hallway, attached to a window which faces the sun, to beam along the hallway when the lights went out... But for now, I'm not rushing to get another one of those.

Back to d.light

d.light is one of the many companies out there selling very affordable solar lighting solutions to be used by those who don't have access to a mains power grid (or have access to a very unreliable power grid), as well as selling their items to people like me (i.e. perfectly well-off people living in first-world countries who also want very affordable solar lighting solutions).

At the time of purchase, three of the main products offered by the company were the S2 (a small solar light for doing homework by, or other such small tasks), the S20, and the S300 (a solar panel and lantern/floodlight solution to light up large rooms or areas, as well as offering mobile phone charging from the battery). For homework and preparing for my job, I used my computer, so there wasn't much need for the S2 in my situation. And there certainly wasn't much need for a solution such as the S300 when I was, at the time, living in big-city suburbia, in a granny flat behind the main household. So, the S20 it was!

Once I got it, I immediately put it on the window sill to charge. The instructions that came with it told me that it needs up to 8 hours to fully charge, for up to 8 hours of use. One of the best things I remember about the solar panels is that they charge in daylight, not just direct sunlight. So on overcast days, it would still charge, which is great to know.

As for the light itself, it's incredibly simple to use. A small button just below the solar panels turns it from off, to on (low brightness), to on (high brightness), and then back to off. Using the lantern on high reduces the time to discharge the battery from 8 hours to 4 hours, but I haven't yet felt the need to use the high setting. That's not to say that having a high setting won't be useful in future, it's just that the low setting puts out easily enough light for almost any task a lantern is required for.

Its metal swivel-handle and slightly oddly shaped head means that this lantern can be held or placed in almost any way, allowing it to be used in most situations.

To test it out in that first year, I had many nights of keeping the house lights off to see how useful it was. I had it hanging off the shower pipe to use in the shower (where it got wet on several occasions), I've used it to make my way around the darkened rooms as well as outside, and I've dropped it (albeit accidentally) on all sorts of materials, including (but not limited to) carpet, wood, tiles, and concrete. Each time I dropped it, the S20 bounced aggressively, but to this day there is still not a crack on it. A few light scratches here and there, sure, but no cracks, and the functionality was not impaired in the slightest.

Since then I've used it in a variety of situations. Most commonly just for going outside at night to get something I had forgotten, or to do something in the garden. But I've also used it, for example, in the first winter at my wife's and my new property, where during the lead up to winter (and during winter itself), I had my pant-belt threaded through the metal handle so that the S20 was hanging off my belt, and as such I had light to chop more wood for our fireplace.

Other Features

The S20 has a small red LED light on the back of its head, which lights up when it's charging in sufficient light. It's a small but (in my opinion) very appreciated touch, as there is no way to know if the solar panel(s) are actually working on a lot of smaller, cheaper solar devices. This way, right out of the box, you can tell if everything is in order by simply placing the S20 in daylight.

It also comes with a small port to be able to charge the device with one of the old Nokia phone chargers. An odd feature perhaps, but remember that not the whole world has been swept along with the smartphone revolution yet, so it makes sense when thought about in this context.

d.light Product Warranty

d.light has a standard warranty on all their solar lighting products, too. So if you buy it from them, or from an otherwise legit supplier, then you get that warranty on your S20.

It's a pretty standard warranty that covers failure from normal use during the first two years after purchase, so assuming you haven't been abusing your product (or have been unlucky enough to be in a flood etc.), there's not much need to worry about wasting money on a faulty product.

The d.light warranty is covered here.

Final Thoughts

So, I've owned one for a little while now, used it in all sorts of circumstances, and I plan to use it for quite some time to come.

There are possibly better solar lighting solutions out there at higher prices. But for its very low price range, reliability, ruggedness, and two-year warranty, this product definitely rates very high for handheld solar lighting in my books.

(d.light S20 website)

Buy S20 on Amazon

(Originally published, by me, on - 18/01/2015)

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