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Hands-on Gear Review
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Review
Cons: Expensive, heavy, lots of extra parts & cords
Bottom line: The Nomad 7 is a versatile, durable panel with a well-thought out design.
Goal Zero has reigned supreme in the realm of portable solar panels for some time now. Whether it is their green and black, snazzy color scheme or the strength of their marketing department, at first glance one might assume they are the only company out there making solar panels for the outdoor enthusiast. We wanted to test their product against lesser known panels, just to make sure there wasn't anything better out there. The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is one of their most popular panels out there. This year, we tested their newest model and found it to perform quite similarly to the less expensive, less recognizable brands, such as the Instapark Mercury 10 and the Renogy E.Flex5 5W.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Overall, this panel fell short in our performance comparisons. What Goal Zero lacks in saving weight and generating ample power, the brand makes up for in their clever design and extra features. If gadgets and versatility is important to you, then the Nomad 7 might be the ticket.
Charge Interruption Recovery
The Nomad 7W performed comparably to the Renogy 5W as it struggled to reengage a charge after being shaded for a few minutes. Both devices didn't manage to charge beyond 2% during the testing period, while the Outad 7W was able to charge to 3% even after being covered for a portion of the time. When we measured the output of the Outad vs. the Nomad during this test, the Outad read 5.05W in full sun while the Nomad only got to 3.6W, which helped the Outad recover a charge more effectively. The Anker PowerPort 21W, Anker Powerport Lite, Instapark Mercury 10, X-Dragon 20, and Nomad earned 8 out of 10s for this metric.
The Nomad 7 surprised us in testing as it charged an iPhone to 33% in 30 minutes. This is impressive, since the Anker 21W also charged the same phone 33% in 30 minutes, showing us the Nomad is a charging machine for its size. For the external battery, the Nomad 7 took four hours to charge it 10%. This number is a little more dismal, but relative to the other mid-capacity panels, its not surprising at all. The Renogy took the same amount of time to charge the battery only 9% and the Outad charged the external battery to 11% in 4 hours. Needless to say, these small watt panels have trouble charging power hungry devices, so keep that in mind when choosing the best panel for you.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
The Nomad 7W doesn't have the wattage output to charge multiple devices at one, but it does come with a plethora of cords for charging nearly every electronic under the sun. It even comes with a car plug so that you can charge devices through your car if the panel isn't working while you're on the road. For a multiple device charger, the Anker 21W or the X-Dragon 20W worked the best during our tests.
One of the plus sides of Goal Zero products is that they are built to last. Sometimes, it is worth buying a brand name product just for the reliability of its design and construction. The Nomad 7 is no exception. Out of the three low wattage panels, the Nomad 7 blew the competition out of the water in terms of durability, simply because Goal Zero has been in the game for a while. It has large, sturdy pockets with plenty of storage and strong canvas covering the panels on the outside. Both the Renogy E.Flex5 and the Outad 7W lack this pocket, which is key to the longevity of the USB ports and the gadgets you are charging.
Weight & Portability
In size, the Nomad 7 is fairly compact, but because it has so many accessories it is one of the heaviest panels we tested. Another contributing factor is the panel's closure method. Unlike the Velcro of the Anker 15W or the Anker 21W, the Nomad 7 closes with magnets instead. This is a nifty feature, but overall adds unnecessary weight to the overall panel.
The overall weight of the Nomad 7 is 16.2oz, which lands the panel right between the X-Dragon 20 and the Instapark Mercury 10W at 16oz even. For the capacity of the panel, this is a lot of weight, especially when you think about how long it may take for the panel to charge your gadgets.
This is a great panel for someone who will be charging many different devices and wants a long-lasting, versatile panel. The Nomad 7 is durable and well thought out in terms of design, and is also very user-friendly. For this reason, the Nomad 7 is also a good option for someone who is intimidated by the technologic world of solar power, as long as they don't mind spending a little extra cash.
Sold for $80 online, the Goal Zero Nomad 7 is one of the more expensive panels in the fleet. While still having only a 7W capacity, the price per watt ratio is pretty high with this one. Again, when buying this panel a lot of the cost goes to the brand name and the trustworthiness of having a known and approved product. There are many panels, like both of the Anker products we tested this year, that are becoming more recognizable and may begin to give Goal Zero a run for their money in the coming years. For the cost, the Nomad 7 seemed to be a bit expensive for a product with such a small output capacity.
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is not for everyone, but if you do decide it's for you, you will end up with a reliable, durable, versatile panel. The security the brand name provides is worth it for some, but it's important to realize how many other brands are out there making equally good solar power products. The Goal Zero is incredibly well designed and easy to operate, making it a great option for group trips where there are many different charging needs.
— Jane Jackson
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