Today I took the 20W 5V for a field test outside for a couple of hours and I am glad that I did! The 20W 5V both exceeded and missed expectations making it a very unique product and a terrific introduction into solar products. I will go over the pros, the cons, and my final thoughts here.
- Presentation: Once I took the panels out of the package, I was quite impressed with what I saw. I somehow expected tacky, but what I got was a clean and simple folded design with a pocket on the outside to hold wires.
- Convenient: I don't know what I expected in terms of size, but once folded up, these panels were smaller than expected. The closest example I can think of is iPad mini size.
- Ease of Use: The second I had a USB wire plugged in, I was set. The USB light indicator immediately illuminated red to show that energy was being produced. I had no issues figuring out how to use these solar panels
- Limitations: These panels are not going to be a fast charger, nor will they work for larger electronics.
- Design: The panels once unfolded have 2 metal rings to have carabiners go through. The distance of these paired with the small carabiners almost made me not able to attach them to my backpack. A couple more rings would have helped with this.
- Production: After testing this with a wattage tester, the wattage came to around 5 watts of production on a cloudy day. To put that in perspective, an iPad requires 10 watts to charge.
This product took me through a rollercoaster of emotions. I sell residential solar panels to homeowners and have plenty of experience with their functionality. However, my only experience with solar products outside of large residential scale panels have been solar lights, watches, and old calculators. I dismissed these panels as a gimmick before testing them out.
My first emotion was elation. When I first opened the panel outside and attached the USB charger... I was honestly shocked. The light did not dimly light, nor did it have a delay. It was instant. Once I plugged in the electric lighter and saw the blue light show charging, I knew that this was no gimmick. Now my emotions for this product overinflated my expectations. Suddenly I thought this was the bees knees and would be the equivalent of plugging into a wall socket, I was wrong.
The next emotion I felt was disappointment. I took these panels, attached them to my backpack, and plugged in my iPad. No charge. Not enough juice was produced to charge my old iPad. This must not produce that much energy. I then tried my 3 year old phone. Success! It showed a charge. I went for a 2 hour walk, and charged my phone 6 percent while I was using it periodically for phone calls or websites. "Wow... this isn't that powerful of a charge." I would say the equivalent of a slow charger for sure.
Then, my last emotion was revelation. Defeated, I finished my walk, drove to the store and periodically used my phone during the trip. 30 minutes later and I noticed something that put everything into perspective. My phone battery had dropped by 6 percent! If I did not have the solar plugged into my phone, that same time horizon would have dropped my battery by 24 percent! Instead, it rose by 6.
Honest Impressions and Final Thoughts
I had been upset with this product due to not understanding the capabilities of solar before buying it. It was only after my day of use that I realized the panels worked perfectly well and my emotional response had nothing to do with the panel itself, merely ignorant expectations. These solar panels will not be the equivalent of plugging into a wall socket, but they were not designed to be. This is designed to be a very small convenient set of panels to keep around. I would classify that their true purpose would be closer to a battery extender while the electronic device is active, and a good emergency recharger when I turn off the device. If I wanted to charge my phone and I was in the middle of nowhere, I would understand that I should turn off the device and then give the panels time to charge.
I highly recommend purchasing these panels. If you have no solar products at all, it makes for the perfect introduction to solar. It can fit in any car, bug out bag, or camping equipment. They offer a good emergency solution to power charging with minimal space requirements.