Review: Kudo KudoSol for iPad mini
While iPhone charging cases are relatively common, protectors that can juice up iPads are still pretty rare. Kudo's KudoSol for iPad mini ($130) is one of the few products competing in that category. Solar charging is also an infrequent component, yet it's seen here, too. A faux leather folio, the case is over an inch thick thanks in part to the 5,000mAh battery integrated into the rear cover. What that gives you is the ability to charge the encased iPad -- there's a built-in Lightning plug -- as well as an iPhone or iPod through the USB port. The case itself can charge two different ways: there's an integrated USB plug that can be lengthened with an included adapter, and there's also the solar panel on the front.
The first thing we noticed about KudoSol was its size. While an inch may not seem like that much, consider it’s more than the thickness of three iPad minis stacked on top of one another. The bulk comes from the back panel, which houses the wide, flat battery, and the plastic module at the bottom where you’ll find the ports, cables, and battery indicator lights. We had a few problems with this component, in addition to its large size. On our review unit, the battery indicator lights didn’t seem to glow all the way across, even when the case was fully charged overnight. Additionally, while it’s nice to have an integrated charging solution, Micro-USB would actually be more convenient. Since the cord is only about 1.5” long, you’ll need the extender in many situations. While it’s not necessarily a bad solution, we think Micro-USB would be a little bit smarter.
Thickness aside, the case itself isn’t particularly impressive. At its core, it’s the same faux leather folio design we’ve seen for years. You slide the tablet in from the top, and then tuck a flap over the top edge to hold it in place. This style makes the side switch, volume buttons, Sleep/Wake button, and headphone port accessible, which is fine, but it also leaves all four corners exposed to potential damage. Of course there’s not access to the Lightning port in the case, and this means the speakers are blocked, too. This slightly dampens the audio volume. The two business card slots on the inside of the front cover and two stands built into the back are nice additions, but they don’t raise the quality of the case significantly.
In terms of charging, KudoSol’s performance is slightly above average. Based on our past tests, a 5,000mAh cell should provide a charge of about 78 percent to a first-generation iPad mini. We saw charging results of 84 percent in about two hours in our tests. As for the solar panel charging capabilities, the results were far less impressive. After leaving the case in the sun for an hour and then reinstalling the iPad, KudoSol was only able to deliver two percent battery life. That’s pretty abysmal.
Kudo’s iPad mini case has some automatic value based solely on the fact that there’s so little direct competition out there. While the case itself could be more protective, the battery works very well, and the extra charging port is a cool feature. Our tests showed the solar panel to be all but worthless though. Most people will be better suited to save the $30 and buy the company’s standard KudoBank, which has the same battery but no solar capabilities. This model earns our limited recommendation. It has a number of issues, but if you need an iPad mini battery case, it gets the job done.