I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. But that in no way influences my opinions.Full Disclosure
We found the Anker PowerPort portable solar charger on sale at a great price, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to review it.
Now, portable solar chargers are great if you’re camping or pursuing other outdoor activities. If you’re smart, however, you can easily increase their value. Even when you’re at home, you can use them to charge your portable devices. Although this is just a small change, always using a solar charger for your tablet, smartphone, or other USB device reduces your reliance on mains electricity, reduces your energy consumption, saves you money, gets you a little closer to sustainability and having a green home, and is better for the planet.
You can simply position the portable solar charger in a sunny window and connect the devices you want to charge. Unfortunately some, like the Anker PowerPort, aren’t rigid enough to sit against a window without a little help, but it’s easy enough to prop the panels against the window with a book or to pop a little Blu-Tack, or reusable mounting putty, in each corner to temporarily adhere it to the window.
This particular solar charger uses SunPower solar panels, so has a maximum output of 21 Watts and can charge two devices simultaneously. It provides a maximum of 2.4 amps per port. It’s also 21.5 to 23.5 percent efficient, which is pretty good for a portable solar charger of this variety. Of course, those specs assume that the charger is sitting in an optimal position, in direct sunlight that hits the panels perpendicularly. As most of us aren’t likely to calculate the angle and tilt we’d need to achieve maximum efficiency, we’ll see slightly lower peaks and slower charge times. If you place it in a sunny spot, you will have enough power to charge two USB devices, but obviously charging two devices simultaneously will slow the time it takes to charge them.
The Anker PowerPort portable solar charger utilizes PowerIQ technology, so unlike many models, detects and matches the charging protocol of the device you connect it to. This ensures the charger won’t deliver faster charge speeds than the connected device can safely handle. It offers surge protection and a short-circuit cut-off, too, to increase safety. This product is backed by an 18-month manufacturer’s warranty, which is fairly impressive for a product of this type.
Compatible with an extensive range of devices, including Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, this Anker solar charger is reasonably versatile. However, it doesn’t work with iPod nano, iPod classic, HP TouchPad, or Asus Tablets. It does work the Nexus 7, but not the older Nexus 5X and 6P, which is a tad disappointing for some users. It does charge other devices, such as LED USB lamps, smartwatches, wireless gamepads, and mug warmers.
It features a pouch to stow the devices you’re charging, which is great and super convenient in theory. However, the pouch, along with the solar panels, is housed in black polyester canvas. Now, this is incredibly durable, but it’s black. So, when it’s sitting in the sun, it gets incredibly hot, which isn’t great for most electronic devices. In some cases, the pouch gets so hot, that it’s been reported that devices in the pouch display overheat warnings. So, it’s worth monitoring the heat inside the pouch on a regular basis or, when you’re charging but not actually on the move, using a long connecting cable, placing the solar panels in direct sunlight, but keeping connected devices safely in the shade or in a separate white or reflective pouch.
The heavy-duty polyester canvas would be fabulous in a pale color, as it’s robust, durable, and easy to clean. It does offer weather-resistance, but it’s not really waterproof. More like splash-proof or light drizzle-proof. We’d say it’s not worth the risk and to avoid using the panel in wet conditions. Better to be on the safe side, right?
The Anker PowerPort solar charger is lightweight, tipping the scales at just 14.72 ounces. When folded, it measures just 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches and when open, measures 26.4 x 11.1 x 0.2 inches. So it won’t add unnecessary weight to your pack, and it’s easy to stow away when not in use. For charging on the move, providing it’s not raining, you can simply unfold the charger and hook it to the back of your backpack, which is super convenient.
If you plan to use your portable solar charger regularly for all your USB devices, you could consider purchasing the Anker PowerCore 20100 portable charger, which, once fully charged, provides a maximum of 5 volts and a 4.8-amp output. You can use your solar charger to recharge the portable battery for maximum versatility.
This portable solar charger is a solid choice. While it does get a little too hot when it’s in direct sunlight thanks to its black polyester canvas shell, and it’s not really waterproof, it does have plenty of positives. And after all, you can’t have everything. The Anker PowerPort solar charger does offer 2 ports and, with enough sunlight, delivers enough power to charge two devices simultaneously. The PowerIQ technology optimizes charging speed and helps to ensure device safety. All in all, we give this a thumbs-up. So go on, get yourself a shiny new portable solar charger and reduce your reliance on mains electricity, and take advantage of a truly sustainable – and free – source of energy.
Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for your free copy of 1 Week to a Greener You.