Yes, sadly, summer has drawn to a close, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep the music going. Especially when it comes to notebook computers, the built-in speakers can leave a lot to be desired. Also, what do you do if you want to share your iPod-fueled tunes on the go?
One of the more affordable and compelling solutions is to combine the Arctic Sound 2.0 S111 portable speakers for laptops with the Arctic C1 Mobile USB charger with solar panel. In effect, you have a solar powered stereo on the go.
Starting with Some Solar Power
There are plenty of other portable batteries that you can consider, but the Arctic C1 Mobile comes with a little something extra. In addition to the 4440 mWh lithium-ion battery inside, the C1 Mobile is also equipped with a solar panel.
A full charge by baking in plenty of sunlight can take about 12 hours or you can skip the wait and re-charge the battery via a standard mini-USB connection instead. That takes about two hours. Power output is through a regular USB connection, so you can use this to charge your smartphone, iPhone, or whatever else. It comes with adapters for Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Motorola devices.
Considering that it has an MSRP of only $24.60 US, the Arctic C1 Mobile is a pretty cheap investment in portable power, especially if you want to keep some tunes pumping while camping out in the boonies.
Adding in Some Stereo Sound
The other half of the equation is the Arctic Sound 2.0 S111 Speakers. Shaped like a pair of dice, these stereo speakers are largely designed to accompany your laptop, but they could just as easily be connected to any number of other devices through a regular 3.5mm stereo cable including your favourite music playing smartphone.
Out the back of the left speaker is a single cable (about three feet long) that connects to the back of the right speaker. In turn, the back of the right speaker has two built-in (read: cannot disconnect) cables for USB power and a 3.5mm stereo mini source. There's also a fairly large volume dial.
It is very noteworthy that the speaker cones are completely unprotected by any kind of mesh or cover. I imagine the construction is mildly hardy, but I'd still be cautious about how you choose to pack this into your backpack. But at $15.45 US or less if you hunt around, you could afford to go through a pair...or two.
Greater than the Sum of the Parts
Despite the compact size (each speaker is about 2.5-inches wide), the Arctic Sound S111 actually produced some pretty decent sound quality. The configuration is noticeably lacking in low-end bass, but the overall sound profile is reasonably rich given the circumstances.
No, you won't get anywhere close to what you'd expect from some real speakers, but this is super portable and versatile. Include the portable power source from the Arctic C1 Mobile and you're good for some decent sound on the go.
MEGATechie Useful or MEGATechie Gimmicky?
The C1 Mobile is about $25. The Arctic Sound S111 is about $15. Combine the two and you have a suitable portable stereo system for about $40. I'd say that's a pretty decent value.
The "natural sound response" is reasonably balanced, the simple design is aesthetically pleasing, and the solar-powered battery means you can stay green too. You'll need to provide your own audio source, like an MP3 player or music playing smartphone, and the cables can be a little cluttery, but I think it's great for a day at the beach or for an afternoon picnic.