Advantages and Disadvantages of solar power banks
Easily the primary benefit of a solar power bank is the ability to provide a steady, controlled source of electricity anytime, anywhere. It does not have to get too terribly more complicated than that, though the “solar” descriptor does highlight the second advantage. So long as you have access to the sun, there is almost no limit to how much electricity you can both generate and distribute to your various devices.
The major drawback for a solar power bank is its physical presence. Batteries are actually incredibly inefficient–even today. This means that every battery of every type will be larger and heavier than you would prefer and this includes solar power banks. If you want storage of any meaningful capacity, you are going to have to accept a bit more encumbrance. That said, the size and weight of solar power banks are rarely unmanageable.
Charging capacity & how long does it take to charge?
For the charging capacity, there are few ways around the maximum energy capacity of the battery cells. These cells are generally Lithium-Ion batteries, so they can hold quite a bit of energy. That said, the power cells are still sensitive to damage, temperature, and often inclement weather. It is also worth noting that while the charging capacity may steal the show, the charging time is what generally makes or break a solar power bank in practice.
The charging time can refer either to the amount of time it takes to charge one of your devices or the amount of time it takes to charge the solar power bank. Keep in mind, solar power generation is always the least efficient and should only be used in case of emergency. In terms of charging either the solar power bank or your devices, the issue will hinge on the input and outputs. Basically, these points create a bit of a bottleneck with maximum energy transfers rarely exceeding 0.5 volts at 2.1 amps.
Weight & size
This is fairly important depending on what you need the solar power bank for. If you are an outdoorsy type of person, then a solar power bank is an excellent emergency backup. Of course, outdoorsmanship requires an efficient approach, one that may not always have the space to give a luxury like a solar power bank. In this instance, the lighter and smaller power banks will probably be preferred despite their lower charging capacity.
On the other hand, if you live your life either in the office or in your house, the solar power bank’s size may not be that big of a deal to you. Chances are, if you use this item, you have a tendency to treat it a bit like a luxury item. It is liable to see most of its use during vacations, perhaps camping or at the beach. There may even be a domestic moment where a power bank really pulls through, but by and large, this person forces the use of a power bank rather than needs one.
More and more power banks are beginning to be manufactured with some form of water resistance. That said, it is important to note that by design, a solar power bank can never be 100-percent waterproof. If a power solar bank suggests that it is IP67 or IP68 waterproof, you need to read the fine print very carefully to figure out what they actually mean by that. The primary issue is that a power bank is a device which physically connects devices to transfer electricity.
So long as those ports remain open for use, a power bank will always have a weakness and a weak spot to water. That said, some manufacturers have done the best they could with the physical limitations at their back. In this instance, numerous brands are adding covers to the various ports and openings.
While not truly waterproof, this arrangement will regularly achieve water resistance ratings of IPX4 or IPX5. These ratings are more than sufficient for a light splash or even a short exposure to rain. Keep in mind that most of the true waterproofing often comes in the form of covers that protect ports from exposure to water. If you leave these covers open, you often lose all waterproofing to the device. This means rarely will you be able to charge a device and simultaneously keep the solar power bank waterproof.
Most devices use one of a few types of inputs and outputs with the most common being some form of USB. It is worth noting that the numbers used in this article reflect the USB ports amperage, not its version. As such, it should be assumed that all USB ports are version 2.1 or lower, though few manufacturers provide those specifics.
The alternative to this comes from proprietary devices which is most common amongst Apple products. That said, there are also newer forms of connection which allow a significantly higher transfer of energy. The Type-C connection is the newest and quickly gaining popularity with larger devices like tablets and laptops.
Outside of the weight and size dimensions, the primary thing that determines a solar power bank’s portability is its design. Some power banks feature a body with a clip point. Other power banks will even include a carabiner to make sure that the body clip gets used. Still, there are few features designed to seriously increase the portability of a power bank.
Additional features (LED flashlight, multiple USB ports etc.)
There is a litany of features that come with power banks, but the majority of them are either useless or meant for particular circumstances. LED lights are great if you have no other light source, but that is a fairly unlikely scenario in its own right. Some power banks will include minor bells and whistles like a fan or compass, but these are mostly gimmicks and not worth basing your decision on.
One feature that may come to be seen as necessary in time is the Qi Wireless charging feature. However, multiple input and output ports of different types is also a great feature. Though you will want to make sure that the charging ports do not create an amperage bottleneck for charging either the power bank or your devices.
As we can see, there are plenty of great solar power banks to choose from, but which is right for you will depend on your particular needs. We personally recommend the Kiizon due to attention placed on the internal components and the build quality. While it may not have the greatest specs that we saw, it is the most reliable and longest lasting on our list.
If you are looking for a solar power bank that costs a bit less money but still provides a decent experience, we recommend the Elzle. Granted, this power bank does lack for some of the higher-end specs, but for the price, you will not find a more reliable or better built solar power charger. Moreover, this power bank has one of the better solar panels that we saw.