The WEN 56380i is remarkable in being a highly affordable 3,800W portable inverter generator. It’s rare to get a good quality, quiet inverter generator, powerful enough to supply an RV, for under $900. Little wonder, this is one of the most popular inverter generators on the market. For around $200 more, the Briggs & Stratton P4500 is another budget friendly inverter generator with a good power output. Although more expensive than the WEN56380i, the Briggs & Stratton delivers 4,500W peak power. Making it a more versatile inverter generator, whilst still being affordable enough for most generator buyers. How do they compare? This review will look at the pros and cons of the WEN 56380i vs Briggs & Stratton P4500.
For homeowners and RV enthusiasts, there has been a growing demand for quiet inverter generators. In today’s world of hi-tech digital appliances, the clean, low HD power delivered by a pure sine wave inverter is a great advantage. Until fairly recently, most inverter generators were quite small, typically around 2,000W – 2,500W. They were also expensive, beyond the means of many buyers.
It didn’t take long for generator manufacturers to cotton onto the idea of an RV inverter generator, capable of supplying an RV air conditioner. This is what so many RV owners are looking for. Of course, the WEN 56380i is not just popular with campers, it is a great generator for home backup power, food trucks, tailgating. With enough grunt to run a full-size 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner, the WEN 56380i has risen to this challenge. Best of all, it costs around $800.
With 3,800 starting watts and a rated constant output of 3,400 watts, the WEN 56380i will run a large RV AC, but no more. You won’t have enough power for other electrical equipment. If you’re using a 10,000 BTU RV air conditioner, this generator will probably be the perfect solution. You should be able to keep your RV powered up, meeting all your needs. If you need extra power, the Briggs & Stratton P4500 may the best solution in the budget-friendly market sector. At about $1,000, it certainly isn’t expensive and produces 4,500W peak power and 3,700W running power.
WEN 56380i ǀ The Full Review
- EPA III and CARB Compliant
- 212cc 4-stroke OHV engine
- 3800 surge watts and 3400 rated watts
- Half-load runtime of up to 8.5 hours
- Fuel shutoff maximizes the generator’s lifespan by using up the remaining fuel in the carburetor before shutting down
- Produces clean power to prevent damage to sensitive electronics such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops
- Includes two three-prong 120V receptacles, one AC 120V NEMA TT-30R RV receptacle, one 12V DC receptacle, one 5V USB port, a digital load and fuel display
The Wen 56380i is, in every sense, a fully competent, modern inverter generator. It is enclosed in a sound insulated housing and is remarkably quiet. The price is really enticing. This 3,800W inverter generator costs less than the 2,200W Honda EU2200i. Naturally, when considering how cheap this generator is, one has to ask if it’s any good.
The WEN brand has become synonymous with excellent value for money. This means you’re getting a good quality product at a very reasonable price. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the WEN 56380i can compare to the much more expensive Honda and Yamaha generators. Even less expensive generators, like Westinghouse and Generac, are probably higher quality. None the less, WEN generators do their job, are reliable, and pretty durable. In the light to medium duty generator category, it’s hard to ignore WEN. I believe the WEN 56380i to be the best value budget generator in its class.
The 212cc 4-stroke engine is reliable, quiet, and wonderfully fuel-efficient. It is up to date with all modern engineering trends, including emissions standards. The WEN 56380i is EPA III and CARB compliant. Given how cheap this generator is, I was quite astounded at the quality and technology displayed here. It has an electric starter, supplied by a 1.6AH lithium-ion battery. This is great, as the battery weighs a lot less than the traditional lead acid batteries, that are typically used for this type of application. Lithium batteries are also beneficial when it comes to long term storage. You don’t have to charge this battery as often as you would a conventional automotive battery.
