BigBlue 3 Review
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|Pros||Inexpensive, efficient, user-friendly, great charging speed, excels in partly cloudy conditions||Good charging speed, lots of places to clip carabiners, highly affordable||Durable, well-designed, fast charging times, rugged design||Impressive charging speeds, can charge multiple devices simultaneously, affordable||Large battery capacity, LED back panel|
|Cons||Bulky, lacks portability, and the storage pouch is only semi-secure||Hard to reach pouch makes the panel lay crooked, just a solar panel with no battery pack,||Expensive, bulky, ridged design is harder to pack, weak magnetic closure||Poor interruption recovery||The small solar panel makes charging hard|
|Bottom Line||This speedy solar charger handles multiple devices and offers reliability at a reasonable price||This low-priced, incredibly efficient solar panel converts the sun into charges while saving on costs||A powerful, well-designed, durable panel, with fast charging speeds|
Decent solar charger that charges well
|A powerful, fast charging machine, capable of charging multiple devices, complete with a reasonable price tag||Where this device lacks in its ability as a solar charger, it makes up for as an affordable battery pack|
|Rating Categories||BigBlue 3||X-Dragon 20W||SunJack 25W||Ryno-Tuff 21W||OEUUDD 25000mAh|
|Direct Solar Charging Speed (35%)|
|Indirect Solar Charging Speed (35%)|
|Multiple Device Charging (15%)|
|Specs||BigBlue 3||X-Dragon 20W||SunJack 25W||Ryno-Tuff 21W||OEUUDD 25000mAh|
|Panel Size (watts) Power Output?||28W||20W||25W||21W||<5W|
|# of USB outlets||3||2||2||2||3|
|Max USB Output Current (amps per port)||2.4 amp||3 amp||2 amp||2.1 amp||2 amp|
|Size folded||11.1" x 6.3" x 1.3"||12.1" x 7.2" x .51"||12.6" x 7.8" x 0.8"||5.9" x 11.8" x 0.8"||N/A|
|Size opened||33.1" x 11.1" x 0.2"||23.3" x 12.1" x .12"||24.6" x 7.8" x 0.8"||18" x 11.8" x 0.1"||7" x 3.75" x 1.25"|
|Charge capacity (mAh)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||25,000mAh|
|Panel outside material||PET Polymer Fabric||PTFE||PET Polymer Fabric||PET Polymer Fabric||PET Polymer Fabric|
|Battery input (Volts / Amps)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||5V/2A|
|Direct USB Plug?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We were impressed by this panel's design, as well as the results we saw in our testing. BigBlue has created an inexpensive, highly efficient product that charged our electronic devices with ease. Though it is a bit large and bulky, the extra size didn't matter because this panel got the job done. For car camping or a backcountry base camp where weight is not a huge concern, the 28W from BigBlue is an excellent choice. The positive features outweigh the negatives, as this panel will charge your devices quickly and effectively. It comes with a nifty auto-restart feature that comes in handy when the sun is intermittent, which occurred more often than we liked. During testing, we had multiple devices that required a charge; this panel acted as a base camp charging station for our satellite phone, high-quality external battery, and two phones, keeping them charged for two weeks.
It performed consistently well in a range of conditions, catching the most sun when it was out and still performing well when clouds filled the sky. The BigBlue is just a solar panel though and does not have the ability to store electricity so charging devices required some level of sunlight, which the device captured well. When it lost the sun, the ammeter value went down and when there was no sun, we replugged the device and reopened the solar panels to reset the power control. This worked well to get the panel back to speed. Even if you are not a gadget-obsessed adventurer, this panel is an excellent option if you want a quick charge for a single device (and again, it's hard to beat the price).
Direct Solar Charging
The BigBlue performed exceptionally well with its direct solar charging, outdoing the other solar panels in our test due to the four strong solar panels linked together. The panels captured and retained up to 24% of the solar power, making it an extremely effective model.At 28 watts, the BigBlue falls in the middle of the road when it comes to wattage. We've added larger panels over the years, as the technology has improved, and companies can get powerful panels into smaller packages. The four panels each delivered a strong 7 watts for a combined total of 28 watts. This is all just to say that the BigBlue did well in terms of its power output especially considering its size.
It's right in the middle of charging speed scores, with some larger capacity panels slightly surpassing it. In 30 minutes, the panel charged our Pixel 3 nine percent. This is impressive, though not the highest increase we saw from any panel. That said, its consistency across the board keeps it at the top of the list.
Indirect Solar Charging
One of the coolest features that the BigBlue has is the ability to recover from an interruption. Whether you are charging on a partly cloudy day or the sun angle changes to cast a shadow over the panel while charging, the BigBlue has an auto-restart function that makes reconnecting to your device a smooth affair. Though the charge was slow with interruptions, this design avoids the constant vibrating that occurs when a phone is disconnected and reconnected from its power source. The built-in ammeter measures the current real-time value and easily displays that information.
One thing worth noting is that all of the solar panels have to be in the sun because of the device's parallel wiring. If one panel is in the shade, the charging dissipates significantly.
Efficiency and ease of use are a trade-off for portability and weight. The larger the panel, the faster it will charge your devices, and the more difficult it might be to fit into your backpack; the BigBlue is no exception. As one of the large panels in the review weighing 21.8oz and coming out 33.1" x 11.1" x 0.2" when unfolded, it should be no surprise that this product is also one of the bulkier options out there. If you're after a larger, heavier panel, it makes sense to go with the BigBlue since it will deliver the most charge to your devices in the least amount of time.
The BigBlue folds well, compressing down to 11.1" x 6.3" x 1.3, about the size of a thick magazine. This made the device a bit more portable and easier to slide into a backpack. The built-in ammeter adds some bulk to the profile of the BigBlue and our testers wished it'd had a slightly slimmer profile. The panel also comes with rings and carabiners so you can hang it in the sun or off a backpack while hiking.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
Though the BigBlue panel is equipped with three USB ports and offers all the charging capacity that one could need while outside. One thing to note is that the panel lacks DC charging so it plugging in your laptop or larger device won't work. The panel charged nearly the same as when it was directly in the sun as it did in the shade meaning that the devices received juice fast and for a long time. Though the charging rates diminish with multiple devices plugged in from 1419 mAh in the first port to 1120 mAh in the second port, this panel provided the most charge to multiple devices. The ability to provide such a strong secondary charge makes the BigBlue a force in the solar panel game.
Should You Buy the Big Blue 28W?
The other incredible aspect of this panel is the cost, as it's one of the lower-costing panels of its size. It delivers almost 30W of power and comes at an excellent price. Many panels we've reviewed are more expensive and have a lower capacity; you do the math! The BigBlue is one of our favorites; it humbly charged our gadgets quickly, with no extra frills or features. The simplicity makes it less expensive to produce, and in turn, keeps its price tag relatively low.
What Other Solar Panels Should You Consider?
We love the BigBlue. It provides a consistent charge to our electronics in numerous situations, no matter if it's a partly cloudy day or if there's a tree branch interrupting the continuous delivery of sunlight. Time and time again, it kept chugging along, effectively charging our devices. Though the panel has three USB ports, it performed at its best when a single port was in use. It wins our top choice, as it's efficient and fast-charging. Its incredible qualities trump weight and portability, as it is one of the larger panels we reviewed, and the price is just right.The Big Blue takes the cake in terms of the solar panels we reviewed. The X-Dragon 20W would be another less expensive option though it doesn't charge quite as well in indirect light and doesn't do as well with multiple devices.
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