Well, I mentioned “Malaysia” explicitly due to the limitation of such reviews in this part of the world, or anywhere in the Tropics at this point of writing. Aside from marketing gimmicks of power bank backed with solar panels that obviously undersized for satisfying performance, it is real hard to find legit portable solar charger aside from expensive commercial ones such as Goal-Zero in Malaysia. You may have come to know that my blog is pretty much around the realm of sustainability in the built environment segment, but yes I have yet to cover much of my personal hobbies that came to the point of purchasing this gadget. Biketouring has been a core of my life for now, the desire to travel far away from the bustling polluted (all kinds you name it) cities with the therapeutic breeze drifting through you as you paddle across the hours. So, aside from the carbon filter that takes care of my water needs, I needed an off grid power solution (and yes Goal Zero is way too expensive, e.g RM1000 for a 15W panel)
So here it is.
Anker PowerPort Solar 21W. There are few editions in the market but this is probably the latest at writing time, with ~23% efficiency. It’s really simple! Just plug and play with 2 USB ports. With the folded size of 282mm x 160mm, around the size of the Ipad and lighter than the Ipad at 417 grams (source), this is probably one that fits into a file folder! Built with rugged polyester canvas, it also comes with a pocket that shields your device from sunrays and punched holes for you to bind it anyway to your luggage or backpack while hiking. The reviews for Anker products are quite established. However as an american product, it is indeed limited for a review in Malaysia at least.
At first in hand, it indeed felt very solid, despite thin. It unfolds 3 times to gain maximum area of 282mm x 670mm. To my surprise, you can actually slightly bent it too. I found it out when I was securing it to my bike rack with elastic straps over it. Aside from the test result which I am going to show, I managed to use it on my 6 hours ride to Frasers hill and it managed to charge my 10,000mAh powerbank by as much as 50%. The tricky part about our climate in the Tropics is uncertainty of cloud cover, but this is not a major issue however. 21W is a fairly decent size for light weight USB usage devices. Even if it is cloudy, the solar charger is still charging, however expect a slower speed.
Following is a screenshot from my smartphone, upon charging using the 21W Anker Solar Charger. While I am certainly not an experienced one in justifying the performance efficiency, here’s a result for a typical cloudy sky in the Tropics. Over a duration of 40 minutes, there’s a 10% increase in battery size of my Mi3 smart phone. And this was during the simulataneous charging up of my power bank as well. It is claimed that the max panel output is 5V and 2,000mA. While the mA here is not deemed to be accurate, we can see a close stable to 4V output from one of the 2 charging USB ports. The app I used for this test is Ampere.
If I could improve this product, is definitely, to add a permanent zipper to the holding compartment, as the current design merely secures part of the opening which may drop out your placed gadgets in the compartment.
So what’s the damage? I bought it via Amazon for ~55USD. And yes Amazon doesn’t deliver it to Malaysia hence I used Borderlinx, an international courier which costed me 27USD. All in all, a good sum of RM322, well positioned below Goal Zero’s expensive starter kit. It took me less than a week upon purchasing.
Here’s the description placed:
There are definitely multiple players for Solar Chargers in the US. The most convincing review so far I have seen is Outdoorgearlab. I have also spotted that there’s a 14W Solar Charger Anker product on Lazada in Malaysia recently but that is the old model which has 4 panels and lower efficiency solar panel I suppose. Oh and of course, many other similar panels in Lazada as well but of course I don’t trust any of those as uncle Google couldn’t tell me anything much about it.
Oh and just so in case if you are curious of my bike packing tour packing to Frasers Hill. Yes that’s the 21W Anker Solar charger, fairly small and light enough. There are all sorts of methods to charge your device while on a bike packing.. from the basic dynamo to USB output, to DIY wind generator.. and lastly Solar. While Solar saves your energy expenditure by not contributing additional friction, be reminded that it is highly dependable on the weather and cloud cover! Again it all depends on your overall demand of electricity to see what suits you the best!