Running at the standard 3,800 RPM, the WEN 56380i delivers the rated wattage of 3,400W (3,800W peak) with incredible efficiency. This is one of the most economical generators to use, with really low fuel consumption. One of the best in this regard, increasing the value for money aspect that makes this machine so attractive. The WEN inverter generator has a 2.2 gallon gas tank, which provides an 8.5 hour runtime at 50% rated load (1,700W). This means a fuel consumption rate of 6.6 Kilowatt-hours per gallon (KWH/G). To make sense of this, you want to get the most kilowatts per hour from a gallon of gas. It’s the best way to make a realistic comparison between different generators in terms of fuel consumption. The average portable generator offers around 4.5 to 5 KWH/G. Above 5 KWH/G is good, around 6 KWH/G is excellent. The WEN exceeds this, going over 6.5 KWH/G, making it one of the very best.
Like most inverter generators, the WEN 56380i has an economy mode, activated by a switch on the user panel. If your expected load is not going exceed 25% (850W), using the ECO function can further reduce your fuel consumption and noise levels. This electronically managed engine speed control uses the inverter to maintain a steady voltage and frequency at low RPM. At a load of 25% or less, the engine speed is reduced to improve gas consumption and it runs quieter. With ECO mode engaged, at a load of 25%, the WEN is barely audible at 57dBA. When the load demand increases beyond 25%, the computerized management system will automatically increase the RPM. Though there is always a time delay before the engine reaches the full 3,800 RPM required for a higher load demand. An engine simply cannot increase power as fast as electricity moves.
This lag in power increase has caused many to claim that inverter generators aren’t as good as they should be. This is not something that’s unique to the WEN 56380i, it is common to all inverter generators. Some are better than others. More expensive generators will usually have an inverter with more capable capacitors, this allows the inverter to compensate for the power lag as the engine increases speed. However, there will always be some delay, resulting in a brief period (typically less than a second) when the Harmonic Distortion (HD) increases quite dramatically. Generally, I’ve found WEN inverter generators to be less problematic in this regard. In fact, the WEN 56380i has one of the lowest Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) specs, less than 1.2% (most are rated at <3% THD).
If the sine wave distortion is short, there is no chance of damaging your electronic equipment. None the less, I always recommend using the ECO function, on any inverter generator, with some degree of caution. If you know the power demand is going to increase and decrease regularly, it is better not to use the economy mode. The fuel savings won’t be all that significant if the generator regularly increases engine speed. ECO mode is a great function if you’re not using equipment like air conditioners, refrigerators, or microwave ovens. If you’re watching TV with a few lights on, perhaps a small fan, you can save some gas and maintain the noise at a level that is perfectly acceptable in any campsite.
The WEN 56380i has a great control panel with a full array of outlets and a comprehensive digital data display. AC outlets include duplex NEMA 5-20, 120V, 20A standard household receptacles and a TT-30, 120V, 30A RV outlet. It also has a 12VDC (cigarette lighter type) outlet for charging 12V batteries, and a 5VDC USB outlet. The AC circuits are protected by a 20A push-button breaker. A 10A circuit breaker protects the DC outlets.
Starting the generator is simplified with a single turn dial. It has an “auto off” function which is really great when storing or transporting the generator. When the dial is turned to this position, it will use all the remaining fuel in the carburetor before switching the generator off. This means you don’t have to drain the carburetor manually before storing. It also prevents the possibility of alternator damage which can occur when you shut off the fuel supply and allow the carburetor to run dry. You have the option to use the manual off switch, will not drain the carburetor of fuel. Parallel connection ports allow you to connect a second WEN 56380i generator to increase your power output. A recoil starter is provided so that you can start the generator if the battery fails
The digital multimeter is excellent. An LCD screen provides a numeric display for detailed data: Voltage, Frequency, and Runtime. It also has a service alert, which conveniently reminds you after 50-hours of runtime. Flanking the display screen are two digital led gauges for fuel and load. Each gauge has 5 LED indicators. At a glance, you can observe the fuel level, or what percentage of the total rated power output you’re using. They are calibrated in units of 25% – 0; 25%; 50%; 75% and 100%. At the top of the info panel, are three standard warning lights. A red LED indicates overload, alerting you to circuit breaker trip. A reset button allows you to restore power, once the load has returned to normal. A green LED indicates that the output is ready, and you connect your load. A yellow LED alerts when the oil level is low.
