The Best Portable Solar Battery Charger

Anker 15W Foldable Dual Port

Overview – The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite 15W is a game changer. Anker has consistently proven itself to be one of the highest quality manufacturers of portable solar chargers during the entire life of this review category. Anker’s panels have often been among our winners, earning that spot mostly for their reliable, high quality manufacturing. They have always produced a well-made, dependable product. And up until now, the only thing keeping their products from our Editors’ Pick winning spot has been the heavier weight. If you need a little more power and are willing to spend another $10-20, check out the big brother to this panel, the Anker 21W PowerPort Solar.

Now, all that has changed. The PowerPort Solar Lite 15W is lighter than Goal Zero’s 7 watt Nomad panel, and equally as powerful as the 50% larger RavPower 15W panel. Sound too good to be true? We thought so, too. But then we remembered that it was from Anker, so we had to give it a try. Read on to hear how Anker managed to steal the spotlight in this round of review updates.

A Mini-Revolution in Portable Solar Technology

Anker has seriously stepped up the game in the portable solar panel world. This year, they upgraded the 14W Dual Port Solar Panel to the Anker PowerPort Solar 15W and Anker 21W PowerPort Solar. The 15W panel costs $80, and the 21W costs $100. These panels have Anker’s exclusive PowerIQ technology, which the company claims will replicate your device’s original charging protocol to provide its fastest possible charging speed (with enough direct sunlight).

Hands-On Review

Anker’s new PowerPort Solar Lite 15W panel is revolutionary. Anker slashed the weight of their 14W panel by more than half while increasing the power output by 1 watt, thus making it one of the most powerful panels by weight that we have ever gotten our hands on. Naturally, this newness unleashed our inner skeptics, so we ran the panel through our rigorous field tests to see if it is still up to snuff, maintaining the high standards of other Anker products.

Output Power

The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite packs a punch with 15W in just two panels, and a max current of 2.1 amps (divided between the two ports). In our field tests, the PowerPort Solar Lite charged an iPad in about 8 hours (or about 12-15% per hour) and an iPhone in 3.5-5 hours (or about 20-30% charge per hour). When charging both an iPhone and iPad at the same time, the rate was about 7% per hour for the iPad and 20% per hour for the iPhone.

This Editors’ Choice winner is one of the most powerful and reliable solar panels we have ever tested. During a mostly sunny, week-long Denali expedition training on Mount Rainier, we were able to keep the team’s various USB devices charged up. The charging was so fast that we didn’t even have any fights break out over whose text messages were most important. We especially appreciate that either of the USB ports can provide the 2.1 amps of current when only one device was plugged in, and the charging optimization of the PowerIQ technology, which essentially ensures that your device is speaking the same language as the solar panel’s circuitry. This resulted in optimal charging efficiency for all devices tested.

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Note, however, that the total amperage output of this panel is 2.1 amps. If you’re looking for something more powerful, you might consider the RavPower 15W, which provides 3 amps total if the solar panel can reach its max output of 15 watts. Due to the inconsistent nature of solar charging, starting first with the ephemeral nature of the sun and exacerbated by losses in energy transfer between cables and plugs, our testing revealed that it is in fact rare to max out the output power of any device. In this regard, Anker pulls ahead of the competition by optimizing the charging with the PowerIQ technology, regularly scanning the system to keep the charging cranking.

This updated panel uses PET polymer thin-film solar panels rather than the more traditional monocrystalline. This results in lighter weight and affordability, as well as more resilience to shading and low-light conditions. However, they may be less durable and more susceptible to weatherization, and potentially less efficient in the long run.

Ease of Use

The Anker 14W was already one of the easiest panels to use in this review, so we didn’t think Anker could improve much upon the panel in this category. If the 14W was that old Toyota pickup you regretted selling even though the kid who bought it was glowing with joy, then the 15W is the Sprinter van that gets you there faster, with better gas mileage, and includes all your favorite car-camping amenities (but for the same price as that old pickup, if you can fathom such a thing). We still love the old reliable 14W, but wow, this new one makes it hard to imagine we’d ever lived without it.

The only complaint came from a friend who said the panel’s incessant resetting (and the noise it makes when it does so) was disrupting her Zen. Fair enough, this panel is so on top of its charging that it regularly scans the power setting to optimize the power to your device(s).

This panel took the reliability we loved from the 14W and packed it into a lighter weight, more compact, and even more powerful upgrade. Anker replaced the metal grommets of the 14W with sewn loops of parachute cord. Though they may not be as durable over the long term, they make the panel even easier to hang from tents, rogue protruding nails, camper trailers, etc., and likely shaved off a little weight.

Weight

At 12.5 ounces for as much as 15 watts of power, Anker slashed the weight of the PowerPort Solar Lite by more than half from the 27.9 ounces of the 14W panel. You’ll also see a significant cut in panel size, while still increasing the overall power. The 14W measured 34.6 x 11 in unfolded, and 6.9 x 1 x 11 in folded. The new 15W measures 18.9 × 11.0 in unfolded and 6.3 × 0.7 x 11.1 in folded.

 

Versatility

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Weight was the only major Achilles heel of Anker’s now-antiquated 14W panel. At almost two pounds, the old 14W version could be harder to justify taking along on your fast-and-light mountain missions, or your long through hikes where every ounce really has to earn its keep in your ultralight kit.

But now, at just over 12 ounces for 15W, 2.1 amps of total current, and boasting even faster charging speeds thanks to the PowerIQ technology, the PowerPort Solar Lite will be your favorite electronic companion on almost any adventure, even for the weigh-conscious ski mountaineer. The only way it could really be improved is if it could somehow also fit in our pocket. But now we’re really asking a lot.

Value

When researching the price of this product, our researchers did the internet equivalent of a double-take. We found ourselves checking and re-checking the listed prices. This panel blows the price-per-watt metric out of the water. And now it sets an aggressive standard for price per watt-ounce, if that’s a thing…yes, it really is around $80 for 15 watts in just over 12 ounces.

Anker has not taken the same marketing path as Goal Zero, and they have yet to make any solar charging kits like the Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit, which is a clever way to entice buyers and encourage them to stay with your company. We have used the Anker external batteries with much delight–they are as well made as their panels–so perhaps a kit would be a tempting option from Anker.

Conclusion

Anker really crushed the competition with the new 15W PowerPort Solar Lite. It is hard to believe that it made a panel one watt more powerful than its last one while slashing the weight by more than half and cramming it all into a two-panel design, down from the four panels of the 14W charger. But it is all true. We’ve seen it, felt it, tested it, lived it. Stay tuned for the next sea change in the portable solar charger market. It’s a new dawn.

 

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