SOL: The $350 Ubuntu laptop that runs on solar power
August 7, 2013
In the Western world, we tend to take for granted some pretty basic amenities, like reliable electricity. For people living in those corners of the globe where electricity can be scarce, WeWi Telecommunications, Inc. has developed the SOL, a rugged laptop that doesn't rely on a power socket to stay charged. The Ubuntu Linux-powered computer is instead equipped with a detachable solar panel, which the developers claim will provide up to 10 hours of battery life after just two hours in the sun.
We've seen solar-powered laptops before, but never one that promised to be this energy efficient. WeWi claims the SOL never actually needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet to charge, but it still has the option in case you need to keep working late into the night. The solar panel can even detach and connect to an extension cord, so you can use the computer indoors and still keep it charged with direct sunlight.
Aside from benefiting the owner by supplying a readily-available energy source, the SOL's solar panels should also help the environment by reducing air pollution. According to the developers, each SOL computer could prevent approximately a ton of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere during its lifetime simply by not charging it exclusively through a power socket.
The designers hope the SOL can serve as a reliable computer for students in developing nations and globe-trotting adventurers alike, which is why the entire device has been designed for durability and built from reinforced materials. Inside the case, the SOL houses an Intel Atom D2500 1.86 GHz Duo Core processor with an Intel 945GSE chipset. Users will have access to 320 GB of HDD storage as well as 2–4 GB of DDRIII SDRAM, depending on what the buyer chooses. The whole computer has been optimized with Ubuntu in mind and comes pre-loaded with a suite of productivity tools, but WeWi has stated that another OS can be installed if needed.
The SOL uses a built-in Intel GMA3600 graphics card with a 13.3 in LCD HD screen, which the designers are confident won't drain the battery too quickly. The laptop has a 3 MP webcam fitted to the front along with two speakers and an internal mic for online video chats, plus inputs for USB 2.0, headphones, and HDMI, among others. It also includes a few options for connecting to the internet, such as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G/LTE, plus connections for GPS and Bluetooth. Customers will even have a choice to add a satellite communications module for especially remote areas.
WeWi has not revealed a release date for its solar-powered laptop just yet, but the company has noted there are two distinct models in the works: the SOL and the SOL Marine, the latter of which will be waterproof. The company is determined to make the computer as accessible as possible, which is why it plans to distribute both versions worldwide at a budget price of US$350 and $400 respectively. Customers will also have a choice between a variety of color schemes for the case, including black, gray, red, and bright green.