This generator is designed for easy portability. It is pretty lightweight at 99.2 LBS. Furthermore, it has great handles. Two large handles run across the top of the WEN for easier lifting. It has a built-in wheel kit, and a retractable handle. This means you can move the generator quite comfortably, without any real effort. The wheels are small and not suitable for rough terrain.
Just a basic observation of the WEN 56380i suggests that it should be much more expensive than it is. It has all the mod cons that you would expect to find on the most expensive inverter generators. It also has the sophisticated technology required for providing stable, safe electricity for all types of appliances. It is lightweight and quiet. WEN power equipment is not high-end industrial grade quality. No one could expect that at such a good price. Though, the WEN 56380i is not junk either. Compared to cheap, lesser known brands, WEN instills a lot of confidence when buying a machine on the cheaper end of the scale. It is covered by a 2-year warranty, with good after sales service.
Briggs & Stratton P4500 Review
- 4,500W peak power, 3,700W rated power.
- Pure sine wave inverter, safe for electronics.
- 16-hours runtime at 25% load, 3.3 gallon gas tank.
- CO-GUARD, Carbon Monoxide protection.
- Digital data display.
The Briggs and Stratton PowerSmart Inverter Generator series is a fairly recent addition to their product lineup. The P4500 is one of the best from this range, with 4,500W peak power and 3,700W running power. This extra power gives it an advantage over the WEN 56380i, and the Briggs & Stratton generator has some really cool technology. Though, I should point out from the outset; the B & G P4500 has not been met with the same level of enthusiasm as the WEN 56380i. Customer complaints are fairly numerous, mostly centering around minor quality control issues. In the general scheme of things, these issues aren’t really a big deal, more of an inconvenience. Briggs & Stratton is an established US brand, with a reputation to protect. They are, therefore, obliged to repair any of these irritating defects under their warranty agreement. The only setback, for those experiencing this, is the frustrating wait to have your generator repaired and returned to you.
With all of this disclosed, I should defend the guys at Briggs & Stratton in saying that the majority of customers, who’ve bought the P4500, have nothing but praise and admiration for this machine. I, too, am pretty impressed with this machine. Well, as impressed as I’ll ever be when it comes to cheap generators. I prefer the high-end machines – who doesn’t? In the end, most of us need to make some sort of compromise. We may want the top machine, but the price tag may not always suit our budget. This is where brands like Briggs and Stratton and WEN can make all the difference. These generators are cheap. Yet we’ve come to trust both brands to deliver a level of quality that is acceptable and the customer service to match.
There’s a lot to like about the Briggs & Stratton P4500. It’s a real looker, probably the best looking quiet inverter generator around. That’s nice, but a good looking generator is not the most important thing. Though, it’s great to see the heads turn in a campsite when you haul your generator out, then start it to a whisper quiet purr.
Moving on the important stuff. The Briggs and Stratton 224cc engine has probably benefitted most from the recent upgrades and improvements. They’ve made great improvements in making the generator easier to start, especially in cold weather. One of which is the automatic choke. It keeps things simpler when starting, and prevents accidental engine flooding, which is so often the cause of a non-starting engine. The modern EPA and CARB compliant engine delivers the 3,700W rated running power with the greatest of ease, and quietly too. Together with the inverter, boosting power output to a pretty impressive 4,500W is easily achieved. All the while, supplying pure sine wave, low HD power, safe for your sensitive electronic appliances.
Ironically, this generator’s engine isn’t much more powerful than the WEN 56380i – a difference of only 12cc. Yet, the Briggs pumps out quite a few more watts. Generally I prefer a larger engine, relative to the wattage output. The engine doesn’t have to labor as much when producing the HP needed to keep the alternator spinning as it should. For this reason, I think the WEN 56380i may end up being the more durable of the two. This is only personal speculation though.
