Solar generators, or portable power stations, have become really popular over the past few years. I suppose the idea of “clean”, environmentally friendly electricity, without the noise, hassle, and toxic fumes of a gas generator has its pros. How practical is a small power station like EcoFlow river in practice? This review aims to find the answers.
I should begin by stating that I would not actually buy the EcoFlow River portable power station. I’m not suggesting it’s junk, or that it isn’t worth buying. I simply don’t see much practical value in a power station with such limited battery storage.
The basic version has a 288 WH lithium-ion battery. An upgrade to the EcoFlow 600 MAX, includes an additional battery that you can connect up quite easily to double your power storage capacity. Even with the extra battery, you end up with 576 WH storage, similar to the Jackery Explorer 500.
Putting my opinions aside, there is a huge demand for these small solar generators. Some have a lot less battery storage than the EcoFlow river and even less inverter capacity for AC power. I guess, if you use a lot of battery-powered devices, like cameras, drones, etc., and spend a lot of time outdoors, the EcoFlow River can be really handy. With the additional battery, it should supply a very efficient CPAP for about 15-hours. With only the original battery, you’d be lucky to get a full night’s rest if you depend on a CPAP machine.
So yes, the EcoFlow River, like any solar generator of this size is somewhat limited. On the plus side, it’s really compact and not that expensive. An economical power station for camping, fishing, and hiking, possibly even tailgating – if you don’t require too much power. While these small battery/inverter power stations can be used for basic home backup power in an emergency, you cannot run much on the inverter and the battery time is quite limited.
If a small portable solar generator is what you’re looking for, then the review to follow should be quite insightful.
EcoFlow River ǀ The Complete Lowdown
- Recharge the battery from 0% to 80% within 1-hour (full charge within 1.6 hours)
- The X-Boost technology enables most heavy-duty kitchen appliances and tools (up to 1800W) to operate.
- The discharging rates and X-Boost mode can be monitored and controlled through the EcoFlow APP.
- 3 X pure sine wave AC outlets
- Double the capacity from 288Wh to 576Wh with an extra battery.
- Designed for mobility, weighs only 11 LBS.
- 24-month product warranty.
The EcoFlow River is really stylish machine. This is in keeping with the modern cutting-edge image of the EcoFlow company, based in San Francisco, CA. Beyond the cool exterior and stunning good looks, this appears to be a pretty rugged workhorse.
Weighing only 11-pounds, with a well-designed handle, the EcoFlow River is excellent when considering portability. It certainly is a power station that you can take anywhere. That’s a good thing, especially for outdoor enthusiasts who rely on their tech gadgets that constantly need electricity.
This is a wonderful unit for charging USB devices, with every type of USB port that you can think of: 2 X USB A, USB C (100W), and a fast charge USB port. It also supplies 12DC power. There are 3 X 110V household outlets providing low THD AC power from the pure sine wave inverter. By my calculations, the inverter is about 85% efficient. This is actually really good, with some of the cheaper inverters only being around 65% efficient.
For such a small machine, the EcoFlow River has a very competent inverter. It has a running capacity of 600W, meaning you can use up to 600W AC power constantly without the unit tripping. The surge capacity is 1,200W. Then they’ve added a fairly unique feature called X-Boost. However, this function does not impress me in the least.
Behind all the advertising hype, X-Boost is simply an electronic override for the normal overload shutoff. When you engage X-Boost mode, power to the AC outlets will not shut off when it reaches the normal rated output of 600W or 1,200W surge capacity. Instead, the inverter lowers the voltage to the outlets. This allows you to use equipment rated at up to 1,800W for short periods. The inverter is not actually supplying 1,800W, it is still limited to 1,200W peak capacity. By reducing the voltage, all the appliances operate at a lower wattage. This isn’t a good thing for many appliances. While electric equipment is designed to operate within a voltage range of around 10% above or below the rated voltage (115V), going beyond this range for extended periods is not the best way of doing things. It can shorten the lifespan of some equipment.
The regular 288 WH lithium-ion battery is of a good quality standard, rated for 500 cycles. Though, this is not a massive amount of storage. At best, expect to charge a phone up to 23 times, a laptop up to 4 times, or a camera up to 16 times.
As I mentioned in the introduction, you can upgrade to the EcoFlow River 600 MAX, which allows for an extra battery. This takes your battery storage capacity up to 576 WH. There is another model in the River range, EcoFlow River Pro. The pro variant has an entirely different battery, which is of a higher quality standard, rated for 800 cycles. It also provides better storage – 720 WH.
The EcoFlow River can probably boast the best AC charging times. The incredibly powerful 600W wall charger will fully recharge the battery from 0% in 96-minutes. The 12V car charger is less impressive, much like all the other portable power stations, charging the battery in about 3.5 hours.
The River has a built-in MPPT solar charger, so you can hook up two 110W solar panels. In good sunlight, these panels will charge the battery in about 3-hours, way better than average.
These battery charging times are for the 288 WH battery. If you’re using the River 600 MAX, with two batteries, charging times will be twice as long. The EcoFlow River Pro has improved charging capabilities, meaning that it can charge the 720 WH battery faster.
A cool extra feature is the EcoFlow App which offers a number of useful functions that can be controlled remotely from your phone. It also has a built-in LED flashlight. The large LCD screen on the power station allows you to easily check the battery status, as well as input and output watts.
The EcoFlow River is a very convenient portable power station. It’s ideal for keeping devices like phones, laptops, cameras, and drones charged on the go. It’s wonderfully portable and easy to use. At a very reasonable price, with a 2-year warranty, I can understand why this is such a popular solar generator.