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Sunforce 12 Watt Solar Panel Review

   
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  • Currently 3.5/5
Overall avg rating 3.5 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: April 11, 2012
Street Price:   $169 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Light and compact for its power level, good value, lots of accessories.
Cons:  Can't charge multiple devices without adapters, harder to incorporate into bigger system.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, sailing, hiking, any time you need lots of power in a light package.
User Rating:     
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 (5.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   Sunforce
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ February 6, 2010  
Overview
The Sunforce 12 Watt Solar Panel used to be our runaway favorite panel. It still excels in certain applications, but in general we prefer the Goal Zero panels.

If you just need to charge a cell phone, camera or other other small device, we recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 7 which is half the cost, allows you to charge two devices, and has better attention to detail.

The Editors' Choice winner, the Goal Zero Sherpa 120 Kit is better if you need serious power and the ability to charge AC devices. But the Sherpa 120 kit is not nearly as portable and costs $600.

Where the Sunforce 12 watt still excels is in the weight per watt category. It is by far the lightest and most compact 12 watt panel we tested. And if you combine it with a cigarette splitter, you can charge two devices quickly.

If you are an RV camper or doing some serious car camping, we would go with the Goal Zero Escape 150 Adventure Kit, which is half the price of the Sherpa 120 Kit.

How does this panel compare to others? Check out our complete Portable Solar Panel Review

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

The name of this product is very confusing. We ordered the Sunforce 12 Watt panel but all over the panel it said "Motomaster Eliminator," which is apparently the same panel with a different name. There is also a Sunlinq 12 Watt panel that appears identical. The Brunton Solaris 12 also looks identical. Are these all made in the same factory and given different names?

This panel also comes in a 6.5 watt size. We found the 6.5 watt size charged devices slower, was not that much lighter, and generally not nearly as good a deal as the 12 watt. If you are looking at the 6.5 watt panel, you definitely should consider the Goal Zero Nomad 7.

Likes
This is the lightest panel per watt we tested. In a 12 watt size, it is about the same weight as the Goal Zero Nomad 7 watt panel.

Our panel came loaded with accessories: stuff sack, alligator clips, cigarette adapter, and various adapters to charge battery packs and other devices. There is also an adapter to link multiple panels. No other panel at this cost came with so many accessories. However, when we looked at buying this online a year later, it appears they separated these accessories from the panel and put them in the Sunforce 50056 Accessory Kit, which costs an extra $18. So you will have to do you homework and decide A) if your panel comes with these and B) if not, do you even need all these extra accessories? At least you have the option. Few other panels are compatible with so many accessories.

The one accessory this panel does not come with that we recommend is the cigarette splitter (that link goes to our favorite model). This allows you to charge two devices at once. Since the panel is so powerful (for its size) at 12 watts, we highly recommend this.

Dislikes
While at 12 watts this panel delivers a lot of power for its weight, it still does not deliver enough umpff to charge an iPad or most laptops.

While it is possible to link multiple panels and connect an inverter to charge AC devices, this in not nearly as simple, compact or effective as the Goal Zero Sherpa system. It can be done, but you need much more expertise about matching it with the right inverter. Even then, you will need a battery if you want to power your AC device at night or on a bad weather day. While you can make something like the Duracell Powerpack 600 work, it is not nearly as portable or practical as the Sherpa system. By comparison, if you were to buy the Nomad 13 panel (about the same price), you would have the option of plugging into a variety of different Goal Zero and compact inverters and batteries that are simple and effective.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 11, 2012
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Apr 11, 2012 - 07:16pm
We use a Portable solar panel basically identical to the Sunforce all the time, ours is the "Sunlinq brand" which is manufactured by Global Solarhttp://www.globalsolar.com/. I understand that the Sunforce, Motomaster and Sunlinq are all manufactured by global solar, but sold under different brands. They all use "CIGS thin film" solar cells, so would have identical performance.

We looked at getting a Goal Zero fold up panel, but these were a lot heavier and not nearly as compact. Since we were going to be taking this tramping and mountaineering, size and weight were really important to us and the Sunlinq stood out here.

We use this solar panel to recharge our AA batteries using a 12V AA charger (charges 4 x AA batteries at a time), the AA batteries are used in our digital camera, head torches and hand held GPS. This works perfectly and it always surprises me how fast the batteries are recharged, even when there are clouds about, this panel seems to be very efficient at using the available sunlight. We have also used this solar panel to charge a hand held VHF radio and satellite phone on one of our longer excursions, worked brilliantly in this application also.

Pros

* Very lightweight and compact, the smallest and lightest solar panel with this power output we could find (folds up smaller than a paperback novel)
* Fantastic power output in all conditions
* Very durable and high quality construction. We have been using it for over a year now and still looks like new.
* The flexibility of the solar cells means that you do not need to worry about damaging the panel when it is shoved in your back pack
* Comes with a great range of accessories (ours cam standard with all the above mentioned connectors), the extension cord is fantastic. The solar panel can be outside the tent while the battery charger is in the tent, nice and dry.
* Very easy to use, has attachment points at each corner making it very easy to secure to your tent etc.

Cons

* More expensive than some other options
* Being so lightweight, it needs to be secured or will blow away with a moderate wind
* There are no "Standard" battery packs or AA battery charges offered by the manufacture, unlike Goal Zero who have a complete range. However there are many companies that offer battery packs and charges for these Solar Panels (http://www.portablesolar.co.nz), you just need to look around.

Overall a fantastic portable solar panel, that is perfect for providing power in the back blocks. Works well and is durable, we are very happy with it and have recommended to many of our friends.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Sunforce 22010 12-Watt Folding Solar Panel
Credit: Sunforce
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