MPowerd Luci Solar String Lights Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Solar powered, packs up easily, bright
Cons: Light array difficult to arrange, carrying case awkward to store
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Our Analysis and Test Results
These lights really surround a space with a nice, even glow. The string puts out 100 lumens, which on its face, is not terribly impressive (it's easy to find personal headlamps or flashlights that are multiple times brighter). However, having a little light in a lot of places, as opposed to a highly concentrated beam has the effect of illuminating a large radius well.
We also appreciate the light quality as well. Though they are advertised as warm white LEDs, relative to other models, this one gives off a glow on the yellow end of the spectrum, which feels like more natural light.
There are 10 light 'pods' total, each with 2 LEDs, one on each side of the pod, so no matter how you hang them, light shines in all directions. There is also an auxiliary light on the front of the carrying case. Its small size makes it a fine 'oops' option if you have to go back to check a picnic table in the dark to see if you left your keys there.
The durability of the cylindrical carrying case is different from that of the lights themselves. The hard plastic can definitely take some knocks if it is dropped from any reasonable height (we tested it up to 10 feet) onto a natural (i.e., dirt) surface. However, if you are tempted as we were to twirl the unit around by its carrying cord, just be careful it doesn't go flying across an asphalt parking lot.
These lights perform well in the rain. They have an ingress protection rating of IPX4, which means they can repel water splashing from all directions. During testing, we had the string left out overnight in the rain and had no performance issues. One thing to note is the nylon housing that covers the string. Because it is slightly absorbent, it is important to let the cord dry out completely before storing it for an extended period of time, otherwise, it is liable to get mildew.
As for the lights themselves, there's just not a whole lot that you would do in the course of using them that would really give us pause about their durability. Over time, the nylon cord might fray if it's wound too tightly around a banister, but with reasonable care, we think the product could last as long as the LEDs will let it.
This model has a modest number of features that are executed well. For starters, it is solar-powered, which, for a light that is designed to be hung up and remain outdoors, is ideal. It fully charges by solar with a full day's worth of summer sun (MPOWERD claims about 16 hours). That full charge gets you about 20 hours of light on the string's lowest setting and we found about 5 hours on its highest, which is generally enough time for a night's worth of camping. If you get to camp late, you can also charge these lights along the way. They come with a USB as well which fully charges the light in just over 6 hours.
In addition to multiple charging methods, the carrying case also has a USB charge out port which can give a boost to the battery of a small device. It's definitely slow going — we found that it takes about two and a half hours to increase the battery charge of a smartphone by 50% — but it's better than nothing in a pinch.
Ease of Use
As with most lanterns, this model is fairly easy to use. In terms of actually operating the actual lights, there is just a single power button that can be pressed four successive times to cycle through the settings (auxiliary case light, low, medium, and high). There is also a separate battery charge indicator button that illuminates four tiny lights to show the approximate charge of the battery. The carrying case is super convenient for storage and we were pleasantly surprised time and again that the lights actually wound around and fit inside of it without us putting much thought into how carefully we were doing it.
The slightly more challenging piece is 'installation'. It depends somewhat on the structure that the lights are attached to, but finding the right place to secure the base is an important consideration. It comes with a loop of cord that can be hung from a hook or a branch. The case itself is big and flat so it can sit on top of a railing as well. It's not a huge deal, but there were a couple of times that we unwound the string to discover that we didn't have an awesome place to set the case down.
One of the slightly more annoying issues that we encountered was when we tried to wrap the lights around a thicker 'three-dimensional object.' We just wanted to use the lights on a porch, but many of the actual LED nodes ended up on the wrong side just by virtue of the distance between them.
These string lights weigh in at a little over 11 ounces. The majority of that, of course, is the carrying case that the actual lights are attached to. It is not possible to detach the lights from the base, but the reality is that for this particular style of light, the weight is much less important.
If you were inclined to pack them up and take them into the backcountry, they do travel very easily and since they double as a device charger as well, the extra ounces might not be too bad.
These lights offer great value. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to illuminate a large area, then this string is well worth it. Their versatility is also a big plus that increases their value. Whether you are looking to bring them to a campsite without outlets, or just need a little extra illumination for your backyard, they are an effective, economical way to go.
The MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights prove themselves as a powerful, fun addition to a get together with friends. They bring great portability to eating or meeting areas that don't have wired electricity. They earn a Top Pick Award for best-performing string light and we think that they will serve the car campers among us very well.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch