Published Date 02/06/15 17:37
If you are taking your small USB powered devices off grid for a week or so then you will need a way to keep them powered up. In this review I look at 2 small folding solar panels. Both will charge a "dumb phone" or a normal smart phone and can charge larger phones or tablets for occasional use.
We have the Goalzero Nomad 7 from the USA and the smaller and cheaper UK based Bimbalesolar panel (A badged china import)
Both have approximately the same power output but the is a large price difference. The Slightly lower powered Bimble panel (6W) is a few years newer than the US panel (7W) thus smaller due to the use of 20% efficient cells compared to 17% for the older panel
The Nomad 7 has a light wait plastic regulator/plug box and has both USB and a 12v output (3-4W) which could be useful for trickle charging lead acid 12v battery’s. But not much everyday use for this function.
- Weight: 16.2 oz (460 g)
- Dimensions (unfolded): 9 x 1.5 x 17 in (22.9 x 3.8 x 43.2 cm)
- Dimensions (folded): 9 x 1.5 x 6.5 in (22.9 x 3.8 x 16.5 cm)
The Cheaper panel has a heavy folded metal box.
Extend Size: 200 x 400 x 20mm
Folded Size: 200 x 155 x 26mm
Is the size and large price diffrence worth it?
Nomad 7 £80
The build quality of the Goalzero panel is excellent, with custom components throughout, and it will likely survive for longer with hard use. While the Bimblesolar panel has good build quality and will like survive OK. The cheaper panel might prove to be easer to repair if it fails as it is made with standard components. Both will work fine to charge your small USB device.
On balance the price, and to a lesser extent the size differences makes the Bimblesolar panel the clear winner between the two.
How to use:
If you can turn your device off to charge it as this will reduce charging time. (some devices will not turn off while pluged in such as iphone's)
Use a power pass through USB battery pack to store power while your charging your devices. You must look hard for "power pass though" and pay slightly more for this feature.
Keep your expensive electronics dry, cool, in the shade and out of site.
Take care of your USB cables as they are fragile. If you can use the cable that the device came with as each cable is actually different and can alter charging times. Shorter cabals are better than longer cables in general.