Fuel economy is something I consider really important when discussing budget generators. There is little point saving a few bucks today when you buy the generator, only to find you’re burdened with expensive gas bills for the lifetime of the machine. Here again, the WEN 56380i is the outright champion. Above, I expressed my complete amazement at the fantastic 6.5 KWH/G gas consumption for the WEN generator. The Briggs & Stratton comes in at 4.2 KWH/G, making this one of the thirstiest generators. For every kilowatt of power you generate, the B & G is going use around 35% more gas than the lean WEN 56380i. Definitely something to consider. On the upside, the Briggs and Stratton has a much larger gas tank, 3.5 gallons. This offers a very convenient 16-hours runtime at 25% load. It has the same fuel economy and quieter running advantage at low power output. This being the economy mode that reduces the engine RPM when the power demand is less than 25% (925W). Though the Briggs and Stratton PowerSmart generators are not the best at increasing output in ECO mode when the demand is suddenly increased. It is still satisfactory, meaning it’s safe for your electronic devices. There is just a slightly longer delay, with higher HD levels, when the generator switches from the low RPM economy mode, to the high RPM required for full power output.
The Briggs and Stratton P4500 has a bonus safety feature. Something that seems to be quite unique. As part of the PowerSmart upgrade, Briggs & Stratton have included a system they call CO-GUARD. This is designed to protect the users from excessive Carbon Monoxide (CO), which can be fatal if inhaled. Sensors measure the CO around the generator. If this reaches dangerous levels, the generator will shut down automatically.
Briggs & Stratton have done a great job designing the user functions for the P4500. At the back of the generator, all your starting functions have been conveniently clustered together, along with a fairly comprehensive digital data center. A dial, turns the fuel from on to off and you press a button to start the engine. Since it has an automatic choke, this all that is required. Directly adjacent to the electric starting functions, is the recoil rope, with quick easy access. The digital display is similar to the WEN 56380i, monitoring power usage, fuel level, and runtime. They’ve also made it super easy to access the inner workings for routine service tasks. If you need to check the oil, sparkplug, or air filter, panels open easily with no tools required.
Around the corner from the starting panel, a pretty neat array of power outlets are conveniently arranged for ease of use. It has the all-important 30A TT-30 RV outlet and 2 X 120V 20A duplex outlets, giving you a total of four conventional household power receptacles. You also have the benefit of a USB outlet, but no 12VDC battery charging port. The expected parallel connectivity is available. I like that all the outlets are protected with plastic covers. This is great at preventing dust and moisture from deteriorating the power receptacles over time.
The Briggs & Stratton P4500 can almost compete with the WEN 56380i in terms of the portability. The Briggs generator is heavier, at 115-pounds (vs 99.2). It’s to be expected that a more powerful generator with a larger, heavier alternator and inverter is going to be a heavier machine. In addition to this, the Briggs & Stratton generator uses a conventional lead acid battery, whereas the WEN uses a lightweight lithium-ion battery. The Briggs and Stratton P4500 has handles molded into the housing, at either side for lifting the generator, also not quite as good as the solid top handles fitted to the WEN 56380i. The retractable handle and wheel kit, are every bit as good as those on the WEN generator.
I’m a little disappointed to see that the Briggs & Stratton P4500 received a pretty lousy customer rating on Amazon – 3.8 stars. The WEN 56380i received a much more impressive 4.6 start rating. I never take customer ratings as the ultimate and only indication of how good a product is, but it does give us some indication. Regardless of public opinion, I believe the P4500 deserves at least a 4-star rating. It seems that many customers who experienced initial problems rated this generator with 1-star. Although understandable, we all know how frustrating this can be, it isn’t entirely fair. These issues are repaired by the manufacturer under warranty. Which, by the way, is excellent – 3-year residential and 1-year commercial warranty.